No Series: Ms. Noonan: Using a Touchstone Text


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature K-5
  • 5:  5th Grade
  • 4:  Determine the meaning of words and phrases
    as they are used in a text, including figurative
    language such as metaphors and similes.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA: 

    English Language Arts

  • L: 


  • 5: 

    5th Grade

  • 5a: 

    Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

    a. Interpret figurative language, including similes and metaphors, in context.

    b. Recognize and explain the meaning of common idioms, adages, and proverbs.

    c. Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, homographs) to better understand each of the words.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Ms. Noonan: Using a Touchstone Text

Lesson Objective: Use a short engaging text to anchor a series of lessons on a tough concept
Grades 3-5 / ELA / Metaphor
ELA.RL.5.4 | ELA.L.5.5a


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. Why is "The Sneetches" a good choice for this lesson?
  2. How does Ms. Noonan encourage students to build on each others ideas?
  3. Notice how students use Ms. Noonan's question to phrase their answers as a complete sentence.?


  • Private message to Erin Sullivan
Thank you for your videos, you are an amazing teacher and it is a privilege to watch your lessons.
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  • Private message to Angie Maloney
I am so impressed by your teaching style. I would love to work with you!
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  • Private message to salwa abozeed
active discussion , good class participation,good role of the teacher and so on
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  • Private message to Liz Tompkins
I am going into my internship year next year and will be in a 5th grade classroom.... I love your videos! great ideas and inspiration. Thank you!
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  • Private message to Katrina Smits
Ms. Noonan's students consistently respond in complete sentences :)
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External Resource Materials


  • Classroom Close Up: E.L.A. Throughout the Day –
    Touchstone Text with Madeline Noonan

    Madeline: "Then up came McBean with a

    Classroom Close Up: E.L.A. Throughout the Day –
    Touchstone Text with Madeline Noonan

    Madeline: "Then up came McBean with a very sly wink. And he said "Things are not quite as bad as you think." "

    During read aloud, today, we're reading what I call a touchstone text. It's usually a picture book that may or may not be at grade level, but that really demonstrates a particular idea or skill or strategy well.

    "Diego, it looks like you had a light bulb."

    It gives kids a chance to practice some of their higher order thinking skills on a text that feels comfortable and familiar.

    "As 5th graders, what we know is that we are not just looking for metaphors in sentences anymore, we're looking for metaphors, Lucia, in entire books. And, we're about to take on a really challenging fifth grade level book that has a alot of metaphor and a lot of symbolism. So, right now we're practicing those skills of identifying metaphors with "The Sneetches" by Dr. Suess."

    By sharing with students that we're reading this, not just for fun, and not just to learn about metaphor and symbolism, but actually to practice for a harder book, sort of sets up in their mind that this is a safe practice zone for more challenging territory ahead. I better get comfortable with it now.

    "So we left off yesterday in "The Sneetches" and we met the star-belly sneetches who have stars on their bellies. And, we met the plain-belly sneetches, and they did not have stars on their bellies. Was that a big deal in the land of the sneetches?"

    All: "Yes" "No"

    Madeline: "Yes, it was a really big deal"

    I've read the book and I've pulled out specific teaching points that I think students should either be aware of, or I want them to wrestle with.

    "Tell us why. Why was it a big deal to have stars on your bellies or to not? Christopher."

    Christopher: "Like, like the ones with the stars, like, like, maybe they were rich, and the ones with no stars, they had like, were poor."

    Madeline: "OK. Do we have evidence of that in our book yet? No evidence in the text, but I like the direction that you're going in. Using evidence from the text, Diego, go for it."

    For this lesson, we really zoomed in on what it meant to have a star on your belly.

    "Restate of the question. Did it matter that some sneetches had stars and some didn't?"

    Student: "I think it did matter because if it didn't matter, the, the plain-bellied sneetches would have been happy too.

    Madeline: Students were able to make a lot of text to text and text to world connections with the civil rights movement, um, with racism, and with segregation.

    "Great. And, we know they weren't happy. What were some of our evidence that they weren't happy with the way they were being treated? Macarena."

    Macarena: "Some evidence was when the plain-bellied sneetches weren't allowed to um, play or play or go to parties with the star-bellied sneetches."

    Madeline: "Excellent. It's really true. They were segregated from them."

    They also took a look, today, at the, the character of McBean.

    "I've come here to help you. I have what you need. And my prices are low, and I work at great speed. And my work is 100% guranteed."

    They were able to identify that he was a symbol of greed in the book.

    "I'm looking at this illustration, and I'm wondering if anybody wants to take a stab at what McBean might be a symbol of, what his character is a symbol of. Christopher?"

    Christopher: "Because the only thing he wants is the money."

    Madeline: "Excellent. You hit on something. Money, money, money. What might he be a symbol of with that money, money, money? Thank you so much Christopher. Jesus?"

    I'm encouraging students to

    Jesus: "I think he's selfish because he doesn't want to give people..."

    Madeline: add on to what other students have said, correct it, or modify it.

    "Great. I think he's selfish, and I also think he has this focus on money. What's a word that characterizes someone whose focus is money, money, money? Yes ma'am."

    Student: "I think that McBean is greedy."

    Madeline: "He's a symbol of greed. How do, how did you conclude that Carmen?"

    Carmen: "Um, I conclude that um, because all he wants is money, and..."

    Madeline: It's a great way of encouraging those active listening skills, ensuring that students are learning from one another, and critically evaluating if they agree. If so, why and if not, why.

    "Does it matter which sneetch is which? Why not? If you...some of you said no. Why not?"

    Student: "'Cause they're all sneetches, and all they have to do is just treat each other equal."

    Madeline: Good teaching is honoring students' intelligence by giving them access to high-quality material and challenging them whenever possible.

    It's important to me that everyday in this classroom, we're moving them one step forward, and one step closer to college.

School Details

Think College Now School
2825 International Boulevard
Oakland CA 94601
Population: 306

Data Provided By:



Madeline Noonan
English Language Arts Math Social Studies / 5 / Teacher


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