Introduction and Common Core Connection
The anchor standard for writing standard 2 goes beyond simply writing about information and emphasizes conveying complex ideas and information clearly and accurately. I really wanted my students to have their audience in mind so that we could capture this complexity in the standard, so I structured the lesson in such a way as to emphasize the audience we are writing our informational text for an audience. Additionally, incorporating more informational text in reading is a shift in Common Core, and I find it to create endless possibilities for students to learn from the content, increase vocabulary, improve their fluency, and, as you'll see in today's lesson, improve their ability to write about the content they are learning.
I am crazy about animals especially dolphins and Labrador Retrievers. My black lab of 13 1/2 years died this year. She and I did countless community service activities for disabled children and elderly people. This image reminds me of how amazing animals can be as they interact with humans and other animals. The book Dog Rescues Dolphin by Elizabeth Carney has a similar image on the cover. We have read it as a class and students use the text to inspire their informational piece. The text has many stories of interesting animal jobs as well.
In this lesson students work in small groups in the guided practice to create an informative paragraph. I have a video in the resources on how I group my students for Partner work. Then they break up into individuals to work for about fifteen minutes and write their own paragraph. Next, students evaluate their peers work and make changes to their own. Last we meet in the lounge for reflection, more evaluation, and closure.
I show the class a picture of the cover of Owen and Mzee by Paul Kahumbu, Craig Hatkoff and Isabella Hatkoff and remind them that we have studied some unusual animal relationships. This engages the class in discussion. We reflect about several animals we have read about that were unusual. One that my class keeps reminding me about is the giant rat in a harness that sniffs out bombs.
As I explain that we are going to write to inform a reader the students realize that we have to select an animal to write about. I remind the class that we are going to write facts about in our informative paragraph. We discuss how we have written an opinion and it is different because it does not have to be supported by real evidence, but facts are real or true. Using this language helps my first graders understand what we are going to do.
As we Transition to the desks I ask my class to chant I can write to inform three times. It's fun and keeps the lesson upbeat. Plus it keeps the learners from starting their own conversations as they move.
I explain that as a class we are going to learn to write to inform our reader. Since I try to build on prior knowledge I remind them that we have studied the author's purpose, which can be to inform. We are going to do the informing now. We are the author. This makes learning relevant and meaningful to my students. They are then motivated to do the task with excellence.
Next I go over the rubric (Rubric and Display of Books) that is in the resources, because it is our guide for what to include in our paragraph.
Then I ask the students to discuss what the author should write first. I allow one volunteer to share their idea. I ask students to agree or disagree and share their reasoning. I then add that the first statement needs to tell the reader the topic. I share that we are going to write about unusual animal friends. I read a short section of Owen and Mzee and remind the class that this is non-fiction. To engage students I ask a volunteer to suggest a topic sentence and I write it on the board.
As I encourage collaboration among my class I ask students to discuss one big detail that relates to the main idea. After about one minute I allow a volunteer to share their ideas. Students are encouraged to agree or disagree, and then I add the detail sentence. Then I ask the students to discuss two more details from the text. I remind the class that these must be facts because we are writing to inform. One person shares, and I write the response on the board.
Last, I share that the students need a closure to every paragraph. I tell them what a closure might sound like. Then learners discuss in small groups what the closure should say. I allow one volunteer to share and justify. Then the rest of the class gives thumbs up or thumbs down.
As we begin the independent section students move to the center tables, because we are ready for a transition. I like for the students to chant, "I can write to inform three times as they move." It reiterates the lesson goal and keeps the class focused as they move.
I already have the stations set up with all materials needed. I remind the class to reference the board that has a list of the things to include in their paragraph. This is in the resources of the guided practice labeled as the Rubric and Display.
Students write for 15 minutes as I walk around and monitor. I stop and ask questions to guide students in the right direction. Some of the questions include: Is that a topic sentence? Does it tell the reader what the information is going to be about?
I give each student a copy of the Dog Rescues Dolphin text just for them to reference. We have spend about twenty minutes each day this week reading the text. Students need access to a copy of the text, so they can reference it as they write. This really helps the students with spelling and using evidence from the text. I am reminding the class consistently to be sure the information they write is facts. They have to be sure to write to give information.
Students read their work to their group members. The group members evaluate their partner's work using the rubric on the little board. It is in the guided practice resources. Evaluation is a higher order thinking skill that I try to model at the end of each lesson, but incorporating it in the the partner work of this lesson steps up the complexity of lesson. After the students get their feedback from their peers I allow them to make adjustments to their work.
I move the class back to the lounge so we can be close for the Reflection. I allow volunteers to read their work to the class. We have been practicing giving each other academic feedback, but I remind the class what this sounds and looks like prior to them being allowed to comment. Students should be saying comments regarding the topic, details, and closure. For example, "Maybe you could make the topic sentence more general since it sounds like a detail to me." In the video the little girl reflects on the boys work in a respectful way.
As I try to engage my class in collaboration and discussion I ask each student to share one thing they learned with a friend. I listen closely so I can share what I heard with the class. Students are encouraged to respond and build upon what their peers say in this section.
Last, we state the lesson goal because I think students need to understand what they are supposed to learn. It actually help me stay on track too as we plan and prepare the next lesson.