Relationship Unit Opener

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SWBAT speak, read, and write about grade level topics.

Big Idea

Good readers connect books to over-arching themes. It’s important to engage students in all areas of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.


10 minutes

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.

Lesson Opening:

  1. Students are seated in one large group, in front of our stage, to begin our unit opener. I ask the students to turn to a partner from a different classroom. Some of them will need to move to be able to this. The other teachers help to partner up the students quickly. I ask them to sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye. I ask them to choose Partner A and Partner B. I let them know they will be engaged in a Think-Pair-Share. I ask Partner A to ask first: "What do you know about Relationships?" After Partner A shares, then it's Partner A's turn to ask. This takes about 1-2 minutes, no more.
  2. Then, students share aloud while I transcribe their responses on a Circle Map drawn on a chart. I have the chart resting on an easel.
  3. Afterwards, students are given a poster, divided into groups, and given instructions on how they will rotate every 10 minutes around five stations. Each station is facilitated by an adult with a specific task. At each station, each student will fill in one section of the poster. By the end of their rotation, they are to have their posters completed.
    • To make the groups, I ask the other teachers how many students present in their class. I take the total and divide into the number of stations (5 in this case) we have. Each group needs to have students from each class and the teachers work with me to make sure this happens.
  4. Last, I keep track of the time, and I use the lights to signal it is time to rotate. When the lights are turned off, the students know to line up in their group so that we can move systematically. The other teachers help with this too.

Interactive Group Work

50 minutes

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.

I do want to note that the Library Station differs from the other stations. We placed different text for them on the stage for them to explore. These books enhance the stories they will read in their anthology. Each class gets a set of these books to have as a classroom library. These books can be used as read-alouds to help students develop their conceptual understanding of the different types of relationships that exist.
Here is a list of books that you may want to use for the unit opener and/or in your classroom: Relationship Book titles.
In putting together these book titles, we thought of books that depicted different types of relationships. Feel free to be creative in how you collect books on Relationships. Our principal was able to buy these books so that our students could be exposed to rich literature. 

Here are some examples of their work during their time at the stations:

Whole Group Share

6 minutes
After the station time, we gather the students back on the floor to bring closure to the Unit Opener. Students sit again in front of the stage. All the adults help in bringing the students to the floor as fast as possible. The students are sitting with students from the other classrooms, and so I ask them to turn to a partner from a different classroom and choose who is Partner A and who is Partner B. Those students who are having a hard time finding a partner have help from the teachers.
I ask them to sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye. I ask Partner B they will be asking the question first. Their question is: What did you learn about relationships?
This takes about 1-2 minutes for both to share. Then, a few students share with the whole group. I transcribe some of their responses on the circle map with a different colored marker to distinguish what they shared in the beginning and what they are sharing now.
Lastly, I thank them for their cooperation, and each teacher calls for their group of students to line up in a specific area of the multi-purpose room to head back to their room.
Following this lesson, each class will read the same six stories, one a week, and the students will have access to the books they explored during the Unit Opener because these books become part of the classroom library, usually stored in a standing bookcase.
I make sure the students thank all the adults who helped with the stations before they leave.