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Beginning Castle in the Attic

As a grade level we have to rotate CIA units so this year I started off with Castle in the Attic.  This is the first time I am teaching this unit and my class is super excited to read it!  The first couple weeks of the year I tried to mention CIA knowing that my students had this experience in 3rd grade.  This made my setup a lot easier with students having the structure of the CIA approach.  A week before we started our unit of study I had the students prep their reader’s notebooks.  I copied a picture of the book cover and made a title page in their notebooks.  Before we started the Day 1 Blurb reading, I asked my students to decorate their title page with pictures about castles and medieval life, words, predictions, etc.

This was a quick formative assessment strategy that gave me insight about students and their background knowledge about castles and knights.  It also showed me which students were comfortable with making predictions about a story.

As we started week 1 the students excitement only increased after we read the blurb and heard that there was going to be an evil wizard and a dragon.  My kids were dying to get a chance to read the book because we took the time to have meaningful conversations and share our predictions with each other.  Day 3 couldn’t have come fast enough and the first time I got to read aloud the text the students were glued to their books!  I even wore my C.I.A. T-shirt in honor of starting the book and the kids loved it!  By setting up Turn and Talk expectations ahead of time my students already had practiced this routine.  They were aware of how they should use the stem and respond with their partner.

I really enjoyed Day 5 and the connection to an outside text with The Legend of King Arthur.  My students naturally related it to the Disney movie “The Sword and the Stone” (this might be something we watch at our next class party).  This opened the door for more background knowledge conversations about medieval life and castles.  I also went to our school librarian and checked out all of the books we had about castles and knights. 

library books on castles and knights

I have a couple of art extension ideas that I have been preparing for.  As we get further along in the book I will start some of these projects.  Here is a picture of the floor in the corner of my classroom.  I know that it looks like I could be on an episode of “Hoarders”, but I am stocking up so we can build our own castles!  I found this Castle set at Michaels on “clearance” this summer and thought it would be great for this unit.  Stay tuned for our exciting construction of our castles!

Finishing Castle in the Attic - The Read-In

Today was a very exciting day, but also a sad day at the same time….my class finished Castle in the Attic.  This was a wonderful experience for both the students and me.  This was the first time that I taught Castles and I didn’t pre-read the book before the unit.  I wanted to experience the CIA program the same way the students were hearing a book for the first time.  I was on the edge of my seat throughout the story and I was constantly making and changing my predictions as we worked our way through each chapter.  I knew what day ahead of time we would reach the last day of reading (Read-In) and I cleared my schedule for an hour before lunch.  I contacted my resource room teacher and asked to keep my pull out students and I closed and locked the door!  Earlier in the book my students created their own castles out of cardboard.  While they were working on individual castles, I was working on a classroom castle.  I had parents and students help sponge paint the walls.  When it was all finished I cut windows and a drawbridge into it and taped the three sections of walls together.  The last part was cutting the top to look like the top of a castle.  The kids knew that we had this castle completed, but I waited until the Read-In to set it up.  It fit perfectly in front of my Smart Board wall to close off the castle. I put a picture of a fireplace on the Smart Board background to create a more realistic feel on the inside and I turned the lights down low.

I could barely wait to get started!  I did a short recap of all of the events that have happened in the book so far right up to the part we left off from the day before.  I sat at the entrance of the castle and I read for 55 minutes as my class was rapidly turning the pages right along with me!  This was my best Read-In for CIA by far because we took the time to set the mood.  I even acted out the Alastor and Calendar parts with over exaggerated voices.  Surprisingly I didn’t have any bathroom breaks or distractions during the last three chapters.  The kids loved it!

After we finished the book I went over all of our predictions that were still hanging on my wall for the Prediction Playoffs.  As you can see we had to eliminate a few of the predictions that didn’t come true in the book.  We all applauded the students for their predictions as we took each one down.  The remaining papers on the wall all had predictions that were confirmed in the final three chapters (12 out of 25 in all!).  I hope you enjoyed following along with our Castle in the Attic Unit of Study!


Written by Ryan Painter --- 4th Grade Teacher