One of the key shifts in the Common Core Standards is the greater emphasis placed on nonfiction texts. The framers of the standards explain why this shift is so important. Click here for this important justification and the thought processes behind how the standards were developed.
Today's lesson will address standard RI1.5 because I am teaching students about how to use nonfiction text features. Let's think about the anchor standard for RI1.5 - CCRA. R5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole. When I think about today's lesson and when my students will encounter graphic representations (timelines, organizational charts, cycles, and other visuals) in the future, I think about both the science and social studies classrooms.
I think it's easy for early elementary teachers to think about literacy in a cross curricular way because we teach all subjects. What is a bigger shift for teachers who have older students and only one subject, they will have to rethink the role that literacy plays in their particular subject area. By teaching nonfiction text features in first grade, we are helping our students to access information in more technical kinds of texts. This will also help them in social studies and science classes once they get to middle and high school. With explicit instruction on how to use nonfiction text features students will ultimately be able to achieve the anchor standard and be college or career ready by the end of high school. With that being said, let's start to lay that foundation with this lesson!
For this lesson you will need either the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson called "Nonfiction Text Features." You will also need to copy the student work text, number lines, Animal Time Line Activity.pdf, and pictures to place on the time lines (Animal Time Line Activity Pictures.pdf) for each of your students. I have a number line for the students to put together, a text for them to read, and pictures for them to place on their number lines. The texts are differentiated to provide challenges for each student based on their reading abilities.
I called my students to the carpet and said, "Today we are going to learn another nonfiction text feature - graphic representations. Graphic representations help us to see information visually. For today's text, the author decided to show how old different animals can get, and the author also uses the graphic representation to show us the order of different events in an animal's life. Today we are going to learn how old different animals get and we are going to make our own graphic representations to show what we know."
I have a a great resale book store here in Knoxville, and I just so happened to be browsing the nonfiction children's books when I happened along a book called "Old, Older, Oldest - Animals The Live Long Lives" by Michael Dahl. It has graphic representations in it to show how long each animal lives. I thought this would be a great way to start the lesson. If you want to modify this lesson and don't have this particular book you could use any sort of biography. This website also has some good ideas for books that would lend themselves to teaching, for example, timelines.
I read the book to my class and we talked about the numbers in the book. During this time, I tried to make sure students understood the necessary math vocabulary by asking questions such as, "Who lives longer, a cockatoo or a boxed turtle? Who lives fewer years, a parrot or an elephant?" After we had read the book, we then looked at some examples of the features on pages 55 - 59 of the Smartboard lesson.
There are other lessons that I have made in the nonfiction text features where I have students work in partners or in small groups. For today's lesson I wanted students to work on their own. I explained to my students that they would get an animal story based on what reading group they were in. I have a reflection for my thought-process behind creating this activity. Check the reflection video in the reflection section for more.
I gave each student 2 pages of a number line where they would plot the ages of the animals to show them visually and had them glue it together to make a larger one. I gave students a story and clip art of each of the animals based on their reading level. I told the students, "You are going to really have to read the information carefully in these stories. There are lots of numbers in the text." I didn't want to give away too much and say that some of the numbers wouldn't pertain to age. If I did that it would take away the opportunity for my students to think. I said, "It would be a good strategy if you use your highlighter and highlight the ages of the animals in the text before you put the pictures on your graphic representation. Once you are done putting the pictures on your visual, you will use your visual to help yourself answer the questions. Does everyone understand what to do? "
I knew I was going to need to help my strugglers, so we went back to the reading table and we read our story several times. Then I said, "You know the story fairly well now. It's time to go back to your seat and start highlighting the ages of your animals. Then you can glue your pictures on the graphic representation and then answer your questions. "
Check out how my students did with this activity here: Explanation of Independent Practice.mp4.
I always like the closure section in my lessons to be short and sweet, and, at one point, I was worried that my closures were ineffective. One of the other first grade ELA master teachers, Laura Quellhorst, showed me how she uses a Twitter poster in her closures. I had my amazing teacher's aide, Jessica Fitzgerald, make me both a Facebook and a Twitter poster so my class could "post" what they took away from our lessons. Today, I decided we would tweet.
We took our Twitter poster out and I gave each of my students a post it note. I said, "I want you to tweet about what we learned today and why you think using a timeline is important." I took a picture of some of their responses. This gives me a good idea of what my students took away from the lesson.