My goal with this lesson is for the students to practice their comprehension of nonfiction reading material. Additionally, they analyze and respond to this high-imagery reading passage by writing a creative story of their own.
Most teachers have a large collection of nonfiction stories or can easily borrow books from a teammate to get source material. I chose to use a teacher resource called Visualizing and Verbalizing Book 2 by Gander Publishing. Because there are great analyzing activities in the book for the kids to use in reference to the story, I didn't have to create this part. They read the high-imagery nonfiction passage, then look further as they analyze the meaning. The kids must focus on the importance of each sentence of the story by looking at them in depth, two at a time. The final activity is to rewrite the story of what happened to the main character. The story I chose is about a pirate named Henry Morgan.
I begin by introducing them to the format using the Smart Board Example of Story Format. The example I use is a different passage, of course, but it's the same process as what they'll be doing independently.
As referenced in the warm up, this activity is from a teaching resource series Visualizing and Verbalizing Book 2 by Gander Publishing. The format is the same with each story in the book. In the first two pages, they read the short passage, and then focus on the sentences two at a time. (Analyzing Sentences) On the second page, they write a summary of the passage their own words. They also number the images described in the passage from 1-4 picture summary. On the third page, they complete the sentence analysis 4-7 and center on Main Idea by thinking critically through comprehension questions. The task on the last page is to write a creative story using vocabulary words provided at the bottom. I like the fluidity of this reading/writing lesson. The students read the short selection, complete the imagery questions, focus on the main idea, then write a creative story. It's valuable as students think more thoroughly about what they are reading and writing.
Without this specific book, it is more difficult to administer the lesson, but not impossible. Breaking it down section by section, it's easy to recreate the effective components with any short reading passage.
Short Reading Passage - Sentence pairs are written at the top of the paper: The student writes a summary statement about what the first two sentences in each passage make them picture. From there, the four questions continue to center around what the reader was able to "picture" or "see" regarding specific people or things. For example, "How did you picture the young girl?" or "What did you see her doing?" This continues for each of the sentence groups. (Examining Sentences)
Write a summary of the reading passage in your own words: These nonfiction passages are short, but contain vivid imagery. The students write a summary of the short passage to indicate comprehension of the nonfiction story. (Critical Thinking/Summary) They must also read four sentences about the passage, think of the images, and put them into the correct order.
Main Idea comprehension questions: The student is answering questions about the text- most teaching resources with reading passages will include comprehension questions at the conclusion of the story. In contrast to the imagery questions in the sentence pairs, these are specific to student speculation about the content in the reading passage, for example, "Why do you think the pirate, Henry Morgan, was on his way to the church?"
Each are tasks a teacher is capable of putting into place with any chosen reading passage.
The students are most definitely familiar with the tale of Henry Morgan the pirate by this time. They have analyzed each sentence, completed a summary of the passage, and answered questions based on the evidence they see in the text. Now they are at the writing page stage.
At first mention of their task, they balk as kids sometimes do when given a full blank page and are told, "Write!" It doesn't take long before they're excited about this one, however. The assignment is to create a story about the same day and the same experience they read about, but with their own ideas. A basic writing assignment, but it's more enticing than I anticipate, (and I immediately thought to myself, "Have I never used this basic concept before?!") At the bottom of the page is a list of structure words, as the book calls them because they help build the text, that must be included. They may use the actual word (color) or an example of that word (blue,) but each of the structure words are required. Although this may seem counterproductive to creative writing, it's actually a helpful strategy. More than one student tells me how confident they feel with what they've written due to the necessary words causing them to think differently than they may have. The creativity of their story remains, but new idea avenues are opened as they incorporate these required words.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that more kids were excited to read these stories than any others so far this year.
The kids had the opportunity to read their stories, and I had them write the titles on the Smart Board, Same Theme, Different Titles and the white board behind them. I wanted them to enjoy the varied choices people made about the similar tales.
They loved seeing the different titles, which is why I listed each below.
Morgan and the Gold /Henry Morgan, the Wonder /Morgan and the Gold /The Altar /Morgan What?! /A Pirate /Attack of the Pirates /Henry Morgan's Altar /Henry Morgan /Island /The White Altar /Crazy Old Mr. Morgan and the Good Old Golden Altar /Purnerple /A Disappointing Day for Henry Morgan /The Mystery of the Puryellow Church /Going for Gold /The Hardy Pirate /The Attack of the People /The Altar Trouble /"Chicago" /Fight of the Villagers /Purple Altar /A Lying Thief /Henry the Toughest Pirate /The Pirates are Here /Gold Turned to White /All for a Church Altar
Most of the kids are eager to get up and read their take on Henry Morgan to the class, Sharing her Story and it took awhile to get through them. I sometimes stop presentations when it gets too long, but we were all just having too much fun with this one. What a wonderful opportunity for nearly the whole class to get some SL.5.4 speaking and listening practice under their belt. One of my biggest complaints about the Smart Board is that only one student can write on it at a time. In order to move an already lengthy presentation experience along, I had one student writing their title on the board as another read their story to the class. (Student Reading, Student Writing). It worked out very well!