To begin each new theme, I always start by having a concrete experience/exploration so that all scholars can access or build prior knowledge regarding the content of the upcoming theme. I teach an ELL cluster, and I have scholars who have VERY different needs. The exploration at the beginning of a theme serves to level the playing field and provide scholars with little to no exposure to the current theme with an experience. For scholars with lots of prior experiences, the exploration serves to access their background knowledge.
Scholars start the lesson by describing an encounter that they had with an animal. The idea here is that EVERYONE IS RIGHT. You want to build confidence and show scholars that they have ALL encountered an animal at some point or another. I encourage scholars to think about trips to the park, hanging out in their backyard, outside at recesses, a pet at home, perhaps a video that they've watched in our class (last week we saw one about Australian alligators), a trip to the zoo. Scholars then describe the animal. Included in their descriptions is how it sounds, what it looked like, and what it did during the encounter. Scholars' descriptions could be a picture, a list, a web or a paragraph. Again, the idea here is to give students success and show them that they've all encountered an animal at some point in their lives. Here are some Scholars writing their encounter.
I give scholars 5 minutes to independently reflect on their animal encounter. As they reflect, I circulate and think aloud, saying things like, "One time I saw a fox in the middle of a field. I noticed that it was red and about the size of a large cat. It had a pointy nose...." Thinking aloud helps scholars who are stuck to begin their own thinning and it can help other scholars to be more comprehensive in their response.
After scholars take 5 minutes to think independently, they have 2 minutes to share and then I take 3 friends from my cup and volunteers to describe the encounter that they had with an animal. This helps to hold scholars accountable to doing the work and it is fun for students to hear and share their encounters.
During this section I explain that we are going to spend some time encountering new animals today. These are animals that many of us have never even heard of before! As we encounter the new animal, we will record what we observe so that it helps us learn more about that animal.
I explain that when you encounter something, you experience it, meet it or relate to it. You can encounter things through the internet, books, video or a real-life meeting. I explain that today, we are going to use high-interest books to encounter different animals. I use high interest books today because again, the idea is to introduce scholars to the theme. I want scholars to encounter animals today, and I'm not worried about them reading on their highest instructional level. They will have access to books on their highest instructional level during the independent practice and all scholars will access complex text starting in tomorrow's lesson. I call all scholars to front for read aloud to change things up a bit. Usually, I read from my visualizer, but since today is an introduction lesson, I want things to feel a little bit special. I have them all come to the front and gather at my feet (I sit in a stool) to have them listen aloud as I encounter some new animals. Students love doing this on occasion. It reminds them of being in lower elementary and it gets them up and moving about the room.
I model how to read, look at pictures and record my observations on the graphic organizer. Here is my example. This helps scholars to have a model of good investigating. I hold scholars accountable for being attentive by having them write with me on their own graphic organizers. They code it as being an example.
During the guided practice, scholars have 20 minutes to get into post-it note groups and encounter new animals. They record their responses on their individual graphic organizers. They can record anything that they notice. Here's what one scholar said. Scholars might record what the animal looks like, its diet, challenges that it faces, etc. I modeled how to create the categories during my think aloud in the teaching strategy, so scholars should have a good sense of what categories they might create. Here is a student work sample.
Groups are heterogenous so that lower scholars have the opportunity to have a bit more support before they are independent. Working with post-it note groups gets scholars up and moving around the room and will increase engagement. I sit with a group of ELL scholars to ensure that they have access to the text and receive their accommodations. After 2 minutes of working with the ELL group, I circulate to ensure that ALL scholars are engaged and encountering their animals, then I return to work with the ELL group for 10 minutes, then circulate 1 more time before the group working time is over. This helps my ELL group to build independence (I always give them a small task before I circulate like reading until a certain page, or recording a specific observation) and it helps hold other groups accountable to the work that they are completing. Here is a video of students during Guided Practice Post it Note Groups.
During this time scholars rotate through 2 stations. I start the time by reviewing our checklist items for the week and explicitly state what should be completed by the end of the day. This holds scholars accountable to their work thereby making them more productive. Then, the ELL teacher and I share the materials that our groups will need to be successful (i.e. a pencil and your book baggies). Then, I give scholars 20 seconds to get to the place in the room where they will be for the first rotation. The first scholars who are there with all materials they need receive additions on their paychecks or positive PAWS.
During the rotations for this lesson, my small group objective today for the pink group (as determined by IRI's - reading assessment) is to set norms for their text talk groups. Click here to see how I interview a group to help them set their norms.
Text talk groups are similar to socratic seminar in that groups of scholars discuss text that was previously read. However, they are different becuase they are much smaller and more student driven (i.e. students select question to answer, amount of reading to do, etc.). Tomorrow, scholars will actually begin discussion. Here is a picture of the text talk group creating norms.
For my white group, schoalrs will read a portion of the same book (different for each group depending on reading level, but the same text is read in each group). Then we discuss what scholars learned about the animals and how they know (quoting directly from the text). Since this is day 1 of a new unit, the idea here is that we continue to build background knowledge and experience. Here is a picture of what IP small groups look like.
After the first rotation, I do a rhythmic clap to get everyone's attention. Scholars place hands on head and eyes on me so I know they are listening. Then they point to where they go next. I give them 20 seconds to get there. Again, scholars who are at the next station in under 20 seconds with everything they need receive a positive PAW or a paycheck addition. We practice rotations at the beginning of the year so scholars know if they are back at my table, they walk on the right side of the room, if they are with the ELL teacher, they walk on the left side of the room and if they are at their desks, they walk in the middle of the room. This way we avoid any collisions.
At the end of our rotation time I give scholars 20 seconds to get back to their desks and take out materials needed for the closing part of our lesson. Timing transitions helps to make us more productive and communicates the importance of our learning time.