Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.
In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.
When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I ask the students to stand and tell them that we are going to go on an adventure in space.
“Boys and girls we are going to listen very carefully to the directions given by the narrator so that we know what to do and when to do it. You will need to make sure you are in a spot where you have room to move without bumping into another person. Make sure your body is your control. If I see anyone who is losing control I will have to have that astronaut sit out at the space station until they are ready to join the adventure again. Is everyone ready?”
I start Adventure in Space by Greg and Steve from the On the Move CD.
When the music is over I have the students take a seat back on their spot by singing the “Take a Spot on Your Dot” song.
Once they are all seated I ask them, “Can you imagine being an astronaut and traveling into space? Where do you think you would go? Why do you think you would go there?”
“You don’t need to tell me anything now, but I want you to keep those questions in mind as you listen to this book which will remind us of some of the information about the planets we have read about.”
The reason I start of the lesson with this piece of music is because I want the students to begin thinking what it must be like to travel in space. They begin to ask themselves, “Where would I go?” and “Why would I go there?” Plus it is a fun way to get the students up and moving before they sit down to listen to a book.
I hold up the book we are going to read for the lesson.
“This book is called Eight Spinning Planets. It is written by Brian James and illustrated by Russell Benfanti.”
“Looking at the cover of this book what type of book do you think this is?”
I select a student who is following the classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.
“Bryan says he thinks the book is fiction. Bryan why do you think this book is fiction?”
“Bryan says he thinks the book is going to be fictional because of the illustrations on the front cover. Raise your hand if you agree with Bryan.”
“Raise your hand if you think the book is non-fiction?”
Generally no students raise their hand to this question because of the bright colorful cartoon like cover, but if any student has raised their hand in response to this question I select them to respond.
“Adam thinks the book will be non-fiction because we have been learning about planets in our space unit and we need more information.”
“Let’s go ahead and read the book and see what we think at the end.”
The book has a nice rhyme to it and it does not take long for the students to pick up on this fact.
We review some of the vocabulary words in the book such as gases, rocky, axis, gravity, etc.
When I have finished reading the book I have the students take a seat around the edge of the rug and revisit the questions I asked during the introduction.
“Can you imagine being an astronaut and traveling into space? Where do you think you would go? Why do you think you would go there?”
“Well today at one of the integrated work stations you will get to express your opinion about which planet you think would be the best one to go to and why you would go there.”
“You will get a paper like this one (I hold up a sample for the students to see).”
“On it you will need to do what first?”
I allow the students to chant the response, “Write your name!”
“That’s right. Next you will complete the prompt, “If I could go to any planet...””
“You will express your opinion by stating which planet you think is the best one to visit. Now if I am writing what are some things I need to keep in mind?”
I just point to students to respond and when I have had enough responses I will repeat back what they all said to me.
“You are all right; I need spaces between my words, I need punctuation, I need a picture clue and my sentence needs to make sense. How will I make sure my sentence makes sense to the reader?”
I select one of my more advanced writers to respond as I want the correct answer to be given as a model for everyone else.
“That’s right Ava; I read the sentence to myself and if it makes sense to me it will probably make sense to someone else.”
“What if I need help to write some of the words I need for my sentence? What resources are available to me?”
Once again I just point to students until all of the resources have been covered.
“Those are all good resources; I can tap out the word, I can use the sight word wall, I can use the planet name word bank, I can use books in book area, I can use a friend or a grown-up. It sounds like you are ready to go and be awesome writers.”
“I will place the checklist at the work station so you can go over it to make sure you have remembered all the things good writers do.”
“Does anyone have any questions?”
Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;
“Table number one let’s go have some planet writing fun.
Table number two, you know what to do.
Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and
Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”
Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.
It is important for students to be able to formulate opinions as this is a skill they will need to use in later life. We use opinions to make many different choices – like the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and the person we elect to become a public official.
While it is important to formulate an opinion, it is even more important to be able to rationalize why you hold that opinion. Later on students will become aware of the difference between popular opinion and having your own opinion. If they are going to choose to go against popular opinion they need the skills to be able to explain their opinion clearly for the opposing point of view and rationalize their stand with facts or physical evidence.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”
Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.
Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to read their opinion to the rest of the class.
“Boys and girls, your exit ticket today to get your snack is to read your opinion to the rest of the class. Can anyone tell me something I should remember when I am reading to the rest of the class?”
“Great idea Jonathan; I should read with a clear voice.”
“Who can tell me what is something I should do as an audience?”
“Well done Rhys; I should have my eyes on the speaker and be listening to what they say.”
“Now that we know what we should be doing, I am going to use the fair sticks to choose who is going to read first. Here we go.”
I use the fair sticks to select the order of the students.
Once a student has read their opinion to the rest of the class they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student does not want to read to the rest of the class, they know they can do one of two things.
I like using this exit ticket process because the students get to hear a variety of responses and reasons which lends to conversation starters during snack time. This extends the lesson into student conversation which reinforces the concept of having an opinion and supporting it to others.
I use the Best Planet to Visit Opinion Checklist to go over the student’s work and once it is complete I will place the student’s work in his/her collection portfolio.
Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objectives of the lesson. I am looking to see if the student is able to accurately follow the directions for the assignment which means they will meet the overall objective for the lesson. Did the student write their name on their work? Did the student use proper grammar? Does the student’s sentence make sense? Did they draw an illustration which supports their sentence and could be used as a picture clue?
Attaching the checklist to the work allows the student to see areas where he/she can improve and provides writing points if he/she chooses to include this piece of work in his/her portfolio. The checklist also shows the student's parent how their child is doing in the classroom.