Welcome to a series of lessons I've created to accomplish Common Core Standards relating to reading biographies, taking relevant notes, and publishing a collaborative technology slide presentation. This is a culminating project to finish up the last two weeks of a six week unit on creative, inventive, and notable people of the turn-of-the-century. This set of lessons could be easily adapted to meet the needs of other biographical subjects in a different time period, or used with other types of informational text.
I chose to use the Who Was? series of books for my researchers. This series worked very well into the upper range of our Lexile band, provided text feature support, had many biographical subjects of the time period we are studying, and were just the right length to read in a week. One advantage of choosing to use books within the same series is the text structure. This made it easy when completing my daily lessons on reading and note taking.
Please watch this short introduction video to hear more about this lesson. Thank you!
Throughout this unit, we have been working on reading biographies and taking notes pertaining to who, when, where, why, what, and how question stem words, to cover Common Core informational reading and writing standards. This has been a work in progress! My students have had a lot of practice with this, as we are in the fourth week of our unit, but if your students are new to this skill, they'll need a lot of direct instruction, modeling, and guided practice before trying to read and take notes next to question stems on their own.
Model Chapters: I show the students how I have the chapters for today's reading listed at the top of my notes page. I remind them that they should capitalize words in chapters, similar to how we capitalize titles, and to copy carefully from their book. Also, I remind them about using quotation marks around the chapter titles.
Read Closely: I'm using the book, Who Was Louis Armstrong? as my sample. I chose this book because it is part of the same series of the student books, and all of the books are similar in text structure. Also, the students are familiar with Louis Armstrong from a read-aloud we did during our creative week. Today, I read pages the chapter "A Home Away from Home" aloud, displaying it on my document camera for the students to see on my SMART Board. I model reading closely, identifying my purpose for reading, asking questions and citing evidence as I read, interacting with the text. (See Resource Files: Read Closely Poster and Informational Text and Features Poster)
Model Note Taking: Similar to yesterday, with the students' help, we identify some relevant notes to take on the "Biography Notes Day 2" note taking page of my sample research packet. (See Resource Section: Teacher Sample Notes Day Two) My notes from yesterday's working session showed me that students needed support with writing enough information so that they can later comprehend what their note is about. For example, a student who was researching Harry Houdini wrote "Budapest, Hungary" next to the "Where" question stem. I asked him to add the word "born" so he remembers why that place was relevant in Houdini's life. I decide to model this by writing too little information, and asking the students what is missing. I wrote "Professor Davis" next to the "How" question stem on my teacher sample, then asked the students if they knew why I put it there. They quickly realized that I was missing "first to introduce Louis to instruments", tying this to the relevant event of how Louis Armstrong was first introduced to playing instruments with a band.
Another teaching point I had noted from yesterday's working session was that students were wondering what to do if they ran out of room in a question stem box. We have a discussion to brainstorm some solutions. The students came up with making sure that all the notes are the most relevant (meaning they may have too many), and also writing below the box and adding a line underneath to show where they stopped. Another student added that they may be writing too large, and should down-size their writing. I love it when they come up with their own solutions!
Revisit Objectives: After I've modeled examples for the students, I turn my research packet to the rubric page, and I call on a few students to read the "I" statements in the first two sections, "Reading Informational Text" and "Research Note Taking". Keeping the standards front and center allows the students to know what they need to accomplish.
Read, Research, Take Notes: The students read closely, research, take notes, and sort them next to the who, when, where, why, what, and how question stems in their research packet. They read and take notes on all of the pages noted on their bookmarks. Some of my students are listening to their biography as an accommodation to their reading needs. I've prerecorded these, nice and slow, so they can share in this biography unit with the rest of the class.
What is the Teacher Doing?: I continue to monitor students' progress by stopping and listening to students read, as well as check in on notes they're taking. I first visit students I noticed struggling yesterday. I continue to take note of things I'm noticing to add to my instruction for tomorrow. Here are things I'll be focusing on for day three:
What if They Don't Finish?: It's important to tell you that I have a few researchers who need extra time. My shared reading block backs up to my literacy centers and guided reading time. I asked students to finish their biography work for the day, and then go on to their literacy centers. This way, students can be caught up for tomorrow.
I take a few minutes at the end of our reading block every day to review, reinforce, and celebrate all of our hard work for the day. We meet together in the back of our room, beneath our literacy tree, in the carpet area.
Quote of the Day: Each day, I give the students two quotes, and have them try to guess which of their biography subjects said them. They are excited to hear the quotes and guess, so they arrive at the carpet quickly and quietly. (See Resource File: Quotes to Share with Students Each Day)
Share: Today, I ask students to turn and share two new, exciting facts they learned about their biographical subject.
Review: I review the skills we're working on this week, highlighting examples from our lesson earlier.
Celebrate: I let my researchers know they are doing a great job reading closely with the purpose of researching, and taking notes about who, when, where, why, what, and how. I tell them that I feel like I've been transported back to the turn-of-the-century and am sitting next to all these famous people! A kind word and a pat on the back go a long way!