Below, you will find a step-by-step lesson I have used with many fifth grade classes using The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss.
Feel free to pause to notice and wonder throughout the story. Students might make comparisons to world events or personal experiences, or they might stick to the story itself. You can certainly re-read and re-visit this text to push their thinking further, in addition to creating the BOTG from this lesson. If your whole group reading and discussion goes for about 30 minutes or more, you might want to stop for the day and continue with Step 2 the following day, reviewing key ideas from the book at the beginning of the discussion. Steps 2 - 5 take about 45 minutes, with lots of discussion and student involvement.
Choose between three and eight ideas for your plot points. You can model this for the whole group and have them watch, you can model it and have them create the same thing, or you can model it and have them create their own versions individually or in pairs.
You may find disagreement about what makes an important event in the story - that is a good thing. especially if students are offering reasons why something is or is not a separate event. The picture above shows one possible list of events over time in The Sneetches, but you and your students may make different decisions. (I'm not convinced, for example, that "Mass Chaos" - when the Sneetches are all changing stars - is appreciably different from the point when McBean shows he can removes stars, but the picture is so memorable that students often identify it as a turning point.)
There are several things you could graph in The Sneetches. You could graph how power of the Star-Belly Sneetches changes over time. You could graph the degree of open-mindedness of the Star-Belly Sneetches over time. I often model the happiness of the Plain-Belly Sneetches over time on the graph, and then give students a few other options to graph in partners, using the same story.
Choose about 3 - 5 different gradients for your scale. Be sure the options go from least to most for one concept. For example, if you are graphing happiness, you want degrees of very happy to not at all happy, because when students start introducing words like angry or embarrassed, the scale doesn't function properly (you could be both embarrassed and miserable, for example).
I usually encourage students to use the same scale the first time we do this activity, because it makes it easier to compare graphs later.
I usually call up individual students to place their marks according to their judgment about the story for each plot point on the whole-class model, while the other students place their own, or think about where their marks would go (if they aren't making their own versions). We have some good discussions and disagreement about how happy or unhappy the Sneetches actually are. I encourage students to reference other points in time on the graph: "Are they unhappier at this point than they were when they had stars? How much unhappier are they?" and of course, I encourage students to use text evidence to support their thinking. Since some judgments require inferencing, we see that it's possible to have reasonable disagreements, but we can also see that some answers are clearly inaccurate, based on the text. We make each plot point in the story before we connect all the dots with the line.
If students created their own graphs, give them time to share with other pairs or individuals and look for differences and defend their choices.
With the whole group, emphasize the line you created together and ask students some questions about their thinking. For example: