Using Provocations for “After the Fall”

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“After the Fall” is one of my FAVORITEST picture books. The art, the message. . .Several times I’ve read this one aloud and had students raise their hands in victory alongside Humpty [SPOILER ALERT] when he overcomes his fears and climbs the wall. So naturally it was the first picture book that I created provocations for.

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 1.52.15 PM.pngThemes of the book:

  • Growth Mindset
  • Overcoming Obstacles
  • Rising from the Ashes

Important symbols in the book:

  • Ladders
  • Walls
  • cracks
  • Flying (birds, airplanes)
  • Rebirth (Phoenix)


  • Egg Shell (broken)
  • Feathers
  • Band-aids
  • Small paper airplanes
  • Small crumpled ball

Prior to introducing students to the bowl of provocations, I use a flip chart or white board to create an “I Notice, I Wonder” t-chart.  With students pulled up nice and close, we have a conversation about our brains being “muscles” and how we are going to exercise our muscles by using a thinking routine called “I Notice and I Wonder”.  Notices are things we see or hear and would like to capture for future thinking, and Wonderings are questions our brain has (often about the things we capture in the Notice column).


To practice, this routine I bring out the bowl of provocations.  Often, when first using this thinking routine, the Notice side of the column has more items than the Wonder. Together, we add things to the chart like, “I notice the bowl has a feather in it” and I encourage students to phrase their thoughts using the stems “I notice or I wonder”.  Once we’ve covered the basics, we transition to reading the book.  I stop frequently to encourage students to examine the details of images, and plot and sharing their noticings and wonderings. It doesn’t take long before students recognize that the provocations in the bowl feature prominently in the picture book. Often students start using the provocations to make predictions about what happens next in the plot.

Once we finished reading the book aloud, we form a circle and I place a large laminated poster paper, with lines drawn on it to make a tic tac toe board.  As a group we discuss the rules of tic tac toe:  the middle square is the most strategically “important” , the point of the game is to form lines to “win”.  We use these same basic rules for our next thinking routine. Collectively we fill our TTT board with important words, phrase, ideas, themes, objects or from the story.

Together we brainstorm about the most important idea, and it goes in the middle of the board.  From this we built “lines” of ideas.  For instance, the drawing of the wall goes next to overcoming fears as it is the focus of Humpty’s fears. And the drawing of the broken Humpty came from a discussion of Humpty’s crack representing his accident being the inciting incident for his fear of heights.  Often when students named an important provocation or object from the story, I’d prompt them with the follow up questions “what does it represent” and “where does it connect on the board and why?”.  If students are stuck for ideas, I draw their attention back to our Notice/Wonder chart and bowl of provocations.

The TTT board your students co-create may have similar ideas but does not need to look exactly like this.

On its most basic level the tic tac toe thinking routine acts as an opportunity to summarize key events in the story.  However, more often than not, it results in an in-depth, student centered conversation around the key themes, and symbols of a text.

Ideally, the book, bowl or provocations and tic tac toe board are left to sit on a side table for students to continue to interact with.  The provocations can be used as a memory aid to help students to recall the story, perhaps in connection with a written reflection such as “What is a fear that you have? How might you overcome it?”





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