Considering a Character’s Relationship with Others: Contrasting Ha and Her Brothers | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M1:U1:L4

Considering a Character’s Relationship with Others: Contrasting Ha and Her Brothers

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can cite text-based evidence that provides the strongest support for my analysis of literary text. (RL.8.1)
  • I can analyze how specific dialogue or incidents in a plot propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision. (RL.8.3)
  • I can analyze the impact of word choice on meaning and tone (analogies or allusions). (RL.8.4)
  • I can effectively engage in discussions with diverse partners about eighth-grade topics, texts, and issues. (SL.8.1)

Supporting Targets

  • I can make inferences to deepen my understanding of Inside Out & Back Again.
  • I can cite evidence from the novel to explain how incidents reveal aspects of Ha's character.
  • I can explain how the specific word choices in the poem "Papaya Tree" create tone and help reveal meaning.
  • I can participate in discussions about the text with a partner, small group, and the whole class.

Ongoing Assessment

  • QuickWrite 1 (from homework)
  • "Who Is Ha?" small-group anchor charts


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

A.  Engaging the Reader: We Learn More about Ha by How She Speaks about the Papaya Tree, and about Her Brothers (5 minutes)

B.  Review Learning Targets (5 minutes)

2.  Work Time

A.  Rereading the Text and Answering Text-Dependent Questions: "Papaya Tree" (12 minutes)

B.  Discuss QuickWrite 1 and Create Small-Group Anchor Chart: "Who Is Ha?" (13 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

A.  Debrief 5 minutes)

B.  Preview Unit 1 Recommended Texts List (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

A.  Read pages 10-21 and complete QuickWrite 2

  • This lesson continues to reinforce students' skills with reading closely, and continues to attune them to paying close attention to words in general, and an author's word choice in particular. Note the work with the word "critical" in Part B of the Opening; this type of work with morphology, and the meaning of words in different contexts, will be reinforced throughout these modules.
  • Post learning targets in advance.
  • The visual image of the papaya tree and its fruit is used to help students visualize this key symbol in the text. (See link in Materials, below.) In future lessons, students will consider the symbolic significance of the papaya tree; so do not rush this here in Lesson 4. Of course, if students' comments indicate they are ready to address symbolism, follow their lead.
  • This lesson includes an anchor chart ("Who Is Ha?") that students will revisit throughout the module. Students' work with the chart in this lesson will anchor their initial understandings of Ha, and will serve as the initial character analysis for the module and review for the Mid-Unit Assessment in Lesson 5. Be sure to have students put their names on their charts, and that you hold on to them for use in future lessons.
  • Prepare the T-chart as a model ahead of time. This will provide students the example they need to create their anchor charts for their initial character analysis of Ha.
  • Review: Think-Pair-Share, Chalkboard Splash (Appendix 1).
  • Students write routinely using QuickWrites--sometimes during class, and often as a part of their homework. Consider "test driving" each QuickWrite assignment in advance by completing it yourself. This will help you become increasingly clear about the challenges students may face in when doing QuickWrites in general, or the specific challenges of citing or explaining evidence to answer a particular QuickWrite prompt. If more than one teacher in your building is using the modules, consider comparing your writing to discuss common challenges you anticipate your students may face.


cite evidence, incident, infer (review); critical, meaning, tone; papaya tree (8), flicked (8), vow, witness, (9)


  • Inside Out & Back Again (book; one per student)
  • Things Close Readers Do anchor chart (begun in Lesson 2)--today's focus: noticing details, answering questions based on the text
  • A photo of a papaya tree, which may be found via a Google Images search
  • "Papaya Tree" Text-dependent questions (one per student)
  • Who Is Ha? anchor chart (new; teacher-created; example for teacher reference)
  • Chart paper for small-group anchor chart: "What Do We Know about Ha?" (one piece of chart paper per group)
  • Markers (five per group)
  • Unit 1 Recommended Texts list (separate document on
  • QuickWrite 2 (one per student; for homework)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader: We Learn More about Ha by How She Speaks about the Papaya Tree, and about Her Brothers (5 minutes)

  • Read the first stanza on page 8 of the poem "Papaya Tree":

*   "It grew from a seed/I flicked into/the back garden."

  • Ask students, "What is Ha referring to here?" (Ideally students will realize it is her papaya tree).
  • Draw students' attention to the cover illustration on their Inside Out & Back Again books, and ask, 

*   "What images do you notice on the cover of the book?"

  • Listen for student to notice a young girl, red sky, and a tree. Ask students if they can infer, based on their reading so far, what type of tree this is. Students should realize it is a papaya tree. Reinforce inferring here: "You took something from the text (in this case, the picture on the cover), and something you already knew (based on reading pages 4-9 the past few days), and put it together. Be sure that students know that a papaya tree is a tropical tree that bears the papaya fruit; clarify if needed.
  • Tell students that they will reread the poem "Papaya Tree" on pages 8 and 9 in order to make inferences. They will be thinking about how her description of the tree helps us learn about her, and her war-torn country.
  • Students may benefit from having the stanza and question posted as "do now" while you take attendance or do other beginning of class chores.
  • Some students may benefit from having pictorial representations of learning targets.

B. Review Learning Targets (5 minutes)

  • Have learning targets posted for review. Remind students that learning targets help students know the learning, thinking, and skills that will be the focus of the lesson, and that the learning targets will always be reviewed and checked at the end of the lesson.
  • Read the first two learning targets aloud to students:

*   "I can make inferences to deepen my understanding of Inside Out & Back Again."

*   "I can cite evidence from the novel to explain how incidents reveal aspects of Ha's character."

  • Students should recognize these targets. Ask students to turn and talk to review what it means to infer and cite evidence. Listen for students to state it means that students will need to use their background knowledge, combined with what the text says, and refer to the language in the novel to prove their thinking.
  • Tell students that the critical incident in the novel they will discuss today is about Ha's papaya tree. This incident, or event, is critical (crucial or very important) because Ha pays attention to it a lot, and writes about it several times. But we need to infer about the meaning of the papaya tree. Be sure to distinguish this meaning of the word critical from what this word means in other contexts students might be familiar with ("negative," for example if a friend is being "critical" of you).
  • Read the second target aloud: "I can explain how the specific word choices in the poem 'Papaya Tree' create tone and help reveal meaning."
  • Discuss the word meaning with students. Ask students to think then talk with a partner about synonyms for this word. Invite a few students to share out. Be sure students realize that meaning refers to what the text is about, and tone refers to the emotion or feeling of the text. Tone helps create meaning. Tell them that they will get smarter about seeing the connection between word choice, tone, and meaning as they continue to read the novel.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Rereading the Text and Answering Text-Dependent Questions: "Papaya Tree" (12 minutes)

Note: remember that the symbolic significance of the papaya tree will be addressed in future lessons. Do not rush it here, but of course, follow students' leads should their comments indicate they are ready to address symbolism. 

  • Ask students to sit in their small heterogeneous "numbered heads" groups.
  • Display and remind students of the Things Close Readers Do anchor chart. Invite several students to read what is on the chart, and ask for a Fist to Five to check for understanding before moving on to the rereading.
  • Ask students to silently reread "Papaya Tree" on pages 8 and 9. Remind them that they are reading for the gist of the poem: what is their early sense of what it is mostly about?  Remind them that gist is not as formal as summarizing; it's preliminary.
  • After they have read and thought, invite students to turn and talk with a partner in their group to share their thinking. Listen for students to notice that Ha has a papaya tree growing in her backyard. Her brothers have noticed the tree's blossoms and fruit. Ha wants to be the first one to notice the papaya's ripe fruit.
  • Remind them that rereading helps readers notice important details. Then reread the poem aloud, as students look at the text and read silently in their heads.
  • Invite students to share in their groups,

*   "What new or important details struck you after hearing the poem read aloud again?"

  • Encourage students to return to the text, and listen for students to notice details such as the seed is like a fish eye ("slippery/shiny/black"), or details about the size and color of the tree ("twice as tall as I stand," "white blossom"). Point out to students that such descriptive details often help readers visualize what the writer is describing; they will be paying close attention to this type of language throughout their study of this novel, and will often reread key passages to pay particular attention to word choice.
  • Show students a photograph of the papaya tree and its seeds, blossom, and fruit. Ask students, "Why might the author have chosen this particular tree to focus on?" Cold call on a few students for response. Listen for students to notice that it grows in Vietnam, it has sweet fruit Ha can enjoy, etc. (Students will return to the symbolic significance of the papaya tree in future lessons.)
  • Share the "Papaya Tree" text-dependent questions with the students, revealing them one at a time.
  • Remind students that as they did in the previous lesson, they will reread, think, and then talk about these questions. Rereading and talking will help them deepen their understanding of the text.
    1. "How did the papaya tree begin to grow? Was the planting of the tree intentional or a careless act? How do you know this?" (Listen for students to refer to page 8, stanza 1: Ha flicked it into the garden.) Once students have answered, ask, "Why did the author choose the word flicked versus 'planted'? How do these words differ in meaning and tone?"
  • Give students time to reread, think, and talk in their small groups.
  • Then use the Numbered Heads Together strategy for whole group sharing out of the answers.
  • Repeat this process with the following questions:

2. "From youngest to oldest, Ha describes what each brother sees on the tree. What is the pattern she describes?" (Students will notice pages 8 and 9, stanzas 4-6, that first the blossom is spotted by the 
youngest, then the small fruit by the middle brother, and the ripened fruit is something Ha hopes to see before her oldest brother.)

3. "Ha vows to be the first to witness, or observe, the ripening of the papaya fruit. What does the word vows mean in this context? Where else did we read that Ha wanted to be the first at something instead of her oldest brother?" (Students may recognize vows from "church vows." Help them notice that in this context, it means "pledge" or "promise." But to help students begin to attend to nuances in word meaning, point out that the word vow is stronger than "promise"--it means a particularly strong or serious promise.

  • Listen for students to refer back to "1975: The Year of the Cat": Ha wanted to be the first one to touch the floor. Remind students that one "thing close readers do" is return to the text. Model rereading: Have students turn to pages 2 and 3, the last two stanzas of this poem, and notice that she was the first to touch the floor on Tet. Then refer them to page 2, the third stanza: her mother wanted the oldest son to "rise first to bless our house" and bring good luck to the family on Tet.

4. "What can you infer or conclude about Ha's character based on these two poems or critical incidents?" (Students may respond that Ha is competitive, jealous, a fighter, etc. Support students with this inference by guiding them with questions and prompts that encourage them to use what they know together with the clues in the text to draw conclusions about Ha.)

  • Heterogeneous grouping of students for regular discussion and close reading exercises will provide a collaborative and supportive structure for reading complex texts and close reading of the text. This will also allow for more talk-time per student when the processing and thinking requires more support and collaboration. Consider pairing students within existing small groups for ease in flexing students from pairs to small groups, and vice versa.
  • Some students may benefit from using a ruler or piece of paper to underline the lines as they are read aloud.
  • Some students may benefit from having sentence starters provided to support their participation in group discussions.
  • Many students will benefit from seeing questions posted on the Smartboard or via a document camera, but reveal questions one at a time to keep students focused on the question at hand.
  • Some students may benefit from having access to "hint cards," small slips of paper or index cards that they turn over for hints about how/where to find the answers to text-dependent questions. For example, a hint card might say "check back in the fourth stanza on page 8."
  • Some students may benefit from having pre-highlighted or otherwise noted details about Ha in their texts.

B. Discuss QuickWrite 1 and Create Small-Group Anchor Chart: Who Is Ha? (13 minutes)

  • Ask students to remain in their small groups. Distribute chart paper and markers to each group, and ask them to create a Who Is Ha? anchor chart (see example in supporting materials).
  • Point out to them that this chart looks exactly like the notes they took about Ha in Lesson 2:

-   Details/Evidence in the left-hand column

-   The page number in the middle

-   Inference/Reasoning in the right-hand column.

  • Ask students to sign their names on their charts in a chosen color. Tell them you will check their contributions to the chart by tracking how often each color appears.
  • Tell students that these charts will help them "anchor" their learning about Ha. They will revisit these charts throughout the module. Be sure students put their group members' names on their chart.
  • Give students 10 minutes to create their chart. Encourage them to use their notes from Lessons 2 and 3 and QuickWrite 1 responses (from Lesson 3 homework) as well as their classwork from this lesson.
  • As students work on the charts, circulate to listen as needed. Probe by pushing students back to the text. Encourage and acknowledge students who are citing evidence. Continue to reinforce the small-group norms that make for effective collaboration: listening to others, asking polite clarifying questions, offering meaningful ideas, etc. Name the specific behaviors you notice students are doing that help their group to function well.
  • Model as needed. For example, "What have you noticed about Ha that she writes directly in her diary?" (her age, some family details, feelings toward her mother). "What are some things she writes that show you about her, but you have to think about and make an inference? For example, it says she decided to wake before dawn to touch the floor--I say this means she likes to be first, and so Ha is stubborn."
  • After 10 minutes, ask students from several groups to share out one key insight from their charts. Address any significant misconceptions you overheard as students were working in their groups.
  • Reinforce specific instances when you saw or heard students revisit the text or cite specific textual evidence. Remind students that in future lessons, they will keep adding to these charts as they learn more about Ha.

Closing & Assessments


A. Debrief (5 minutes)

  • Review the "Things Close Readers Do" anchor chart, and ask students what else they can add that close readers do. Guide students to add that when they answered questions that relied on them going back into the text, they were also being close readers. Add two lines to the anchor chart:

-   Notice details

-   Answer questions based on the text

  • Preview the homework for students.
  • Review the learning targets. Students learned more about Ha's character from reading about something she cares about, the papaya tree, and her relationship with her brothers, and paid attention to word choice as they continued to practice close reading.
  • Ask students to complete an exit ticket in which they rank themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 for each of the targets, with 5 being total mastery and 1 being "I don't get it." For each rating they give themselves, ask students to justify their responses with evidence.
  • Tell students that in the next lesson, they will have an opportunity to "show what they know" about analyzing Ha's character (on the Mid-Unit Assessment). Tell them there are no tricks to this assessment; it is very much like the thinking they have been practicing in Lessons 1-4.

B. Preview Unit 1 Recommended Texts List (5 minutes)

  • As time permits, share with students the Unit 1 Recommended Texts list. You may wish to have some of the materials from the list to share with students (as an example of the types of texts featured on the list).


HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Read pages 10-21, from "TiTi Waves Goodbye" through "Two More Papayas," and complete QuickWrite 2.

Note: Students may refer to their "Who Is Ha?" small-group anchor charts during the Mid-Unit Assessment in Lesson 5. Store the charts on a wall in the classroom if possible.

  • Some students may benefit from having paragraph frames as a scaffold for QuickWrites.

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