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Learning Objectives
Joseph Had a
Little Overcoat

During the unit on "Joseph Had a Little Overcoat," students will learn to identify every word in the story, understand the main concepts, and study several dimensions of the target vocabulary.

Main Concepts in the Story

"Joseph Had a Little Overcoat" is a folktale adapted from a Yiddish folk song. A folktale is a fictional story, passed down orally within a culture, whose purpose is to impart folk wisdom or a lesson.

The main concepts in the story are:

Diagram: Annotated star shape illustrating text that follows.

  • Joseph
  • Members of Joseph's family and community are minor characters.
  • Jewish village in Eastern Europe

    Folktales teach lessons that are timeless and not rooted in any one place (which is why many of them start with "Once upon a time..."). However, when "Joseph" was originally told, the audience were members of Yiddish culture living in villages in Poland, Russia, and other parts of Eastern Europe.
  • Joseph's overcoat becomes old and worn, but he doesn't want to throw it out. He recycles the overcoat into a jacket, and that too becomes old and worn, and this pattern continues throughout the story.
  • Joseph creates a new article of clothing out of the leftover material from each piece of worn-out clothing.
  • In the end, Joseph has nothing left of his overcoat but the story to tell.
  • "You can always make something out of nothing."

Target Word Dimensions

Good readers have a depth of knowledge about words. When they read, they determine which meaning of a word is appropriate within the context of the text, and they make associations to prior knowledge about that word. These thinking processes help good readers make sense of the text overall. Learning multiple dimensions of words is a key aspect of the Cornerstones approach.

There are three categories of understanding for each word:

  • Recognition of the word in print
  • Basic understanding of the primary meaning
  • Other forms of the word (plurals, verb tenses, compound words)
  • Multiple meanings
  • Attributes, features, and characteristics of the word
  • Categories
  • Synonyms and antonyms
  • Compound words
  • Idioms and figurative usage
  • Other nuances

Target Words

Lesson 1: old, worn, overcoat, jacket, vest, scarf, necktie, handkerchief
Lesson 2: fasten, suspenders, button
Lesson 3: city, lost, fair
Lesson 4: nephew, sister, married, wedding, danced, sang, chorus
Lesson 5: drank, glass, hot tea, lemon
Lesson 6: nothing, something, shows