This is the first step in my Writer's Workshop. This lesson typically occurs on a Monday.
In order for our students to really dig deeply into a topic, we need to provide them with as much background as we can! Now, we don't want to just tell our students everything; after all, they will need to search for information themselves to strengthen their learning. But, we do need to allow our students with the avenues to gain their information. It is important that we give our students what we expect them to give back to us- they won't be able to read and write about a topic that they haven't heard about! With that being said, I think it is crucial that I provide my students with the chance to hear information, so they can take it, talk about it and categorize it for themselves!
Here is my personal opinion on why information dumps are so important.
Whenever I begin an information dump (as I like to call it), my students are sitting in front of me on the carpet. This lesson is basically direct instruction with student follow up. I think it is important that I provide the direct instruction aspect before students talk, because I want to ensure that they have the correct information!
For the purpose providing an example for this lesson, I am going to use flowers as our topic!
"Today, we are going to learn about something new. Listen and think; I want you to see if you can imagine in your head what we are going to learn about. We are going to learn about some things that grow. They need light and water to live. They sometimes need help from humans or insects to help them to be healthy." (wait time) "Now, have you figured out what we are going to learn about?" (wait time) "Turn to a partner and tell them what your idea is......" (I give the students about ten seconds to share.)
"Now, share your ideas with me- what do you think we are going to learn about?" (A lot of students get this answer correct!) "Yes, I heard some people who made a great inference based on the information I gave you- we are going to be learning about flowers!"
"Before we begin, I would like for us to think about what we already know about flowers. We are going to write our knowledge on a chart. As we learn new things, we can add to the chart; this will show us how much more information we are gaining!"
I will use a piece of chart paper and ask students to give me facts they already know about flowers. I will write their thoughts down and then put the chart to the side.
Here is an image of the information we gathered. After students shared ideas, we read and we learned more, I categorized our information by color- this helps the visual learners make connections and provides us all with the reference chart we need!
"Now, I would like for you to open your eyes and your ears and get ready to learn some wonderful and helpful information about flowers!"
I really like to begin an information dump with an informational text. For flowers, I love to use Flowers, by Vijaya Khisty Bodach. This book is full of vocabulary words, solid information and beautiful photographs! As I read the book, I give my students wait time after each page- this is so they can soak in the information. Once we have finished reading, I like to give the students some talk time.
"Right now, I want you to share something you remember from the story with a partner."
I walk around, listening and monitoring and adjusting. I give students about one minute.
"Now, I would like for you to answer some questions."
I like to give students questions that send them back to the text for their responses, such as:
Do all plants flowers on bushes? How do you know?
What types of flowers can we eat?
What does a bud look like? How is that different than a bloom?
Once students have completed their response to this story, I like to engage them in gaining more information by letting them watch an information video that supports our book. The video I really like to use here is the Plant Parts video on BrainPopJr. (BrainPopJr requires a subscription. So, before I had a subscription, I liked to use this video as well!)
"Now that we learned some more specific information about plants and what their parts are, I would like for you to talk to a partner about this. Please share something new that you learned."
I will walk around and listen to their conversations, monitoring and adjusting.
At this time, I ask for students to share their new learning with me. We add ideas to our chart (in a new color) to see how much more new information we have learned! I leave this chart hanging up because we can always go back and add to it when we learn even more, and we can use it to refer to when talking and/or writing.
If I have extra time in my schedule, I like to read other books about flowers and/or their parts!
To really connect to my main text selection, I can always read the other two related books, also by , entitled Roots and Leaves.
If we have inside playtime, I like to show this Bill Nye video all about flowers! Who doesn't love a good ole' Bill Nye; especially when it's about what we are working on?
We also enjoy singing songs about flowers and parts of a plant. This just helps us remember our information even more!