Tea Party

Please see Kyleen Beer's Book, When Kids Can't Read What Teacher's Can Do; Heineman Publishing of Portsmouth, N.H. 03801-3912 Pages  94-96 ISBN-0-86709-519-9 On which this activity is based. Purpose of activity: To frontload student's knowledge of a text and help them become involved to the point they want to know what this story is about and are willing to invest time to listen. We want students to make the connection between getting ready to read, reading for information and drawing conclusions. Comprehension occurs before, during and after reading.

bullet I have chosen eleven different phrases from the book  THE BALLOON TREE by Phoebe Gilman and printed out one per card. (See below for phrases) I have divided the cards so that five are repeated four times within six groups of cards. I have repeated two other phrases four times and four other phrases once. (total 36 phrases) I have laminated the cards and put six of them into six envelopes based on the fact that I may have thirty-six in my workshop. I have made sure I have chosen phrases to do with character, plot, setting, time and theme. My goal is to have the participants guess at the story plot and controlling theme of the story.


bullet I passed out the envelopes to each group and a Story Web . Each person was asked to take one card.


bullet Next I gave these instructions to the groups. When I give the signal I want everyone to get up and to circulate around the room and read to each other what is written on the card you hold. Try to listen to as many other cards as you can. When the music plays you stop and return to your table. Listen carefully to others as they read and gather the facts of the story. Discuss briefly how your two cards relate to the story- making predictions as you go from person to person. Tell others quickly what you know about the story and guess how all the cards are connected to the plot. When the music plays return to your group and begin the story web. Leave the OBG- our best guess statement about the story- describing what you guess the story is about- until the very end. I want you to have the main idea of what you think this story's plot is, before writing a statement.


bullet I let this go for ten to fifteen minutes and then played the music. All should return to their group.


bullet  When they return to their groups they are to share their knowledge about this story- from their own cards and from the cards they read- by filling in the story web sheet.  I circulate around the room and I am writing on an overhead - phrases which I hear them saying that show what good readers do when they read.


bullet I then debrief the strategy by putting up on overhead the things I heard them say as I circulated around the room. I used the above overhead and showed them how pleased I was that so many used these strategies to make predictions.


bullet I then put up the blank story web and get students to volunteer answers and fill in what we know so far about this story. I listen to a few OBG statements and write one down. I ask students what phrases led them to make the connection to what the story may be about.


bullet Next I begin to read the story- Return to the Workshop.


  1. When choosing phrases to take from text you can omit words that would reveal too much, but stick to the direct quote from the text. Try to select half as many phrases as you have students. Make sure the phrases give insight into characters, setting, and conflicts.

  2. Make sure students are discussing the clues and making connections as they move around, they are not just reading from the card.

  3. Don't make groups larger than five.

  4. Make sure when they return to their group they are filling in the story web together and it is only one person doing the work.

  5. Remind them to leave the OBG statement until last.

  6. When they share their OBG statements ask How they arrived at that- what clues from the text led them to reach that conclusion.

  7. As a follow-up after reading I put the statements below up and ask which statements led them to guess correctly what the story was about, and which statements led them astray.

Phrases from The Balloon Tree

  1. Long, long ago and far away across a wide ocean there was a small happy kingdom.

  2. "Can I come too?" Princess Leora asked.

  3. The Castle was always full of them.

  4. "Not the Archduke!"

  5. "Don't worry." said the King.

  6. Quickly she slipped through a small opening...

  7. "There is only one thing to do," said the Wizard.

  8. She asked the old toymaker.

  9. She hunted in the empty marketplace...

  10. "I can help you!" he said.

  11. She knelt down next to it, dug a hole and planted the balloon in it.

  12. The Archduke jumped up and down with rage...

  13. But they were never bored.

  14. All the people stayed up past their bedtime.

  15. People leaned from their windows and rushed into the streets, shouting and pointing and laughing.