Fireflies are an anomaly in our corner of the country (Southern California). They are a source of intrigue not only for me, but for my young students as well. In the past, as my students read Fireflies for Nathan, by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim, the questions that are always asked: ‘What are fireflies’? 'How do they light up'? and ‘Are they real’?
Common Core Connection:
The interest in these three questions was a great opportunity to teach my students that they can find the answers through close reading strategies applied to an informational text. As I become more familiar with common core, one of the things I am appreciating more is the openness to explore student questions without feeling I am breaching the pacing guide protocol. I can facilitate my student’s learning by having them discover their answers to their questions by focusing on RI.1.7 using close reading strategies.
In today’s lesson my students first used a KWL chart to list what they knew about fireflies from their previous anthology reading and create questions about what they still wanted to know. They then partner read the Scholastic News Magazine entitled Firefly Secrets. They then completed the chart of what they learned.
(If you do not use this curriculum try: Treasure Hunt, by Allen Ahlberg)
As my students settled on their rug squares I reminded them that they were practicing their close reading skills to learn new words and find out more about the characters in the story. I also reminded them that they had raised some questions about fireflies. (this brought on silent cheers and several thumbs up) I continued by reminding them that we read not only for entertainment, but to learn new things as well. Today I explained they would read to learn about fireflies.
I then had them stand up and ‘blink’ their hands imitating a firefly as they walked back to their desks. Adding a movement during transitions helps my more active students focus on the movement while moving- it seems to help them stay in control of their body but have the freedom to move. Many times I also get to introduce new movement-related vocabulary words as well.
Once settled at their desks I asked them if they knew or had learned anything about fireflies this past week. As hands went up I displayed the KWL chart on the Promethean board and explained we would fill out the first section together. I then passed out their copies of the KWL chart. As my students called out what they knew, I not only wrote it on the KWL chart, but asked them how did they know. Nearly all of their responses were from the story, either by looking at the pictures, thinking about what was happening in the story, or by remembering something similar. However, the response that they live in hot, humid places came from their teacher.
When they had finished their list (see picture, Questions We Have) I explained that first I would read Scholastic News Magazine: Firefly Secrets, then they would re-read it with a partner and work on finishing the KWL chart together. In accordance to close reading guidelines, I did not stop to explain new words or vocabulary. I did instruct my students to listen for information that was new, or they wanted to learn more about. I also only read the first three pages, because the fourth page was about the life cycle of the firefly with a questionnaire. I knew from questions my students had asked earlier in the week that this was one thing they wanted to learn about. (Another strategy of close reading is to let students discover and learn on their own. This empowers them to become more confident learners)
Once I finished reading, but before reading with their partner, I had them take out their KWL charts again and had them add the questions they wanted to learn more about. When they finished this, I added their questions to the list on the Promethean board. I then instructed them that once they were with their reading partner they could add more questions to the ‘what I want to learn’ section.
I passed out their copy of the Scholastic News Magazine: Firefly Secrets. I then instructed them to quietly stand up and find their partner. Once they had found their partner and were seated, I explained they were to take turns reading the magazine: Reader One would read the first page, Reader Two the second, continuing until all the pages were read. As they were reading they were to underline sentences that answered their questions in the ‘What I want to learn’ section, and write the answers in the third section: ‘What I Learned’. The picture in this section, Underlined Passage, demonstrates how my students looked at unfamiliar and bold print words to help them decide what to underline. They were also to note, by writing in the third section, anything else they learned about fireflies. The two girls in the video, Self Learning, were one of the first pairs to discover that fireflies go through a life cycle similar to a butterfly. Which was an amazing fact for my students, made even more exciting because they found it on their own - had I told them, it would not have been a discovery - just another lecture.
As my students began reading I listened in on each partner pair to make sure they were taking turns reading and working on their KWL chart.
When my students were finished reading I called their attention back to the KWL chart presented on the Promethean board and used the magic cup to select partner pairs to state if they found the answers to the questions they listed in the ‘what I want to learn’ section. My students reported back that they found out about the life cycle because it was given on page 4 of the magazine, and that it was implied that fireflies come in different colors because there are many different types of fireflies. However, the magazine did not explain how fireflies light up. As can be seen in the video, Looking for Answers, my students were pretty sure they could find that answer on the computer.
I then asked my students if they found any other new information about fireflies that they did not know. As my students called them out I listed them on the Promethean board.
Once we finished discussing the new things my students learned about fireflies we moved into our differentiated reading rotation groups, where my students spend 15 to 20 minutes in each reading area. As my students rotated through the journal writing area they wrote a narrative piece about what they learned about fireflies. The prompt I put on the board: Explain what you learned about fireflies. The featured journal sample, Putting it in Writing, is from the Third Highest Reading group. Usually this group is slow starting and only writes one, maybe two, sentences. Today everyone in this group wrote a fairly detailed narrative of what they learned. Part of the reason for this is because they did the learning and discovering themselves, and it shows in their work.
For a sticker my students had to tell me one new thing they learned about fireflies. As seen in the video, One Thing New, communicating was an important fact about fireflies that my students learned.