Common Core Connection:
One thing that seems to be universal is that if we see it in print we believe it. Children are very impressionable and easily influenced by what they read and see, so it can be a complex endeavor to ask them to tell the difference between something that is fact and something that is fiction. To make matters more complex, often the line is blurred and fictional stories can contain facts while informational books can be told in narrative form. Tackling these challenges head on is one way we, as teachers, can help students understand how to navigate literature and informational texts.
In this lesson my students compared an informational text to a literary story and discovered that literary stories, although fiction in nature, can contain some basic facts. Before my students began working in small groups, I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to them. They then worked in their reading groups to re-read this story to each other and complete a Venn diagram to compare it to Butterfly by Mary Ling.
(If you do not use this curriculum try: Caterpillar to Butterfly, by Lisa M. Herrington)
We began this lesson on the rug where I started by having my students re-tell the major events in a caterpillar’s life, from our previous reading. After they finished recalling the caterpillar’s life from an egg to a butterfly, I held up a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I then asked them if this was a literary story or an informational text. They were animate about it being a literary story based on the cover showing a made up caterpillar rather than a real picture of one.
Before posing my next question I directed them to keep their answer in their brain. (I did this because I knew some students would already know the answer could be ‘yes;' however I wanted all my students to discover this on their own) The question I asked: Can a literary story contain real information or facts? Reminding them to keep the answer in their brain, I told them today they would have the opportunity to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar with their reading groups and compare it to Butterfly.
At this point I had my students act out being a butterfly climbing out of its chrysalis, drying its wings and gently floating to their chairs. Adding movement to a lesson is an easy strategy to increase the engagement of a session because it aids in cognitive development, kinesthetic learning, and vocabulary development.
Once settled at their desks I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one reason why I read it first - even though I plan for my students to re-read it later in the lesson - is because I did not have enough copies for my students to read in pairs.
Before I began reading went back to my earlier question: can literary stories contain facts?, by having students show me a thumb up for yes, or down for no. Nearly all of my students responded 'no'. At this point I did not ask for their reasoning; instead I instructed my students to listen for similarities and differences in this story compared to yesterday’s text. (I did not ask for their opinion because I wanted them to come to the conclusion that, yes, literary texts can contain factual information on their own)
When I finished reading I had my students turn to their table partners and discuss this question: Was there anything that happened in The Very Hungry Caterpillar that was a fact? When they were finished sharing I asked the original question again: can literary stories contain facts? This time nearly all students responded 'yes'. This time I did ask them to explain what made them change their minds. To do this I used the magic cup to select a table pair to share with the class their reasoning. Using the magic cup helps my students focus their attention on the story or text being read to them. They know they will be directed to partner share and may be called on to share out-loud to the class. It also helps them synthesis the events or information for future academic activities.
As the selected partner pair shared they changed their minds because in both the reading from yesterday and today's story the caterpillars changed into a butterfly, several students agreed with a thumb up. To help my students understand that even though some literary stories contain some factual information, they are written mostly to entertain I asked them to think about both the text Butterfly and the literary story The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I instructed them to think about how they could tell if a reading was a factual informational text, or a literary story with some facts?
At this point I purposely did not tell my students what the differences were or could be, I wanted them to draw their own conclusions and formulate their own opinions. I was also hoping the ones who were not quite there yet would form a better understanding if they heard the answers from their classmates instead of from me. Some of the answers that my students came up with: the pictures are not real in a literary story, there is not as much information in a literary story, and some of the information is not real. All of which I agreed to. They also came up with: literary stories start with 'once upon a time', and have different words. When I asked what was meant by 'different words' the student told me the words were easier in a literary story. That is one I did not think of.
Once my students were finished sharing out, I explained they would re-read The Very Hungry Caterpillar in their differentiated reading groups, and work together to complete the Venn diagram activity sheet. I then displayed the Venn activity sheet on the Promethean board and explained, as well as modeled, how one side they were to write things that only happened in Butterfly. On the other side they were to write things that only happened in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the middle they were to write what happened in both.
To check for understanding I used the magic cup to select a student to restate the directions to the class. Once satisfied my little ones knew what they were going to do, I placed them in their collaborative activity groups.
I then situated my student reading groups into work areas around the room, where they read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to each other. I made sure each group was on task before sitting with my most beginning reading group and read with them. For this group I pre-made a sentence strip that said: but he was still hungry on it. Each time the reader in the group came to that part I pointed to the words and the entire group repeated it. I did this so that this group would stay focused while we read the story and so they could finish in a timely manner. The accompanying video, Working with the Green Reading Group, shows us working together.
As my students finished reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar they worked as a group to fill in the Venn diagram. Even though we have worked with Venn diagrams before the video clip Checking in with the Red Reading Group is an example why it is important to check in with students while they are working. This group needed a little more prompting to help them get started. While the video clip Checking in with the Blue Reading Group is an example of some words and details that were added as the group was finishing up.
Once this activity was finished I directed my students back to their regular chairs and had them partner share two things that happened in The Very Hungry Caterpillar that were made up parts of the story, not facts. When they finished sharing I used the magic cup to select one partner group to share with the class. A couple of answers I was expecting included: the caterpillar ate through different types of foods, it only took a week for him to change into a butterfly, and he was in a cocoon (not a chrysalis).
At this point we moved into our differentiated reading group rotation block, where my students rotate through different reading work areas. One area is journal writing. Journal writing is an activity that I do just about every day in my class. I believe it helps develop student understanding that writing does not just happen during the writing block, but throughout the day to help them remember and express what they have learned during a lesson.
Today’s prompt: Explain how you can tell The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a literary story even though it has some factual information in it.
In order to earn a sticker, my little ones answered this question: What was one fact that happened in The Very Hungry Caterpillar?