The Great Big Enormous Turnip Is a retelling of a Russian folktale. The story illustrates the value of ‘sticking to it’ as the old man tries and tries again to pull up his giant turnip.
I explain: A folktale is an old story that has been told over and over for many years. Like a fantasy, a folktale contains things that are not real like, animals acting like humans.
I ask: Does anyone have a vegetable garden at home? Have you ever seen a vegetable garden? We discuss that gardening is hard work. I ask students to turn and talk to their partners about what gardeners have to do to help make their gardens grow. Turn and talk allows kids to have those important collaborative conversations that is so important to build a child who is college and career ready as the Common Core strives for.
I first show the big book to the students. I point to and read the the title aloud. I then turn to the Table of Contents and ask students what this page tells us. We then find the page for our story The Great Big Enormous Turnip.
I turn to the first page of the story and we read the title together. I ask: Does anyone know what a turnip is? (a usually small vegetable) Say: The author is Alexis Tolstoy. Who can tell me what the author does? Point to the illustrator’s name. Say: The illustrator is Helen Oxenbury. Who can tell me what the illustrator does?
This is a Common Core standard, but it is also good for the kids to know because, as they get older, they may want to read books based on a liking for a particular author or illustrator.
Browse the Text
Before we read we browse the pictures. I remind students that good readers browse text and pictures before they read to help them get in the mind set for the story. I ask: Did anyone see what job they completed or what they got done by not giving up? As we read, I want you to listen for that! This sets the purpose for reading.
I remind the students that good readers wonder about what they read. I say: Turn and tell your partner what you are wondering about this story. I allow volunteers to share out. We keep these in mind as we read. I say: I wonder what the characters in the story are going to have to ‘stick to’ in order to get a job done. I also wonder what their goal is.
This first read is, for the most part, unencumbered. As we reach each of the vocabulary words (big, little, tiny, enormous) I stop and show the vocabulary word/picture card. We talk about how little/tiny are synonyms with subtle differences. We do the same for big/enormous. We also talk about opposites (antonyms) and which of the words are opposite of each other. I like to use the words ‘synonyms’ and ‘antonyms’ with my kids because they will need that vocabulary in the future!
I stress how we use the context and pictures to uncover word meaning by asking: Are there any word that helped us understand the word tiny/enormous? Anything in the picture that helps us? I point out and discuss both pictures in the book and the pictures on the word card.
We have completed many tree maps by this point in the year, so students are familiar with them. We use tree maps to organize information when we are writing to give information. This tree map will generate two or more sentences and we will work on the first sentence today.
We quickly review the tree map format. I say: Boys and girls, let’s describe the vegetable that our story is about. What is the vegetable that is a main character in the story? (turnip) Let’s write ‘My turnip’ on the top line of our tree map because that is our topic. Everyone say ‘topic.’ (students echo ‘topic) The topic of a sentence is what the sentence is about.
I then give each group of four a real turnip to examine. I encourage them to feel it and smell it as well as look at it. I say: Boys and girls, what are our five senses? (sight, smell, hear, taste, touch) We are not going to taste the turnip. Can we ‘hear’ the turnip? (no) Use your other three senses to help me describe your turnip. Talk with your group about what words you could use to describe your turnip. I give students about 3 minutes to examine their turnips. I monitor and assist through guided inquiry where necessary.
I pull the whole group back together and say: First I want to talk about what your turnip ‘is.’ What could you say to finish the sentence “My turnip is __” I take student suggestions and write them on the tree map under the word ‘is.’ I write on my paper on the document camera and students write on theirs.
I collect student papers and tell the class that we will be looking at our turnips again tomorrow and writing about what the turnip ‘has.’