Friday, January 11, 2013

Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back by Laura Pedersen - Teaching Ideas

This is a fantastic book that touches on a problem that every family faces...too much time with electronics and not enough time with each other.

This book has won the Mom's Choice Award Honoring Excellence, and once you read it you can see why. The story is about Ella and her frustration with her family and all their electronic devices. She is disappointed when her mom said she would make waffles for breakfast and has to eat cereal because her mom was too busy on the phone with work. She is sad when her brother ignores her game of hangman because he is too busy with his video games, and mad when here sister leaves the house without doing her hair because she is texting her friends.

Ella really wants her family back, the way they were before they all got "plugged in", so she comes up with a plan. Ella collects all the chargers and electronic devices around the house and leaves little notes saying "Talk to Ella". When her family comes home they are not very happy when they can't find their chargers and gadgets. Ella explains that she just wants some family time, to play and laugh and be together without being in front of a screen.

Will Ella's family listen to her, or will they just keep their heads in their screens? Your students will not only identify with Ella, but they just might have the same problem at their house.

Listed below are all the skills and strategies that I could think of to use with this book to create some meaningful lessons. I decided to create a packet to go with it because it really lends itself to some timely and much needed talk about taking a break from the electronics and spending time with family.

Reading level: 4.5
Theme: family/relationships
Genre: fiction

Suggested Vocabulary & phrases: hangman’s scaffold, briefcase, scowled, charger cords, electronic devices, gadgets, you all got so plugged in.

Reading skills and strategies:
  • Asking questions - {possible questions before} I wonder what the story is about. What does it mean unplugged? Where did her family go? {possible questions during} I wonder if Ella’s family will be mad when they can’t find their stuff. I wonder if Ella’s family will come talk to her. {possible questions after} I wonder how long they will actually keep the family time without the phones and electronic devices. **Remember to have your students answer/reflect their questions.
  • Author’s point of view – Third person point of view. Be sure to find 3 pieces of evidence to support this.
  • Author's purpose - entertain {evidence} Find 3 pieces of evidence to support your thinking.
  • Beginning, middle, end - {most important event from beginning} That morning Ella did not get waffles, a game of hangman or her hair done. {most important event from middle} Ella collected all of the chargers and electronic devices in the house and left notes saying “Talk to Ella”. {most important event from end} Ella’s family understood and decided that breakfast time was family time.
  • Cause and effect – Why did Ella have cereal for breakfast? Because her mom didn’t have time to make waffles. Why did Carlos ignore Ella’s hangman game? Because he was too busy playing his electronic game. Why couldn’t Maya do Ella’s hair? Because she had to go meet some friends. Why didn’t Ella’s family have breakfast together anymore? Because they were too busy with their own things. Why did Ella collect all the gadgets and chargers? Because she wanted her family to spend time with her. Why does Ella look so happy holding the basket of chargers? Because she thinks that her family will now spend time with her. Why did Ella say she wanted her family back? Because they were too busy with their own electronic devices to spend time together anymore. Why was Ella’s family smiling at her when she came to breakfast the next morning? Because they knew Ella was right and they were going to have a family breakfast together. Why did Ella’s father tell her to eat up, you will need your energy? Because they were going on a family bicycle ride.
  • Character analysis - describe Ella. Describe her family {looks like, feelings, thoughts, character}
  • Character changes – Ella was not very happy in the beginning of the story because everyone was too busy to spend time together. In the middle of the book Ella was frustrated because her mom and dad thought she wanted a phone, but what she really wanted was to spend time with her family. At the end Ella was happy because her family listened to her and they were having a family breakfast.
  • Classify & categorize – Ways to spend family time and ways to spend time alone.
  • Compare & contrast - Ella to you. Ella’s family to your family.
  • Connections - {possible text-to-self connections} Being ignored. Not having a phone. Wanting to spend time with your family but they are too busy.
  • Drawing conclusions & inferencing – What do you think Ella is thinking while she is holding the basket of electronics? {text clues} It looks like she has a smile on her face. She looks happy. {what I know} I know that if I have a plan and I think it worked I am very happy. {my conclusion} I think Ella is thinking that her plan has worked because they are all there talking to her.
  • Fact & opinion{facts} Ella’s mom didn’t make waffles. Ella’s sister didn’t do her hair. Ella’s brother didn't play hangman because he was playing video games. Ella’s mom and dad thought that Ella wanted a phone of her own. Ella had to have cereal instead of waffles. {opinions} Ella’s family doesn’t care about her. Ella’s family is too interested in their electronics. I think Ella should have a phone too. Ella should say she is sorry for taking all their electronic devices and chargers.
  • Main idea & details - {main idea} Ella thinks her family spends too much time with their electronics and not enough time with each other. {details} Carlos ignores Ella’s hangman game because he is playing his video game. Mom forgets to make breakfast because she is too busy on the phone. Maya doesn’t have time to do Ella’s hair because she has to go meet some friends.
  • Plot - the turning point or climax in the story is when Ella explains to her parents that the she doesn’t want a phone, she wants family time.
  • Predict – What do you think the story is about? Do you think Ella’s mom will have waffles ready? Will her brother be ready to play hangman? Do you think Ella will have waffles tomorrow morning? Will Maya do Ella’s hair tomorrow? What do you think Ella’s idea is? Do you think Ella’s family will come talk to her? Do you think Ella will get into trouble for taking all the stuff? What do you think Ella’s family will do after they see Ella with all the stuff? Do you think Ella’s family will have family time again? Do you think they will keep their family time?
  • Problem & solution - {problem} Ella misses her family. {solution} Ella takes all the electronic devices and chargers in hopes that her family will have some family time.
  • Sequencing – Ella is excited about waffles and hangman. She says good morning to her dad. She tries to play hangman with her brother. Mom is busy on the phone. Ella has to eat cereal instead of waffles. Ella’s sister doesn’t have time to do her hair. Ella comes home from school and collects all the chargers and electronic devices. Ella’s family gets home and wants their stuff back. Ella’s mom and dad talk to Ella and asks is this is her way of asking for a phone. Ella explains she just wants family time. Ella comes down for breakfast and finds her family waiting for her at the breakfast table. The have waffles and talk.
  • Story elements - list title, author, characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, or problem & solution.
  • Strong thought – How would you feel if you were Ella and your family was ignoring you because they were just too busy with their electronics?
  • Summarize - {someone} Ella {wanted} wanted family time {but} but everyone was too busy with their own electronic devices {so} so she decides to collect all the chargers so they would stop using them. {then} When her family comes home they are mad but they {finally} finally understand.
  • Theme – It is important to “unplug” and spend some quality time with your family.
  • Visualize – What does your family time look like (when there is no electronic devices involved and you are all together having fun as a family)?

 Included in the packet:
Directions and Common Core Standards for each skill and strategy. Plus ideas for extending some of the activities.
* Beginning, Middle, End - 5 pages
* Character Analysis - 4 pages
* Character Change - 1 page
* Drawing Conclusions/Inferencing - 3 pages
* Problem/Solution - 4 pages
* Summarize - 1 page
* Story Map - 3 pages
* Strong Thought - 3 pages
* Theme 1 page
* Visualize - 3 pages

You can get this packet from either one of my stores.

I have been given 2 copies of this book for a GIVEAWAY. Come back tomorrow to enter your chance to win a copy of this book and a packet to go with it!

Happy reading!


  1. This looks incredible! I putting it in my cart! I will be back tomorrow.


  2. Would like to win this book. Thanks.

  3. I love the message of this book and all of the activities you have put together to use with it. I would love to win it to use with my students! Thanks!


Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

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