Just a Dream

Author(s): Chris Van Allsburg

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2uft2kT
Indigo: http://bit.ly/3aD7WQn

Social Justice focus: Respect for the Environment

Synopsis: Walter is a boy who shows no concern or respect for the environment. That night he has a series of disturbing dreams of what the future will be like if current practices continue. Walter wakens and vows to change his habits.

Lesson Plan: Nigel Kennedy

Primary/Junior/Intermediate Lesson Plan (Abbreviated Template)

Consecutive and Concurrent Programs

Unit/Topic: Reading Comprehension/Environmentalism

Grade: 4

Lesson: I am teaching students to find the inferred message within the text

Lens: Environmental Education

Curriculum Areas: Science and Technology

Curriculum Expectations:


1 Read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning

2 Recognize a variety of text forms, text features, and stylistic elements and demonstrate understanding of how they help communicate meaning

3 Use knowledge of words and cueing systems to read fluently

1.1 Read a variety of texts from diverse cultures, including literary texts, graphic texts, and informational texts

1.3 Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during, and after reading to understand texts

1. 5 Make inferences about texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts as evidence

1.6 Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them

1.8 Express opinions about the ideas and information in texts and cite evidence from the text to support their opinions

1.1 Automatically read and understand high-frequency words, most regularly used words, and words of personal interest or significance in a variety of reading contexts

1.3 Read appropriate texts at a sufficient rate and with sufficient expression to convey the sense of the text readily to the reader and an audience

Oral Communication

2 Use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes

1.2 Demonstrate an understanding of appropriate speaking behaviour in a variety of situations, including paired sharing and small- and large-group discussions

1.3 Communicate in a clear, coherent manner, presenting ideas, opinions, and information in a readily understandable form

Science and Technology

1 Analyse the effects of human activities on habitats and communities

1.1 Analyse the positive and negative impacts of human interactions with natural habitats and communities taking different perspectives into account, and evaluate ways of minimizing the negative impacts

Learning Goal(s):

[R 1.1, 3.1] We are learning to read a literary text by automatically understanding common words and words that we are interested in

[R 1.3, 3.3] We are learning to use reading strategies before, during, and after reading to help us read at good pace and convey the meaning of the text

[R 1.5, 1.6] We are learning to read beyond the text and understand the greater meaning of a literary text so that we can connect it to our own knowledge and experiences

[R 1.8] We are learning to convey our own opinions about the text by citing evidence from the text

[OC 2.2, 2.3] We are learning to use appropriate speaking behaviours to communicate, in a clear and coherent manner, our ideas in group discussions

[ST 1.1] We are learning about the impact human actions have on the environment

Success Criteria:

I can read by using different strategies before, during, and after reading to understand the greater meaning behind a literary text

I can use information from the story to infer meaning that isn’t directly given in the text

I can convey my ideas in a group discussion by using appropriate speaking behaviours and communicating in a clear coherent manner

I can explain certain negative impacts that human actions have on the environment


How will I meet the needs of my students? Have I addressed any IEPs?

A printed copy of the text will be made available to students that have poor eyesight or prefer to make notes to help them read

With a digital copy, students could have Google read and write read the story to them in private

Students could pair up or work in small groups to help each other read the book

Students could be allowed to go to the library to have a quiet reading space

Students would be allowed to type their writing piece if it is easier for them


Minutes: 10 minutes

Task: As a class we will discuss what we think the future will look like using the following prompts:

  • What will cities look like?
  • How will people get from one place to another?
  • What kind of technology will we have?
  • Where might people live?

Afterward we will discuss how human activity has long term effects on the environment and ways that we can lessen that impact. Answers will be written on chart paper and linked together based on similarities.


[OC 2.2, 2.3] Anecdotal record of students’ prior knowledge of the impact of human activity and environmental activism in their community and across the globe.

[R 1.1, 1.3, 3.1, 3.3] Checklist of student ability to read the text at grade level


Minutes: Thirty minutes


We will read the book as a class using an overhead projector to allow everyone to see it and do a quick discussion using critical literacy questions like:

  • Would the world be different if everyone read this book?
  • Is there a point of view missing from the story?
  • Is there anyone who would disagree with the story’s message?
  • How do certain actions in the story affect larger communities?
  • Does the author think the world needs to change in some way?

Students will then break into groups and match cut-outs of everyday objects with how long they take to decompose. By giving examples of similar lengths of time, we will discuss how impactful throwing away each object might be, and which ones are recyclable. We will also discuss how sometimes actions we take in our region of the world can have negative consequences in other regions of the world. This is known as environmental marginalization.


[R 1.6] Checklist for each item correct that will be filled out for each group.


Minutes: Twenty minutes


Students will write a short piece about somewhere they like to visit outside and what sort of problems that environment might be facing because of human actions and making connections to the story. Those pieces will be on display in the classroom so that anyone can read them and gain a new perspective on the activity.


[R 1.5, 1.6, 1.8] Rubric that looks for their comprehension of the text, connections to the text, and application of new knowledge in their writing.


Overhead projector

Chart paper


“Just A Dream” by Chris Van Allsburg

Everyday objects cut-outs

Decomposition time cut-outs

REFLECTION: Questions to determine the success of your lesson:

  • Were my students successful in meeting the learning goals and success criteria? How do I know?
  • Did my instructional decisions meet the needs of all students? If not, what are my next steps?
  • What worked well and why?
  • What will I do differently in the future when teaching this lesson? For the subsequent lesson?
  • What are the next steps for my professional learning?


Cut out the images and times below. In groups or as a class, students try to match the object with the time it takes to decompose. After revealing the answers, use the information below to give students context about how long each time period really is. You can also discuss which objects are recyclable and the importance of reducing and reusing things.

  • Paper towel – 2-4 weeks
  • Orange or Banana peel – 2-5 weeks
  • Time it takes to get a passport
  • Apple core – 2 months
  • Hair grows by an inch
  • Cotton shirt – 2-5 months
  • How long it takes to build a house
  • Plywood – 1-3 years
  • How long it took to make Toy Story 3
  • Cigarette filter – 1-5 years
  • Time it takes to become a full citizen
  • Plastic bag – 10-20 years
  • Time it took to build the Great Pyramid
  • Nylon – 30-40 years
  • How long it took to narrow the gender pay gap by 20 cents
  • Leather – 50 years
  • Time it takes for bamboo to flower
  • Styrofoam cup – 50 years
  • Lifespan of an African elephant
  • Rubber Boot sole 0 50-80 years
  • Time between the sinking and discovery of the titanic
  • Aluminum can – 80-200 years
  • Time the 13 colonies were under British rule
  • Disposable diapers – 450 years
  • Length of the Han Dynasty
  • Glass bottle – 1 million years
  • Comet siding spring comes closest to mars


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Social Justice Picture Books Copyright © 2019 by Ruth McQuirter, editor and Gurbinder Kaur, contributing editor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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