Read to 5th Grade (5 classes)
Targeted Skills: Main Idea and Supporting Details; Nonfiction can be written as narrative
My 5th Grade teachers wanted me to teach a lesson that would incorporate "Freedom Week" (noted in their Social Studies curriculum) and main idea, a concept that many of their students were still struggling with. I immediately thought of this book because it's new to our library, and I was looking for an opportunity to share it with my older students.
First, I set the tone for the students by telling them that this was a different kind of book than I usually read to them. Since this is about the TRUE of events of September 11, we needed to be respectful because real people lost their lives, and to goof off while listening to the book would be disrespectful to their memory. I then told them that I would only read this book to 5th grade because I knew they were mature enough to handle it (I like making grade levels feel "privileged" that they are the only ones to hear a book. I hope to read this to my sixth graders, too, but only fifth grade got the privilege this week). I briefly touched on main idea and connected to the umbrella analogy (see 3rd/4th grade lesson), but I dove into the reading because this book is LONG, and I only had 45 minutes with each class (all lesson time--no checkout).
I let this book speak for itself and did not stop much to discuss. But I made sure to stop and ask students about the qualities of a hero and the importance of putting others before self, which is a huge theme because Brown details the actions of a few of the countless heroes of 9/11. At the end, there is an excellent main idea paragraph that summarizes the book, and we stopped and discussed why it took a paragraph and not just a sentence. We then discussed that not all stories/books/articles have main idea sentences (nor are they always at the beginning), so sometimes you have to create your own main idea sentence, which is hard. I made sure to connect to the umbrella analogy so that the kids could see how the main idea COVERS the piece of literature.
I took a risk with this book. I knew this could go really well or it could have been a disaster.Overall, the risk was worth it, and it was a powerful lesson. I recommend reading this under the Elmo so that the students can track the words and look at the pictures while listening. I did not do this with my first class, but I decided to do it with the other four, and I could tell that they paid closer attention. This book might be better for a teacher to read in a classroom setting so that there is time to go more in depth. But I'm glad that I took the risk of reading it to my kids in the library. I am proud of the maturity and respect that they showed during this lesson. I hope that I planted some seeds for further thought and reflection about what it truly means to be American and honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety.
Lesson Frame and Higher-Level Question:
Blackout by John Rocco
Read to 3rd and 4th Grade (6 classes)
Targeted Skills: Determining Main Idea and Supporting Details; Making Inferences
The kids really enjoyed this book. Rocco creates vivid pictures that tell most of the story , so it is excellent for making inferences. Most of the kids had experienced a power outage, so they could easily connect to their schema.
Before reading the book, I opened an umbrella and had them brainstorm how a main idea sentence is like an umbrella. (Now THAT'S dedication to risk all of that bad luck to teach a lesson.) My kids easily connected that an umbrella COVERS a person just like the main idea COVERS the story/article/book. We then discussed how the handle of the umbrella is like the supporting details that "hold up" the story. I then read the book using the Elmo so that the kids could easily see the beautiful illustrations. We made inferences and connected to our schema while reading--I stress this each time I read a book to kids to model that this is what good readers ALWAYS do--not just on certain weeks that their teachers tell them to. After we finished the book, I had the students "turn and talk" about the main idea. I had them do a thumbs-up activity to determine if certain sentences that I had made up were "Main Idea" (two thumbs up) or "Supporting Details" (one thumb up). After the kids decided that the main idea of the story, we connected it back to the umbrella. I HOPE that this helps main idea stick in their minds.
Lesson Frame and Umbrella Illustration:
Guess What is Growing Inside this Egg by Mia Posada
Read to 2nd Grade (4 Classes)
Targeted Skills: Notice that not all nonfiction books have Text Features; Make Inferences
Even though this book is not new, I chose it because it is a great example of a nonfiction book with few text features. It has that fiction "feel" because it rhymes, has illustrations rather than photographs, and does not have any of the typical text features associated with nonfiction. I want my kids to THINK about the purpose and meaning of a book in order to determine if it is fiction or nonfiction.
We only read a few of the pages, and I had the students make inferences about what was in the egg based on the TEXT EVIDENCE (clues) on the page. They enjoyed guessing, and then we learned interesting facts about the animal on the next page. The students noticed the lack of text features, but we talked about how this book does not have a story (beginning/middle/end) with characters; it's purpose was to teach us FACTS about the animals, therefore, it is nonfiction. I then showed them a nonfiction book about spiders that had text features galore, and we compared the two books.
Press Here by Herve Tullet
Read to Kinder & 1st Grade (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Making Predictions
This book was an ABSOLUTE HIT and a MUST READ for all teachers and librarians. It's one of our Mockingbird books for the year, and I just couldn't wait until the spring to share it (we will read it again in the spring, and they will love it just as much).
This book is PERFECT for teaching predictions based on clues. When we got to the clapping part to make the dots get bigger, every class screamed in delight when the page was turned. You could feel the JOY radiating from the kids all because dots got bigger, but the kids really thought it was magic.This must be read under the Elmo so that the reader can interact with the book. My teachers LOVED this one, too. SO FUN! One of my fave books of 2012!
On Friday I got the idea of using the kids' library cards instead of having them raise their hands to make predictions because it was getting a little chaotic. Since I don't have Popsicle sticks with names or numbers on them, I just put the library cards in a bucket and drew from there to call on kids randomly. I was able to call on every student in each class to make a prediction throughout the book, and this also helped me learn the Kindergarten names. I will do this with each class from now on. This is proof that you can have a good idea on a Friday.
Some of my sixth grade teachers asked me to do a lesson on making inferences. I used Press Here and Blackout since I was already reading them during the week.
I started with Press Here to show the kids that inferences are "beefed up" predictions. We have to put our schema and the text evidence (clues) together to make an inference. I then made sure to stress the fact that making inferences was not just a reading skill but a LIFE skill. As I read the book to them, I emphasized the fact that they were making predictions based on schema and text evidence; therefore, they were making inferences. The sixth graders LOVED this book just as much as the little ones. Now that didn't squeal in delight, but they did smile and give the occasional "that's cool," which is the sixth grade equivalent to a Kindergarten squeal. I'll take it. It just shows that this book is universal in its appeal.
I then shared Blackout, and we talked about how we had to make inferences based on the pictures because of the lack of words.After the book was over, I asked them to turn and talk about the technology that they can't live without.
Lesson Frame & Higher-Level Question: