The Fisherman and his Wife



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Day Two: Instructional Exemplar for The Grimms’ “The Fisherman and his Wife”

Summary of Activities

  1. Teacher poses the focusing question: Why does the sea change throughout the story? (5-10 minutes)

  2. Students work in pairs to find evidence relating to the focusing question (30-35 minutes).

Text Passage under Discussion

Directions for Teachers/Guiding Questions For Students

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
And so off he went as well as he could for fright. And a dreadful storm arose, so that he could hardly keep his feet; and the houses and trees were blown down, and the mountains trembled, and rocks fell in the sea; the sky was quite black, and it thundered and lightened; and the waves, crowned with foam, ran mountains high. So he cried out, without being able to hear his own words . . .


1. Pose the focusing question: Why does the sea change throughout the story?

Tell students they will be looking more closely at the message in the story and some of the choices the authors made. Write the focusing question in a place where it can remain in view for the duration of your work on this story. Some students will want to answer this question immediately, but do not let them. Instead, explain that this is a question that has many right answers (and some wrong ones). To answer this question they must first look back closely at the text. Where, in the text, might we start to look for information that will help us to answer this question?


2. Students work in pairs to find evidence in the text.

Divide students into pairs and give each group a pad of sticky notes1. Using a document camera or other projected image, demonstrate how to skim the text to find sections that describe the sea and mark each with a sticky note. After one or two examples, pairs should be able to complete this exercise with minimal support. Pairs should work together to find evidence, but each student should mark his/her own copy of the text. When most have finished, have the students share what they have found, pausing to add (or remove) sticky notes as needed so that each student has a full and accurate set of notes.


Use this opportunity to teach students to communicate the location of the text they are referring to by stating the page number and describing where the text is on the page. Students can begin simply by using the terms, “top, bottom or middle” (of the page) and gradually move toward using paragraph numbers.

Day Three: Instructional Exemplar for The Grimms’ “The Fisherman and his Wife”

Summary of Activities

  1. Refer back to the focusing question, and students complete their research (10-15 minutes).

  2. Students use watercolor paints in order to create a visual representation of each section of the text marked (30 minutes).




Text Passage under Discussion

Directions for Teachers/Guiding Questions For Students

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
"O man, O man!--if man you be,

Or flounder, flounder, in the sea--

Such a tiresome wife I've got,

For she wants what I do not."


"Well, what now?" said the flounder.

"Oh dear!" said the man, "she wants to order about the sun and moon."

"Go home with you!" said the flounder, "you will find her in the old hovel."

And there they are sitting to this very day.




1. Refer back to the focusing question and have students work together to complete their research.

Review what was done yesterday and refer back to the focusing question. Point out that the class has collected evidence to show what happens to the sea as the story progresses, but the focusing questions asks why the sea changes.


What additional information do they need? Solicit from discussion the idea that it would be helpful to look back in the text at the places they have marked with sticky notes and determine what happens just before the sea changes each time.
Using a document camera or other projected image, work together to reread the portion of the text before the first change the students have marked. Explain that one way to take notes on the text is to underline key words and phrases. Demonstrate how to choose and underline just the word or phrase that shows what the Fisherman is about to ask for. Have students work in pairs to underline their own copies and complete this research.
Circulate, providing feedback and ensuring that all students have an adequate and accurate set of notes. Encourage students to help each other by explaining what they have underlined and why they chose it.



Text Passage under Discussion

Directions for Teachers/Guiding Questions For Students

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
"O man, O man!--if man you be,

Or flounder, flounder, in the sea--

Such a tiresome wife I've got,

For she wants what I do not."


"Well, what now?" said the flounder.

"Oh dear!" said the man, "she wants to order about the sun and moon."

"Go home with you!" said the flounder, "you will find her in the old hovel."

And there they are sitting to this very day.




2. Students use watercolor paints to visualize the evidence and create a set of notes from which to work.

Compliment the students on the notes they have taken. Explain that they have gathered so much information that they now need some way to organize it. Pass out the graphic organizer and review the directions for completing it. On this sheet, students will add information to paraphrase the key event that precedes each change in the sea and then use watercolor paints to visualize the passages they marked earlier.


This graphic organizer is highly scaffolded, with much of the information already written in. There are two reasons for this. The first is that students need to see models of effective graphic organizers before they can produce one themselves. The second is that writing and copying, at this grade level, still require a great deal of time and concentration. In this case, the task of copying large chunks of text would interrupt the students’ thought processes. This is particularly true for students who struggle with reading and writing.
At the end of this activity, each student will have used the text to create a set of organized notes (in words and pictures) that will help him/her to answer the focusing question. Be sure to provide feedback as students paint, encouraging them to attend closely to the description in the text.




Day Four: Instructional Exemplar for The Grimms’ “The Fisherman and his Wife”

Summary of Activities

  1. Students reflect on their notes and discuss their findings as a class (15-20 minutes).

  2. Students develop a concise, single sentence answer to the focusing question and teachers provide them with feedback (25 minutes).




Text Passage under Discussion

Directions for Teachers/Guiding Questions For Students

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
"O man, O man!--if man you be,

Or flounder, flounder, in the sea--

Such a tiresome wife I've got,

For she wants what I do not."


"Well, what now?" said the flounder.

"Oh dear!" said the man, "she wants to order about the sun and moon."

"Go home with you!" said the flounder, "you will find her in the old hovel."

And there they are sitting to this very day.

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
"O man, O man!--if man you be,

Or flounder, flounder, in the sea--

Such a tiresome wife I've got,

For she wants what I do not."


"Well, what now?" said the flounder.

"Oh dear!" said the man, "she wants to order about the sun and moon."

"Go home with you!" said the flounder, "you will find her in the old hovel."

And there they are sitting to this very day.





1. Students reflect on their notes and discuss their findings.

Have the students look carefully at the words and pictures on their graphic organizers. Explain that they have created a set of notes – an organized collection of evidence that they can use to look for patterns that may help them to answer the focusing question. Lead a discussion to help students reflect on their findings. What do they see? How does the sea change in the story? What happens before each change? Based on evidence from the text what are some possible answers to the question, “Why does the sea change throughout the story?” What, in the story, makes you think so?


Most students will notice that the sea becomes “angry” as the fisherman asks for more. Some may link the changes in the sea to the Fisherman’s conscience – most changes are preceded by the Fisherman’s reflection that asking for more was “not at all the right thing to do”. There are many right answers to this question, but it is important to note that there are also some wrong answers. Students must receive accurate feedback on their responses if they are to grow as readers. Answers that are not supported by text are either incomplete or inaccurate. Students should be guided toward clearly presenting a well-reasoned opinion.
2. Students develop a concise sentence to answer the focusing question.

A key skill in making an argument is being clear about the point you are trying to support. This is often more difficult than it seems. Work on this skill orally to give students practice in concisely stating their opinions and focusing their thinking.


Begin by repeating the focusing question. Then, ask for a volunteer to answer it in a single, complete sentence. Help that student reword the sentence so that it is complete, clear, and concise. (This sentence will later become the topic sentence of a written paragraph.) Be sure that this focusing sentence incorporates the key words in the question (“sea” and “changes”).
Some examples:

The sea changes show the reader that the Fisherman is becoming too greedy.

The sea changes because the Fisherman is asking for too much.

The changes in the sea show that the fish is becoming angry with all that the Fisherman is asking for.
Continue calling on students and helping them formulate possible topic sentences, until the concept of creating this focusing sentence is clear. Put two or three of their sentences on the board to serve as models. Pass out sheets of lined paper. Have the students copy your focusing question at the top of the sheet. On the next line, instruct the students to write a single sentence answer to the question. Have every student share his/her focus statement orally, suggesting revisions where needed. Oral sharing provides opportunities for formative assessment, validation, and feedback. Full group sharing, like this, offers repeated models and modeling which are essential to the students’ developing understanding of complex concepts.




Day Five: Instructional Exemplar for The Grimms’ “The Fisherman and his Wife”

Summary of Activities

  1. Students orally rehearse in order to prepare for writing (15 minutes).

  2. Using their focusing sentence and notes, students write a paragraph to explain their analysis and reasoning (30 minutes).


Text Passage under Discussion

Directions for Teachers/Guiding Questions For Students

THERE was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat. At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up he found a great flounder on the hook.

And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go, I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
[Read intervening paragraphs.]
"O man, O man!--if man you be,

Or flounder, flounder, in the sea--

Such a tiresome wife I've got,

For she wants what I do not."


"Well, what now?" said the flounder.

"Oh dear!" said the man, "she wants to order about the sun and moon."

"Go home with you!" said the flounder, "you will find her in the old hovel."

And there they are sitting to this very day.



1. Students orally rehearse in order to prepare for writing.

Explain that this sentence is their “argument”- an opinion based on evidence from the text. Their job is to write a paragraph explaining their reasoning. To be strong and convincing, this paragraph should include evidence from the story to show that their opinion makes sense.


Orally model how students can paraphrase the evidence on their graphic organizers in order to support their arguments. Be sure to use both parts of the evidence collected. For example: When the Fisherman first came to the sea, he asked for nothing and the sea was clear. The second time the Fisherman came to the sea, to ask for a cottage, the sea turned green and yellow . . .
Put some transitional words and phrases on the board for students to use in their writing (First, next, then, the second time, finally, etc.) Then, have each student turn to a partner and “talk through” the paragraph, graphic organizers in hand.
2. Using their focusing sentence and notes, students write a paragraph to explain their analysis and reasoning.

When both partners have orally rehearsed their paragraphs, students begin writing. Encourage them to follow the organizational pattern of their graphic organizers. When most have finished, point out that their paragraphs need an ending sentence that repeats the focus of the paragraph. Explain that the last sentence in an opinion paragraph usually reminds the reader of the point the author is making. It expresses the same idea as the first sentence, using slightly different words. Have students generate some examples of concluding sentences. Then have them add them to their paragraphs. Finally, pair students and have them read their pieces to each other.


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