Read to: Kinder & 1st Grade (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Asking Questions
This is not your typical nonfiction book, and that's why I love it. Strong imagery and lyrical writing are not qualities that one usually associates with expository text, so that's why I chose to share it with my little ones this week. I want my students to READ the words and THINK about the author's purpose before assigning a genre. We need to teach our students that nonfiction texts do not always have photographs; they do not always have a ton of text features; they are not always in a stiff, voiceless style that drones fact after fact. What we need to teach our students is that even if the book has illustrations and poetic writing, it can still be nonfiction if the purpose is to share FACTS about a real subject. Over and Under the Snow is NOT your mother's nonfiction. And thank goodness for that.
This was a wonderful book to use for questioning. Just like last week, I realized that when we want kids to ask questions, they often tell us a fact or an observation rather than ask a question. I started the lesson with a review of "question words" (see lesson frame below), and told them to point to their head when they had a question while I was reading the book so that I would know. Once again, time did not allow me to stop and let every kid share his/her question. As I read the book, I would sporadically stop and ask the question of a child who was in the question pose. This worked really well, and several teachers have said that they are doing this in their classroom, as well. Almost all of the kids shared a legitimate question when asked, so I think having the question words displayed helped them understand the difference between asking a question and telling a thought.
At the end of the book, we voted on whether this book was fiction or nonfiction. Most of them thought it was fiction because of the illustrations, so see why it is important that we don't teach that fiction has illustrations and nonfiction has photographs? After we discussed that the author's purpose was to teach us FACTS about a secret kingdom under the snow, the kids realized that this was a nonfiction book because it taught us facts about a REAL place rather than telling a story with a beginning/middle/end and a conflict. I then showed them a bubble map that I had made, and we quickly answered our questions about the subnivean zone by reading the Author's Note at the back of the book.
Lesson Frame and Bubble Map:
The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair by Dotti Enderle
Read to: 2nd Grade (5 classes)
Targeted: Asking Questions; Identifying Problem and Solution: Noticing good details in writing
I try to choose my read-alouds from the new books that I buy for the library so that the kids are exposed to fresh, new literature. I love the "classics" and "oldies but goodies," but I know that my students hear these read by their teachers year after year. However, there are some read-aloud faves that I just have to revisit, and this is one of them. I will not be able to go to the State Fair of Texas this year, so this book is about as close as I can get (which is fortunate for my hips).
This book is a wonderful mentor text for vivid imagery. I made sure to point out how the writer uses similes to paint a picture in the reader's mind. The students asked questions while reading (why does Jake not notice that he has a stream of cotton candy following him? was the most obvious question), and we also discussed the problem and solution, making a connection to a characteristic of fiction. There is a great place for inferring at the very end, and I pointed out that many students did this automatically even though I did not tell them to (sign of excellent readers!). I encouraged students to write a continuation of the story or write about a time that they went to the Fair, a carnival, or Six Flags during their Writers' Workshop time in class .
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
Read to: 3rd & 4th Grades (7 classes)
Targeted Skills: Theme; Literary Nonfiction; Text to Text Connections
Because this book is a perfect paring with Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile that I read last week, I had to read this to the 3rd and 4th graders this week (see Week 5 post for more about this fabulous book). They made wonderful connections to Miss Dorothy; we discussed what makes this book literary nonfiction. I showed a picture of the real biblioburro, and the kids were so excited to see that he was REAL. Finally, we zeroed in on the theme of the book (learned my lesson from last week). We talked about how theme can be summarized into one word or phase that shows how the story connects to life. The students easily distinguished that "BOOKS ARE WORTH MAKING A SACRIFICE FOR" was a good theme for this wonderful story. I couldn't agree more.