I only have about 30 minutes each day to teach writing. This is the 2nd unit in a series of expository lessons about animals that I've written, and what I've found from the first unit I wrote on honeybees is that the lessons within these units might take a bit longer (some may be split up over a couple of days depending on how much time you have for writing each day). For example, I taught today's lesson over 2 days (30 minute sessions). You will have to decide how much time you have for the lesson and where you might want to stop if you need more than 1 day to complete this lesson.
The eventual goal for my students is for them to take several books on animals, do some research and be able to write a strong piece of expository writing of their own. If they can do this, they will have achieved standard W1.7 - Participate in shared research and writing projects. Today's lesson addresses this standard along with standard W1.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure. In this lesson we are building background knowledge about crabs through our reading. If students know nothing about crabs, they won't have anything to write about. One great thing about CCSS is that it encourages learning the content that students need to research and write high quality expository writing pieces through engaging with rigorous, informational text reading and the development of knowledge in the disciplines. I am capitalizing on these shifts today, and my students will be able to get a lot out of the lesson as a result.
The purpose of today's lesson is to analyze how an author structures a good piece of expository text. I want my students to understand that each section of a text contains main ideas and details so when they write their own story they know they need to have a main idea and details in each section of their stories instead of writing facts about animals haphazardly. After we read each section of the story, the students will be determining which sentences are the main ideas and which sentences are the details. W1.7 is addressed in the lesson because the students will be recording their main idea and details on their graphic organizers. Besides this, it strengthens the students' understanding of what main idea and details are in their reading skills.
For today's activity you will need your Smartboard lesson about crabs. Each student will need the crab packet and two different colors of highlighters.
Since we had worked on main idea and details in our Honeybee unit. I wanted to just quickly review the concepts with my students. I said, " Do you remember our honeybee stories? We went through each section of the story and we found the main idea and details. Remember the main idea is what the section of the story is mostly about. The details sentences help support the main idea sentence."
I pulled up the Smartboard lesson had the students turn to the first section of the crab story. We read the first page of the student packet together. I said, " We are going to try and find the main idea now. In just one second you will talk to the people at your table. I want you to find the main idea. Ask yourselves, "What is this section of the story mostly about? What is the author trying to teach me about on this page." I gave the students a few minutes to talk about what they thought the main idea was. Then we had a class discussion where the students could state what they thought the main idea was. We finally came to the concensus that the main idea was about what crabs actually are. We highlighted our main idea in one color of highlighter. Then we recorded that on our graphic organizer. Then we discussed the detail sentences, talking about how each of these sentences supported and told about what a crab was. We highlighted these sentences in a different color of highlighter. The students then recorded the details on their graphic organizer.
After doing some guided practice on the first page of the student packet I set the students to work. I knew from our honeybee lesson that this was a rigorous activity. I purposely designed the text so that some of the pages had the main idea as the last sentence and some of the pages had the main idea as the first sentence. The design of the lesson encouraged student thinking. I also changed this activity a bit. I added another page to the packet and to the flow map so students will be building up their stamina by both reading and writing more than last time. Even some of my high achieving students were unsure of themselves. I am learning that the best way I can further my student's learning is for me to stop talking. I walked around the room asking students questions and reminding them of our strategy of finding the details first and then narrowing down the last two sentences to determine which was the main idea and which was the last detail.
I scaffolded the activity for my strugglers. I pulled all of them back to the reading table and helped them to read each page of the packet. It is important for students who struggle to still be exposed to grade level text. Too often we give these students the "below level" kinds of texts and they never have the exposure to grade level and complex text. After helping them to read the passage I asked them what they needed to do next. Once they understood what do do I walked away.
I walked around the room, assisting students by asking them questions. If the students put a detail as the main idea, instead of telling them they were wrong I started asking them questions such as, "What is this part of the story about? What details support the main idea? "Do these details that you have written at the bottom support your main idea?" I want the students to really think and not see me as the supreme master of all the knowledge. You can see how it went by looking at the video here in the resource section.
Can I tell you that the closure part of the lesson is the weakest part of my teaching. So I really try to just do a short closure. I wanted to sum up our learning for the day and give them something to look forward to tomorrow. I said, " Today we analyzed how an author structures a piece of expository text. We became so much better at determining which sentences were the details and which were the main ideas. Tomorrow we will start structuring a piece of expository text of our own."