What Happened on Pa Lia's First Day?

What Happened on Pa Lia's First Day?

by Judie Haynes

On her first day in a new school Pa Lia felt alone and wanted to make friends. This thematic unit will help students discuss feelings about their first day in a new school and the difficulties of making new friends.

On her first day in a new school Pa Lia couldn't find her classroom, was knocked down by a bully, and got into trouble for passing notes. Pa Lia felt alone and was afraid she wouldn't make new friends. Use this lesson plan for a unit on friendship or feelings. It can also provide the background for a discussion on how to welcome new students into the class.

Lesson topic

Making friends, feeling alone

Proficiency/Grade level

This is a beginning chapter book suitable for intermediate ESL students at the end of second grade through the beginning of fourth.

Goal and Standard

Goal 2, Standard 2: To use English to achieve academically in all content areas

Content Concepts and Skills

Background Information

Vocabulary for feelings; experience of the first day in a new school; how to make people feel welcome

Materials or Resources

Pa Lia's First Day by Michelle Edwards; downloadable activity pages


This lesson was designed to be covered during one week of instruction.


1. Review vocabulary for feelings: afraid, angry, sad, embarrassed, happy, nervous, lonely. Show students that they can have a variety of feelings at the same time.

2. Brainstorm with students how they felt their first day of school. Did they know their teacher? Did they know any other students in their class?

3. Ask who in the class has moved to a new school. Who came to school not speaking English? Talk about other times students felt "out of place." or "alone."

4. Develop vocabulary before or during reading. Help students find the meaning of words using context clues if possible. Words that are essential to the understanding of the story should be developed before reading. (dawdle, brave)

During Reading

Ask questions during reading to check comprehension:

What will happen next?

Predicting what will happen next in a story is an important skill for English language learners to acquire. Have students predict the following: (Either in a group oral discussion or in a journal.)

After Reading

1. Review the story with students and discuss Pa Lia's feelings during various events. How did her feelings effect her behavior? Have students fill in the Pa Lia's feelings chart.

2. Help students recall the story action through the Pa Lia sequencing activity.

2. Brainstorm with students a list of ways classmates can make a new student feel welcome. Ask students to write about how they would have made Pa Lia welcome. Help them develop the language to welcome people.

3. What did Pa Lia do that was brave? Have students think about a time they felt brave. Ask them to write or draw a picture about that experience.

4. Pa Lia is called "Four Eyes" by Stinky Stern. Talk to the group about how they feel when someone calls them a name.

5. If appropriate to the ability level of the group, help students find the figurative language in the story. What does each expression sound like it means? What does it really mean? Can you tell the meaning from the context of the story? Explain how the author paints a picture with words. Ask students what they think of when you say one of the following:

6. Brainstorm with students when they felt very nervous. Make a list of the board of their ideas. Download Pa Lia's butterflies. Ask students to complete the sentence:

"My mouth was filled with one thousand fluttering butterflies when I..........."

7. Have students share their work with others in the group.

Activity Downloads

Note: To view the classroom activities, you must have Acrobat Reader intalled. Acrobat is a free application available from Adobe Systems.

PDF filePa Lia's Butterflies (12k .PDF)

PDF filePa Lia sequencing activity (2k .PDF)

PDF filePa Lia feelings chart (3k .PDF)

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