Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why We Love Patricia Polacco

It is important for students to not only recognize how a character learns and grows, but to also understand how the story's unfolding events affected those changes. This Foldable® has students consider the underlying reasons of why a main character changed, supporting their ideas and inferences with evidence from the text.

We love to use Patricia Polacco's autobiographical books to teach this concept because she is able to express the feelings she experienced so vividly. It is obvious from reading her stories that she has been influenced by so many events and people in her life.

We used the book Mrs. Mack for our whole class model.

How a Character Changes Top-Tab Foldable®
Begin by having the students make a Top Pocket Foldable® with 11 X 17 card stock. Cut the left and right inside Shutterfolds® into 4-tabs. Label the tabs on each side with the following: What She Does, What She Says or Thinks, How She Looks, and How Others Respond to Her. On the outside cover of the left shutterfold, write At the Beginning and on the outside cover of the right Shutterfold®, write At the End. Write the name of the main character, in this case, Patricia on the front cover, too. We also glued illustrations from the beginning and end of the story, but you could have students draw their own illustrations.

In the middle of the inside of the Foldable®, glue a 2-tab made out of a half sheet of 8 1/2 X 11 paper. Label the upper tab "How the Main Character Changed" and "Why She Changed". 

Have students fold a sheet of paper into fourths, hot dog style, and then into fourth's , hamburger style, creating a 4x4 table.  Label the left column of the table with the following: Event, How Patricia Reacted, How Others Responded, and Why I Chose This Event. Have students fold the table so that it fits into the pocket of the Top Pocket Foldable®.

Introduce the whole class guided activity by discussing these questions, Think about yourself a year ago. Have you changed? How? How has your behavior changed? How have you as a person changed? Is there anything that you used to be nervous about and are not anymore? What made you change?

On an index card, ask students to respond to this question: "What makes people change?" Save as a pre-assessment. Tell students that they will be learning about why people change through characters in stories. This will help them better understand themselves, better understand others, and better understand the stories they read.

Read the first few pages of the story (to the second paragraph on page 14) and fill in the left side of Foldable® with evidence from the text. Using that information, discuss what it tells you about Patricia so far. What character traits does she have? What does she care about? What is her attitude? What is she feeling? How do you know?

Read the rest of the story. Go back and fill in the right side of the Foldable®, again using evidence from the story. Using that information, discuss Patricia at the end of the story. What character traits is she showing? What does she care about? What is her attitude? What are her feelings?

After filling in all of the information, open up the left and the right side tabs so that students can easily compare the character at the beginning of the story with the end of the story. Discuss, what has changed?

Ask, when did she change? Did she change all at once or did it happen over time? Which events do you think changed her? List those events on the board. Go back to the text and analyze the events. Discuss, which three events do you think made the most impact on Patricia's change? Why are those the most important? 

Have each student determine his/her three key events, and then fill in all the cells on his/her table, (event, how she reacted to the event, how others responded to the events and why this event was chosen). After completing their tables, have students discuss Patricia's changes using all of the evidence they collected. How did she change and why? Students then write about Patricia's changes under the tabs the 2-tab Foldable®.

To differentiate and provide guided and independent practice, choose from the following Patricia Polacco autobiographical books. Students can work with partners, small groups or individually, making and filling in a How Characters Change Top Pocket Foldable® and events table for the character in each book they read. 

Mrs. Mack

The Junkyard Wonders

Thunder Cake

Rotten Richie and the UltimateDare

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother Story

Thank you, Mr. Falker

The finished Top Pocket Foldables® make a wonderful display as students share and discuss the comparisons and connections between the characters in the books they've read. An author study would be a natural extension, as students learn about Patricia Polacco's life, customs, beliefs, and values through her stories.

As a post assessment have students respond to the following questions:
How do people change?
Why do they change?
What does this tell you about people in general?
How does understanding characters and how they change teach you? How does it help you as a reader and a writer?

Check out any of Dinah Zike's Big Books of Foldables® at Dinah-Might Adventures for the directions for the Top Pocket Foldable®and other Foldable® ideas.


  1. I've awarded you the Liebster award! Go to to claim your award.

  2. very cool! Someone mentioned "foldables" at an AVID meeting and I thought it was some sort of fruit snack... My students have been keeping a notebook for each subject all year and it looks like they're very bored with them, I think this might re-spark some interest? Thanks for the ideas!

  3. I just found this blog and love it! I'm so into foldables right now so thank you for all your information.

    Stephanie Ann
    Sparkling in Third Grade