I chose snails as the week’s reading topic because for the most part children love to learn about creepy crawly things, slimy things are the best. Part of the challenge was going through and finding appropriate informational texts for first graders. What I like about Are you a Snail?, by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries, is that it gives information that is appropriate for small children. For example: Snails hatch from eggs without going into the entire mating ritual.
Common Core Connection:
I was excited when I heard that common core required teaching from more informational type texts. I was already aware that my first graders loved looking at pictures and talking about dinosaurs, insects, plants, animals, trains, really, just about anything. Not only do they enjoy the pictures they love learning about all of the previous stated things, almost as much as like listening to fictional stories about the same subjects. (CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas) To me, it just seemed like a natural fit to teach comprehension skills that lead to fluency through both informational and literary texts.
In this lesson my students used a graphic organizer to identify the topic, main idea, and supporting details from an informational text (RI.1.2: Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text) My students then used this graphic organizer to write in their journals (W.1.2: Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure)
I began today’s lesson by announcing this week we were going to read and learn about snails. I then said, “Before we begin I want you to think about everything you know about snails”. After a moment of think time I had them Partner Share with their seat partners what they knew about snails. When they were finished sharing I passed out a blank sheet of paper and directed them to write everything they knew about snails on the right side of the paper. When my students were finished with this task, I had them put their ‘snail paper’ in their work folders and called them to the rug. Once they were settled I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select three students to share with the class what they knew about snails (What I know...) After hearing their answers, I responded that it sounded like they knew quite a bit about snails. I then explained that this week we were going to read informational texts to learn more about snails. From there I reminded them that we had worked with the comprehension skill of identifying the topic, main idea, and supporting details in previous lessons, and would be using these skills to help us learn more about snails.
As I began this lesson, I reviewed with my students that we had already learned that the topic of a story was similar to the title of the story, and that the main idea explained the topic, while the supporting details were actually a part of the main idea and made the story more interesting. I then showed them the front cover of Are you a Snail? and explained that this type of book was called an informational text. I noted that we were already familiar with learning from literary books which have many genres; I then further explained that informational texts are used to help us learn real facts about things that interest us.
As I began reading I reminded my students to listen to the words and look at the pictures that would help them identify the topic, the main idea, and some supporting details. As I read I stopped to show the pictures and answered any questions my students had. After a few pages I stopped and asked, “Has anyone identified the topic of this book”? My students chorused back, “The topic is about snails”. At this point I stopped and had my little ones stand up to take a stretch. I then instructed them to move to their chairs, moving like a snail. I have found that giving stretch breaks, or having them perform a movement that replicates the subject matter such as moving from rug to chair, or chair to rug helps refresh young students and keep their focus.
Once at their desks I displayed a copy of the Topic, Main Idea, Details graphic organizer on the Promethean board, passed out student copies, and then had my students fill in the topic section. When they finished writing ‘snails’ in the topic section, I asked this question, “If the topic is about snails, then what is the main idea”? I then instructed them to partner share what the main idea was.
When they finished partner sharing I called on a partner pair to share what they thought the main idea was. After listening to their answers and a few other comments from the class we decided as a group that the main idea was: ‘that there is a lot of information about snails’. We finished the graphic organizer by continuing to partner share what some of the supporting details were, as they called the details, I would ask: 'Is that from the book'? and wait for their thumb up response before I listed them on the Promethean board and they wrote them on their graphic organizers.
The accompanying picture is a Student Work Sample from my Third Highest Reading group.
When we had finished filling out the graphic organizer I directed them to take out their earlier sheet of paper with their ‘what I know’ about snails list and compare it to their graphic organizer ‘supporting detail’ list. After a moment I asked, “What do you notice about your two lists”? As hands went up, I called on a student whose response was, “This paper has more on it”. My students showed me they agreed by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down). “Do you now know more about snails” I asked. They all responded, “Yes”. I then asked, “Are you ready to show me”? Again they responded, “Yes”.
At that point we went into our differentiated reading group rotation time, where students are now in homogeneous reading ability groups. It is during this time that my students rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different work/activity areas, one being journal writing. I conduct a quick check of each student’s journal as his/her group rotates through me. As I check journals (Journal Check) the other students, in the group, either complete or edit their own journal, or offer suggestions to their group mate if help is needed to finish it. When journal check is over we begin our differentiated reading lesson.
We continue until all groups have completed each rotation areas.
I gave these directions to complete their journals: “Look at both your original list and your second list of supporting details and write in your journals what you knew about snails before we read Are You a Snail? and what you know now. (W1.2: Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure)
For my less independent students I wrote this journal prompt on the Promethean board:
Before I heard Are You a Snail? I knew ____ about snails. Now I know ____, ____, and _____.
These two samples, Learning More About Snails and Snails Have Enemies, demonstrate that my students have an understanding of the topic and main idea. In the first journal sample, Learning More About Snails, the student is on his way to finishing. At this writing he was just learning to use the graphic organizer to help finish his journal. This tells me I need to work with him and his group a little more on how the graphic organizer is a tool for collecting thoughts, and how connecting words turn those thoughts into sentences. The second sample, Snails Have Enemies, I love the picture of showing snails live in water, as well as having enemies. This student also went back and tried to edit his work before showing it to me, demonstrating that he is understanding the writing process and thinking about his work
For a sticker, my students told me one new thing they learned about snails that they did not include in their journals.