Summary and Context
The Common Core State Standards ask students to read and comprehend literature at grade level. They also ask to give students the opportunity to talk with diverse partners. Our school is mostly composed of English Language Learners and for that reason we seek to give our students as many opportunities for academic conversations as possible.
Additionally, we seek for our students to get to know one one another, and giving them interactive experiences helps to build community with each other.
Every six weeks we have events that we call "Unit Openers." Unit Openers are designed to introduce the new theme we will be reading about in our anthologies, and, for this lesson, we gather all three classrooms together. After the opener, we dive into the theme separately. Every theme is composed of six stories that all second graders read in their respective classroom. The teachers design the literacy tasks the students will experience during the Unit Opener. The tasks are designed to convey a message about the specific theme.
Our first theme for this unit is "Relationships." In thinking about relationships, we thought of topics that could contribute to the students' conceptual understanding of relationships. We created five different stations for the unit opener (see the next section for details about each station). These stations work for our students, but I invite you to create stations that would benefit your students and their needs.
All the students will be divided into smaller groups. These groups will be rotated every 10 minutes. The groups are made up of students from all three classrooms.
We hold the Unit Opener in the multi-purpose room to have plenty of space to move around and to give the groups space to carry out their task.
I facilitate the Unit Opener, and I start with all the students as a whole group. Our multi-purpose room is also our auditorium. We have our classes sit on the floor in front of the stage. They will be engaged in a Think-Pair-Share activity to active their prior knowledge of relationships. While I facilitate the opening, the other teachers are present and helping with management and the stations. We recruit our teaching assistants to help out too.
Please note: It is important to be in communication with the principal and the custodian to have the necessary space ready for the Unit Opener. The teachers worked to prepare the materials and to set up the materials the day before. This allows for the Unit Opener to flow smoothly. While it may seem like much work, the students benefit much from getting together with their peers from other classrooms and from having a different space to explore their learning. It keeps the learning fresh.
Once the students have gone through all the stations, we gather them again in a whole group and discuss what they have learned about relationships. Then, students are dismissed and they continue to build their knowledge of relationships through the six stories they read (one a week) and through the other activities each teacher creates respectively in their classroom.
Students’ pencil boxes, poster paper, chart paper for Circle Map, and books on relationships. I have included a list of suggested books in the next section's resources.
Now students work in their stations and rotate every 10 minutes to give them the opportunity to experience all stations. During these stations, the students continue to have collaborative conversations. In this case, their conversations take place in smaller groups.
The topics we created for the stations are: Library Station, All About Me, My Family, My Friends, and What I Like. I am attaching a document that gives more details on all the stations: Station Information.
The tasks work to meet the speaking and listening skills of our students. They benefit much from these conversations. I invite you to create tasks that address the needs of your students.