How Can You Be An Earth Helper?

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SWBAT use various comprehension strategies in order to better comprehend the text.

Big Idea

Our students will be global citizens one day. What they learn today about taking care of the Earth will have an impact on their actions as an adult.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I am so excited to share this unit with you.  In this unit I have integrated many research based practices for reading comprehension, and I'm excited to share those with you.  I've always wanted to do a project for Earth Day but never really ever had the time.  But because of the Master Teacher Project I said, "I'm going to make the time to make an awesome unit to share with other teachers." I've done many lessons already where my students have done both reading and writing with informational text, but it's all been about animals.  I wanted to work on informational text other than learning about animals.  There are also great cross-curricular connections, which plays to the key shift in Common Core of building knowledge through informational text reading.

In today's lesson we're really going to be doing a lot of work so everyone can access the text. We will be using two text from ReadWorks today - "A Day to Celebrate Earth" and "We Need Water".  We're going to be answering questions and determining the main idea of the text.  This addresses standards RI1.1 and RI1.2. We're going to be talking about the connection between the ideas in the two texts and how important it is to protect water.  This addresses standard RI1.3. We're also going to be doing some strategic highlighting and marking of the text to help students hone in on key words and phrases that add meaning to the text.  This addresses standard RI1.4. Finally, we're going to be talking about how the text features help us in comprehending the text.  This addresses standard RI1.5. 

My reading coach on my campus has gone through extensive training this year on the LTRS program by reading researcher Louisa Moats.  I have also gone through training from Louisa Moats and her company Sopris West. In the first three lessons in this unit I'm going to be showing you what my reading coach and this training have taught me. The steps I have learned about to increase comprehension of informational text include:

  • Accessing the Text and Getting the "Gist"
  • Discussing and Highlighting the Vocabulary to Improve Comprehension
  • Answering questions and Justifying Our Answers
  • Independent Work/Responding to the Text

The research based practices I've learned this year from Louisa Moats has had such a profound effect on my practice as a teacher and the success of my students.  Check out what she has to say about reading development - it's fascinating.  Here's a little intro about her.

I am using a text and question set today from ReadWorks.  If you've never visited the site, it's an amazing resource to use in the classroom.  They have articles and questions sets and they also have lessons to use in your class.  Sign up for a free account and you're ready to go.  For today's lesson you'll need either the Smartboard Helping Our Earth.notebook or Activboard lesson Helping Our Earth.flipchart.  You'll also need to make enough copies of  the article and the question set for each student in your classroom.  Students will also need a highlighter.

Accessing the Text and Getting the "Gist"

10 minutes

In the first part of the lesson I passed out the text.  I said, "Today we are going to read a nonfiction article about how we help the Earth.  I want you to read this article.  What we are doing right now is just reading it quietly to ourselves so we can get an idea of what the story is about."  Most of my students are reading at a level where they can whisper read the text by themselves.  I made the decision to have 3 of my struggling readers work with 3 of my stronger readers.  My higher readers read the text, and my strugglers whisper read along with their partner.  Everyone was quietly reading and getting the "gist" of what the story was about.  You can see them reading here: Accessing Text and Getting Gist - Day One Earth Helpers.mp4.

Students come to us with varying reading abilities.  Even students who are struggling readers can access grade level, complex text.  The way they access the text will be different from other students.  I needed to determine how my students would access text based on their needs.  There are several different groupings that I use so that students would be supported in their reading:

  • Higher readers can whisper read the text.
  • Readers who may struggle can partner reader.
  • Struggling readers can also be pulled back to a small group, and you can choral read the text together.
  • A stronger reader can peer tutor a lower reader.  The higher reader can read the text and the lower reader can whisper read along with their peer tutor.

Discussing and Highlighting Vocabulary to Improve Comprehension

45 minutes

I find that it’s important to teach my students how to strategically highlight and mark up the text.  I made this video that I think explains the purpose and importance of why we are doing this with the text: Strategic Marking and Highlighting of the Text.mp4.

It was the end of the year, and I was really trying to engage my students because I know that they had summer on the brain.  I tried to make this part of the lesson like a game.  I had previewed the text and knew what types of vocabulary and text features that might hinder my students comprehension.  I would say things like, "Talk to the people at your table.  Can you find the word that means to reuse things again?"  Students would talk and then I would call on volunteers to come and point to the word that they thought it was on the Smartboard.  We would talk about it as a class - either agreeing or disagreeing with each other.  We would always talk first and then I would confirm whether they had found the correct word or not.  Then we would highlight the correct vocabulary word. 

If you look at this text, you will see numbers attached to some of the vocabulary words.  I really wanted to point out the footnotes in the text and how it helps students comprehend what those vocabulary words are, and not to just blow past them.  I had students take their pencils and draw a line from the vocabulary word in the text to the footnote at the bottom.  Then we would read the definition of the word in the footnote.  You can see how we marked up the text here: Example of Earth Day Marking of Text.docx.  As you can see we highlighted words other than just the highlighted words.  We highlighted and discussed words that I knew would trip my students up, such as "pollution," "damage," and "protect."  I think you will get a good understanding of this portion of the lesson by watching these videos:

Answering Questions and Justifying Our Answers

25 minutes

Having students answer text dependent questions helps students hone in on text evidence and realize that the text is paramount, which is a big shift in the Common Core standards. We used the question set that accompanied the text that Read Works had provided.  Again, since we did this lesson in the last few days of school, I tried to make this like a game and engage my students.  I would ask the question from the question set and then have students work together as a group to find the evidence to prove that their choice was correct.  I assigned a team captain to each table and they would record their answer on their white board. Then the students would have to justify why they thought their choice was correct. I would then tell the class which answer was correct.  We then would keep score and I gave out little prizes to whichever table had the most points at the end (I did mention it was the end of the year and I was trying to keep them engaged, right?).

Our Independent Work

20 minutes

I prepared differentiated student work ahead of time for my class.  I passed out work to my students based on their ability level: Differentiated Ways to Take Care of the Earth.pdf.  I explained what each group needed to do, and then I allowed my students to get to work.  Students were all working on the same concept, but everyone was working at their own level at the same time.  You can see my students working by watching this video: Our Independent Work - Day One Earth Helpers.mp4.

I feel that it's very important to differentiate the work I give to my students to meet the needs of every student in my class. This video should help to illuminate how and why I do so: Differentiating the Work Product.mp4.

Our Closure

5 minutes

This was a really long lesson so I wanted the closure to be really quick.  I quickly asked my students some process questions.  I asked, "Why did we highlight and mark up our text? How does that help us to understand the text better? How were you able to answer the questions about the text? How did your written response(project) help you to deepen your understanding of what you learned today?"  We had a class conversation, and the students summed up their learning for the day.