My lesson today is to read the first of many Elmer books. I love Elmer and can use his stories to encourage my students to do a variety of ELA activities. The story line in the Elmer stories contain funny situations that are conducive to sequencing activities and writing.
I gather my students in front of me on the carpet.
"I want to introduce to you one of my favorite books. It is about an Elephant named Elmer. Here is a stuffed animal that is Elmer. What do you see when you look at Elmer? Hmmm, you see colors? What shape are the colors? Different colors? Are they bright colors or soft colors? They are bright. Let me tell you what they call squares of color, PATCHWORK. Can you say patchwork? Let's clap the syllables in the word patchwork, ready? Patch - work. OH, only two syllables. What is the first sound you hear in the words patchwork? /p/, that's right. So if I cut out squares of different colored fabric and sewed them together to make a quilt it would be called a. what? Patchwork. So, Elmer is a patchwork elephant. Is that normal? Or is it different? Oh, so he is different? Is being different good or bad? Bad? So he is bad because he is patchwork? Hmmmm, I think Elmer is nice and has lots of friends, I don't think he is bad. I think different means not the same. Do we all want to be the same? OHHHHH, I don't. I like being me. I like you the way you are. I like Elmer the way he is. So maybe different isn't bad, just not the same. Hmmm. Let's read the story and find about Elmer"
Sometimes my class discussion is not very structured. Class discussions in my ELL class are often short or quickly go astray. Calling on students can be intimidating so I make them short and direct. I just wanted to have a short discussion to front load a little information before reading the story.
Still gathered on the carpet, I begin reading the story.
"Elmer just walked passed all those animals and they knew his name. They must be his friend. But Elmer is sad. Can you turn to your partner, knee to knee and eye to eye using whisper voices? I will wait until you all are ready. Thumbs up if you are ready. Explain to your partner why Elmer is sad. Use the sentence frame, Elmer is sad because ________"
I use sentence frames so that my ELL students have the support they need to say the answer in a full sentence. Sentence frames are easy to use which help my students gain confidence in speaking in the English language. I encourage using a full sentence when answering and not giving a one word answer. I walk around and listen in to make sure we are all on task. Partner sharing or partner work gives my students the added opportunity to use academic language. Partners learn from each other.
"Hands on your head when you have told you partner why Elmer is sad."
I use the name sticks to choose a student to call on.
"Joel V. What did your partner say? Remember to use a full sentence. That is right. Elmer is sad because he is different. Did his friends care if his was different? No, I think they like him. Poor Elmer. Let's see where he goes and what he does."
I read on.
"Oh, my! Tell your partner what Elmer did. Use the sentence frame; Elmer _______."
I observe the partnering to make sure the partners are using academic language. Are they on task or are they being silly? I can prompt correct answers and encourage continued conversation.
"Linda, what did your partner say? Elmer did what? Elmer isn't patchwork anymore? So now is he different? No, he is the same. Do you think this will make him happy? I don't know, let's read some more."
"Did you hear that? Elmer passed by all those animals again and they did not know who he was. That is so weird . . . now his is with all his elephant friends and they don't even know who he is. Do you think Elmer is happy?"
"At the end Elmer played a joke on all the elephants. Tell your partner what Elmer did that tricked them. Use the sentence frame; Elmer played a trick by ______. Edlast, what did your partner say? The trick is he yelled BOO!? You are right. He realized that everyone being the same was boring and not very fun. They all laughed at the end. I think Elmer likes being different. I love Elmer."
Being able to sequence story events and then retell the story is a very important skill for students to learn. In upper grades students have to do a story retell as part of their reading tests. Learning to sequence a story down here in kindergarten is easy and fun. Once they learn to do it with simple stories the students can transfer the skill to more difficult texts. It is fun to be on the ground floor so I can use Elmer stories.
"We are going to use the First/Next/Last template to sequence the story. I have my big template up here and need to think about what happened first in the story. Hmmm, what happened? Elmer was sad he was different so he rolled in grey berries? How can I draw that? Let's go back to the book and see."
Modeling the act of going back to the text for answers is another important skill for students to learn. In kindergarten it is using pictures. In upper grades students need to be able to go back into the written text to find answers to questions. I encourage students to use the book to find the picture they want to draw. There is also a sense of pride when they find the part of the story they like.
"Oh, I see, I can draw Elmer upside down rolling in the berries. That is funny! Now I need to draw what happened next. Let's look again in the book to see what happened. Oh, look, What about this part? The part where he was standing with his friends and decided he didn't like being the same. What did he yell? BOO! That will be perfect for what happened next."
"Now all I have left to draw is what happened last. I think I know what to draw. Yes, I will draw Elmer laughing with his friends. Now that we are done with our template, lets use full sentences to retell the story. First Elmer was sad that he was different so he made himself grey. Good! Next Elmer didn't like being the same so he played a trick and yelled BOO! Last Elmer liked being different and laughed with his friends."
"Now it is your turn to sequence the story by drawing pictures on the template. Would my paper passers please pass out the writing templates to each chair? Would all the girls tip toe to your cubbies and get your pencil boxes. Now would the boys tip toe to your cubbies and get your pencil boxes. Draw the pictures so that they tell the story."
I walk around and give assistance to those who need it. Sometimes drawing an elephant is difficult. I will gather the papers as they finish and those students can sit on the carpet quietly and read library books.
When all students are finished writing we put the books away and sit on the carpet for the oral retelling of the story. I love their interpretation and the hard work they put into the student work It is difficult to get up in front of the whole class and talk. We are getting braver and a little bit louder. This part of the lesson gives everyone the opportunity to speak English using full sentence frames and correct grammar. This part of the lesson can also be used as a formative assessment. Did they understand the story? Can they sequence the story? Are they able to orally retell the story using full sentences?
Each student is given the opportunity to show their templates and retell the story. We cheer and applaud each story retell.
I love to show a video of the book or a reading to help reenforce the vocabulary, story comprehension and the love of Elmer. I show videos at the end of the day when chairs are stacked, backpacks are on we are waiting for dismissal. Here is the Elmer video.