# Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Instructional Exemplar (Day 1)

## Summary of Activities

1. Teacher introduces the day’s passage with minimal commentary and students read it independently.
2. Teacher or a skillful reader then reads the passage out loud to the class as students follow along in the text. Teachers can reverse numbers one and two if they feel students need the support of hearing the text read aloud first.
3. Teacher asks the class to discuss the first set of text-dependent questions and perform targeted tasks about the passage, with answers in the form of notes, annotations to the text, or more formal responses as appropriate.

## Instructional Commentary/Guiding Questions For Teachers/Proficient Responses

1. Introduce the passage and students read independently.

Other than giving the brief definitions offered to words students would likely not be able to define from context (underlined in the text), avoid giving any background context or instructional guidance at the outset of the lesson while students are reading the text silently.  This close reading approach forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge and levels the playing field for all students as they seek to comprehend DiCamillo’s story.  It is critical to cultivating independence and creating a culture of close reading that students initially grapple with rich texts like DiCamillo’s without the aid of prefatory material, extensive notes, or even teacher explanations. That being said two initial readings provide much support, but all coming from the text rather than outside of it.

2.  Read the passage out loud to the class as students follow along in the text.

Asking students to listen to Because of Winn-Dixie exposes students a second time to the rhythms and meaning of her language before they begin their own close reading of the passage.  Speaking clearly and carefully will allow students to follow DiCamillo’s story, and reading out loud with students following along improves fluency while offering all students access to this complex text.  Accurate and skillful modeling of the reading also provides students who may be dysfluent with accurate pronunciations and syntactic patterns of English.

### Text Passage Under Discussion

I spent a lot of time that summer at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library. The Herman W. Block Memorial Library sounds like it would be a big fancy place, but it’s not. It’s just a little old house full of books, and Miss Franny Block is in charge of them all. She is a very small, very old woman with short gray hair, and she was the first friend I made in Naomi.

It all started with Winn-Dixie not liking it when I went into the library, because he couldn’t go inside, too. But I showed him how he could stand up on his hind legs and look in the window and see me in there, selecting my books; and he was okay, as long as he could see me. But the thing was, the first time Miss Franny Block saw Winn-Dixie standing up on his hind legs like that, looking in the window, she didn’t think he was a dog. She thought he was a bear.

“Certain ones,” said Miss Franny, “a select few.” And then she turned around and winked at me. I smiled back. I had just made my first friend in Naomi, and nobody was going to mess that up for me, not even old pinch-faced Amanda Wilkinson.

## Instructional Commentary/Guiding Questions For Teachers/Proficient Responses

3.  Ask the class to answer a small set of text-dependent guided questions and perform targeted tasks about the passage, with answers in the form of notes, annotations to the text, or more formal responses as appropriate.

As students move through these questions and reread DiCamillo’s story, be sure to check for and reinforce their understanding of academic vocabulary in the corresponding text (which will be boldfaced the first time it appears in the text).  At times, the questions themselves may focus on academic vocabulary.

(Q1) Why was Miss Franny so scared by Winn-Dixie? Why was she “acting all embarrassed?”

Miss Franny thought Winn-Dixie was a bear. When she realized he was a dog, she was embarrassed because she thought Opal would think she was a “silly old lady, mistaking a dog for a bear.”

(Q2) How did the Herman W. Block Memorial Library come to get its name?

The library was a gift to Miss Franny from her wealthy father. When she was a little girl, “a very rich man” told her she could have “anything she wants” for her birthday. So, Miss Franny asked for a library. She wanted a “little house full of nothing but books”. Herman W. Block was Miss Franny’s father.

Both events are fairly straightforward, but it is important for students to understand them, as they set the stage for what is to come.

### Text Passage Under Discussion

This is what happened: I was picking out my books and kind of humming to myself, and all of a sudden, there was a loud and scary scream. I went running up to the front of the library, and there was Miss Franny Block, sitting on the floor behind her desk.

Miss Franny sat there trembling[1] and shaking.

“Come on,” I said. “Let me help you up. It’s okay.” I stuck out my hand and Miss Franny took hold of it, and I pulled her up off the floor. She didn’t weigh hardly anything at all. Once she was standing on her feet, she started acting all embarrassed, saying how I must think she was a silly old lady, mistaking a dog for a bear, but that she had a bad experience with a bear coming into the Herman W. Block Memorial Library a long time ago, and she never had quite gotten over it.

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“Back when Florida was wild, when it consisted of nothing but palmetto trees and mosquitoes so big they could fly away with you,” Miss Franny Block started in, “and I was just a little girl no bigger than you, my father, Herman W. Block, told me that I could have anything I wanted for my birthday. Anything at all.”

Miss Franny looked around the library. She leaned in close to me. “I don’t want to appear prideful,” she said, “but my daddy was a very rich man. A very rich man.” She nodded and then leaned back and said, “And I was a little girl who loved to read. So I told him, I said, ‘Daddy, I would most certainly love to have a library for my birthday, a small little library would be wonderful.’”

“You asked for a whole library?”

“A small one,” Miss Franny nodded. “I wanted a little house full of nothing but books and I wanted to share them, too. And I got my wish. My father built me this house, the very one we are sitting in now. And at a very young age, I became a librarian. Yes ma’am.”

## Instructional Commentary/Guiding Questions For Teachers/Proficient Responses

Questions 3-5 trace the sequence of events that led to the three characters becoming friends and prepare students for the writing prompt at the end of the lesson.

(Q3) Opal says, “She looked sad and old and wrinkled.” What happened to cause Miss Franny to look this way?

Students should realize that she was thinking about friends and people who are no longer alive, and that she does not have any friends now: “All my friends, everyone I knew when I was young, they are all dead and gone.”

(Q4) What were Opal’s feelings when she realized how Miss Franny felt?

Students should realize that Opal felt she and Miss Franny were both lonely: “It was the same way I felt . . . friendless . . .”

(Q5) Earlier in the story, Opal says that Winn-Dixie “has a large heart, too.” What does Winn-Dixie do to show that he has a “large heart”?

Students should see that Winn-Dixie was responding to Opal and Miss Franny feeling sad when he looked between them and showed Miss Franny his teeth: “Winn-Dixie raised his head off his paws and looked back and forth between me and Miss Franny. He sat up then and showed Miss Franny his teeth. ‘Well now, look at that,’ she said. ‘That dog is smiling at me.’”

### Text Passage Under Discussion

“He went. But this is what I will never forget. He took the book with him.”

“Nu-uh,” I said.

“Yes ma’am,” said Miss Franny. “He snatched it up and ran.”

“Did he come back?” I asked.

“No, I never saw him again. Well, the men in town used to tease me about it. They used to say, ‘Miss Franny, we saw that bear of yours out in the woods today. He was reading that book and he said it sure was good and would it be all right if he kept it for just another week.’ Yes ma’am. They did tease me about it.” She said. “I imagine I’m the only one left from those days. I imagine I’m the only one that even recalls that bear. All my friends, everyone I knew when I was young, they are all dead and gone.”

She sighed[2] again. She looked sad and old and wrinkled. It was the same way I felt sometimes, being friendless in a new town and not having a mama to comfort me. I sighed, too.

Winn-Dixie raised his head off his paws and looked back and forth between me and Miss Franny. He sat up then and showed Miss Franny his teeth.

“Well now, look at that,” she said. “That dog is smiling at me.”

“It’s a talent of his,” I told her.

“It’s a fine talent,” Miss Franny said. A very fine talent.” And she smiled back at Winn-Dixie.

“We could be friends,” I said to Miss Franny. “I mean you and me and Winn-Dixie, we could all be friends.”

Miss Franny smiled even bigger. “Why, that would be grand,” she said, “just grand.”

## Instructional Commentary/Guiding Questions For Teachers/Proficient Responses

(Q6) Opal and Miss Franny have three very important things in common - What are these?

As noted in question 4, both characters are lonely.

In the very first sentence of the passage, Opal says, “I spent a lot of time that summer at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library.” Therefore, it is a reasonable inference that Opal likes books. Similarly, Miss Franny said, “When I was a little girl I loved to read.” And when told that she could have anything she wanted for her birthday, she replied, “. . . I would most certainly love to have a library.”

Opal, of course, likes Winn-Dixie, and there is evidence that Miss Franny does as well: “Well now look at that . . . ‘That dog is smiling at me.’” Also, “. . . she smiled back at Winn-Dixie.”

### Text Passage Under Discussion

I spent a lot of time that summer at the Herman W. Block Memorial Library. The Herman W. Block Memorial Library sounds like it would be a big fancy place, but it’s not. It’s just a little old house full of books, and Miss Franny Block is in charge of them all. She is a very small, very old woman with short gray hair, and she was the first friend I made in Naomi.

. . .

Miss Franny looked around the library. She leaned in close to me. “I don’t want to appear prideful,” she said, “but my daddy was a very rich man. A very rich man.” She nodded and then leaned back and said, “And I was a little girl who loved to read. So I told him, I said, ‘Daddy, I would most certainly love to have a library for my birthday, a small little library would be wonderful.’”

“You asked for a whole library?”

“A small one,” Miss Franny nodded. “I wanted a little house full of nothing but books and I wanted to share them, too. And I got my wish. My father built me this house, the very one we are sitting in now. And at a very young age, I became a librarian. Yes ma’am.”

. . .

She sighed[3] again. She looked sad and old and wrinkled. It was the same way I felt sometimes, being friendless in a new town and not having a mama to comfort me. I sighed, too.

Winn-Dixie raised his head off his paws and looked back and forth between me and Miss Franny. He sat up then and showed Miss Franny his teeth.

“Well now, look at that,” she said. “That dog is smiling at me.”

“It’s a talent of his,” I told her.

“It’s a fine talent,” Miss Franny said. A very fine talent.” And she smiled back at Winn-Dixie.

“We could be friends,” I said to Miss Franny. “I mean you and me and Winn-Dixie, we could all be friends.”

[1]
To shake because of fear or the cold without trying to shake; when you can’t stop yourself
[2]
To let out a long, deep breath because of tiredness, sadness, or another feeling
[3]
To let out a long, deep breath because of tiredness, sadness, or another feeling