Common Core Connection and Lesson Context:
As a first grade teacher, I am a bit biased, but I honestly believe first grade is the most important grade. It is in first grade that students build on the basic skills they learned in kindergarten and start to apply them to new skills and knowledge that sets the foundation for their successful academic and future careers. With the introduction and onset of the Common Core standards one term I have heard repeatedly is: “We need to prepare our students for jobs and careers that don’t even exist yet.” With job descriptions and values changing every day, that is a pretty tall order.
That being said, in the future, students will still need to be able to read and find information in some form of book, be it ‘old school’ or electronic. There will still be a need for people to write and bind books, either ‘old school’ or electronically. This is why this unit was created, in some way or form books will be part of the future.
The Common Core has a note on the range and content of student reading: Through extensive reading of stories, dramas, poems, and myths from diverse cultures and different time periods, students gain literary and cultural knowledge as well as familiarity with various text structures and elements. For primary students we cannot assume that just by handing them a book they will automatically know or sub-consciously absorb what the text structures and elements are. These need to be actually taught directly in the primary grades.
I began this unit by making books more personal to my students by related their lives and experiences to an author they are familiar with and enjoy. I then continued the unit by explaining and giving my students the opportunity to explore the different parts of a book and the elements of a story. I also had my students explore the subtle differences between fiction and realistic fiction. To end this unit my students will look closely at the text structure of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a… books and use this structure to create their own book, where they will have to identify the parts of their book as well as the elements of the story they wrote.
I began this lesson with my students on the rug and announced today they would create their own books. This brought on the cheers of excited student anticipation I was expecting. I continued by reminding my little ones that we began this unit by looking at the author Laura Numeroff and that we had used her books throughout this unit to explore the different parts of a book, story elements, language patterns, and genres. Today I explained that we would look closely at who she used words to create some of our favorite books, and then they would use those same words to create their own stories.
I then held up several different If You Give a … books and gave my students a moment to think about the characters in these books and how each book ended. After a brief moment I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select a student to share with their thoughts with the class. This student reported back that the characters were animals and that the books all ended with the animal wanting more. As this student shared, the rest of the class showed me they agreed by holding up a thumb (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down). Some students added that all the stories were fiction/fantasy because the animals were talking and doing things like people do and that, at the end, all the animals wanted more of what they first wanted. The class enthusiastically agreed by showing their thumbs up as these comments were added to the list.
Feeling that my students were ready to go with this lesson, I then asked them what it was about these particular books that made them so memorable. This time my students were a little more hesitant with their answers as they ventured the characters and what the characters did. I agreed with them and gave them a little push as I asked: "How does Laura Numeroff write about or tell you about the characters?" This time several of my students called out: “She uses the same words!” That’s right I said as I opened my books to the first page of each book and read the first words: If you give a…, my students finished by calling out their favorite character from their favorite book.
I took this opportunity to explain that although these were different books, Laura Numeroff used pretty much the same writing technique, or text structure/pattern, to create several enjoyable stories.
With that I had my students stand up and stretch, then walk to their desks imitating their favorite If You Give a … character (Demonstration: Adding Movement). Once they were settled at their desks I used the doc-u-cam to show the first pages of my copies of If You Give a… books, as I did my students read the first part and I stopped them to point out that all the characters were different, but they all wanted something.
I then turned the pages of the books to display the structure of the text. As my students read the text out loud, they soon realized that the words were very similar concerning the next antic of the character and that the words tended to repeat. Once my students made that discovery, I passed out blank paper and after my students put their names on their papers, I instructed them to think of some of the words or phrases that Laura Numeroff used in the If You Give a… books. I then used the magic cup to call on students to share a word or phrase with the class. As my students shared, I wrote the words on the Promethean board and my students copied them on their papers.
The list my students generated included:
From that list I asked my students if they were going to write a story, using those words, what order would they go in. My students were sure they would use that same order. When I asked them why, they responded: Because those words tell the sequence of the story.
At this point I felt that this lesson was on track to being a success because my students not only looked closely at the text, but also classified the text pattern in an order that could be used as the sequence of the story when asked to identify words and phrases used by the author.
I decided it was time to transition into the independent part of the lesson.
After having my students stand up to stretch and once they were seated again, I told them today they would create their own books using similar text features as Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a … books. Before we started I had my students generate a list of possible titles they could use to create their books. I could have given my students a pre-made title. However, I wanted my students to take ownership for their work. I gave my students a moment to think about possible book titles and characters they could write about, I then used the magic cup to select students to share their ideas with the class. The list my students created included:
I felt this list of possible titles was a nice composite of possible animal adventures and represented my student’s understanding of developing a ‘catching title that would make me want to read it.’
Once this list was generated I instructed my students to choose one title from this list (or to create their own title) and to use the word phrases they generated earlier in the lesson to create their own books. I gave my students a moment to think about these directions and to share with their table partners what they were to do. When they were finished sharing I used the magic cup to select a student to restate the directions to the class. Once I was satisfied that my students understood the directions, I passed out their blank copies of If You Give Blank Books.
I gave my students 15 minutes of uninterrupted work time, where I briefly met with each student to check their progress. You can see in this video, Working with the Beginning Reading Group, how engaged and eager to share their work the students are. They were motivated and felt confident with this activity. This student in If You Give an Animal a Doughnut made up his own title, which shows me he is taking ownership of his work. The two students in If You Give an Octopus an Orange and If You Give a Bear a Banana also demonstrate they know the parts of the book. At the end of 15 minutes I noted most students were finishing up. I stopped the class and instructed them to check their work for spelling and punctuation errors before starting to add pictures and to hand their books into me when they were all finished. As they began handing in their books I directed them to different ELA work areas, such as working on the computer, to the listening and book report center, or spelling center.
When I had just about all of the completed books, I randomly selected 4 to read to the class.
For a sticker my students showed me and told me what each part of their book was, including the elements of their stories.