Sequencing With "A Day At the Zoo"

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SWBAT sequence events in their narrative writing.

Big Idea

What does a trip to the zoo have to do with sequencing?

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I am always wanting my students to write in response to their reading.  The Common Core standards  really stress writing to sources.  I wanted this lesson to be one in which my students wrote a great deal and practiced the skill for the week which was sequencing. My district has adopted Pearson's Reading Street curriculum, and this lesson is centered around the on-level reader for the week: "A Day At the Zoo." You could easily use the leveled reader from your reading series that lends itself nicely to the skill of sequencing.

I am a nerdy bookworm and am always reading educational research.  If it's not a research-based practice, I don't want to use it in my classroom.  Research has found that writing actually helps strengthen reading comprehension.  I have found an amazing study that goes into further details.  Just click here .  Both writing and reading comprehension skills are strengthened when writing in response to a text.  Worksheets don't have this power.

In today's lesson, students also have the opportunity to speak their sentences to a partner first before writing those sentences.  Not only does this address standard SL1.1, it also builds a student's working memory and allows them to fix their sentence easily by speaking it.  This prevents frustration because the student doesn't have to do any erasing when they're speaking.

I love using Dinah Zyke foldable books.  They are easy to make and the books motivate the students to write.  For this activity I have made the step book which wasn't hard at all to prep.  To see how to assemble the book look at my how to directions here How to Make a Step Book.docx.

A note about the lessons within this unit: I have an hour to teach 4 small groups each day.  Each group gets 15 minutes with me each day.  I am writing this lesson as a whole lesson, but I could never get it done with each reading group all in one day.  Realistically it took me 3 days to do this lesson with each group.  You can easily take this lesson and chunk it out to how it will fit your classroom based on what your district mandates and what time restraints you have in your classroom.  Also, this lesson was geared for my on-level groups.  If you would like to see what my advanced group is doing, see their lesson here.

Introduction and Reading/Discussing the Story

15 minutes

To start this lesson I needed to introduce the sight words that accompanied the story so that my students could be successful in reading the story without stumbling on decoding. Some of the words had a pattern, and I showed the students how to decode by pattern.  Other words, such as the word "want" are irregular.  We discussed this and spent a few minutes writing this word to familiarize ourselves with it. 

We spent the next part of our reading group reading the story.  I usually have the students work through the material once, and then we read the story again a second time to become more familiar with the text and to develop reading fluency. 

After reading the story I went back and pointed out the author's craft of how she wrote this book.  I explained that most of the pages had a pattern.  As we went back and looked through the book, I also pointed out that this book didn't have transition words such as "First, Next, and Last."  We talked about the comprehension skill of sequencing and how those words help us understand the story.  Several students pointed out this if this book had transition words, they would be able to understand the story that much better.

Writing Our Own Book

30 minutes

I wanted my students to know all about transition words, especially "First, Next, Then, After that, Finally" for this lesson.  I also intentionally designed this activity where my students would have 5 animals to write about so they would have to use all five transition words.

I wrote these transition words on the board: First, Next, Then, After that, Finally.  I said, "We talked about how transition words help us to understand the order of events in our story.  Today we are going to pretend we are taking a trip to the zoo.  We are going to write about what we see and use our transition words so when our audience reads our story, they will understand the order of events.  Remember how the author in the story we read wrote their first sentence on each page about which animal they wanted to see and the second sentence always gave a detail about what the animals were doing.  We are going to do that in our book as well."

I had students turn and talk to the person next to them.  We had an even number of students in the group, but if you have an uneven number of students in your group, you of course could partner up with a student.  We spent time talking to our partners and orally creating our sentences before we wrote them.  I did this intentionally and have offered my insights about this in the reflection section.

After speaking their sentences to their partners, students wrote their sentences in their book. There were times when I had to prompt them for their detail sentence where they elaborated because they forgot what they had told their partner.  That was fine with me because I knew their working memories weren't that large yet, and I knew that the more we practiced speaking, reading, and writing, those memories would grow. Each student wrote something different and I like that because that really made the book their own.

We continued in this manner, speaking our sentences to our partners first, then writing our sentences with transition words. You can see how this part of the lesson went here A Day At the Zoo.mp4.

Illustrating Our Book

15 minutes

Once I knew that the written part was done, I sent the students back to their seat to do their illustrations.  I said, "I want to see many details in your picture.  Your picture also has to match what you've written.  If you said your lion was sleeping, you should show that in your illustration.  If you said your koala was eating leaves, you need to show that.  Does everyone understand?"  Most of my students love to draw, so this was motivating.  I have a few students who don't like drawing so they tried to do the bare minimum for which I said, "Go back and add more details."


5 minutes

As a closure, I partnered students up and told them one person would pretend to be themselves and one would pretend to be their parent.  The student was going to explain to their parent what sequencing was and how they used that skill to sequence the events in their book.  Then I had them read their book to their partner.  After that, the students switched roles and read their book to their partner.

I received a great deal of information by analyzing student's writing that came out of this lesson.  I saw where students were developmentally and what they were ready for in future lessons.  Check out the document that I've included here: A Day at the Zoo Student Writing Reflection.docx.