This lesson will be done over a series of about two weeks, depending on time allotted to it. There will need to be an orientation session, time for research, time for putting the research together, and then a time for presentations.
I post an I Can Statement on the board. It reads, " I can write an information booklet on a landform or force that changes our world." I say to students, "Do you think you can become an expert on a natural landform or force that can change nature in our world?" (Yes) "We will be researchers and find out as much as we can by reading books, looking at the internet and creating our own information books about a land form. Can anyone tell me a natural landform or event that they can think of?" On the board I post their ideas including, mountains, volcanoes, canyons, valleys, rivers, islands, cliffs, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados and northeasters. I say, "that is a great collection of natural forces and landforms. Remember that it is the natural forces that cause sudden changes to the landforms around us.
I would like you to take a few minutes to decide which 2 of these really interest you. Please do not tell anyone what you are thinking right now. Just write down your 2 favorites of these on the small piece of paper on your desk. (I ask them to write down the 2 that they are interested in so not everyone chooses the same one based on a friend's choice. These will be individual projects so I want students to be interested in the topics they choose so they will stay engaged. If they choose a topic based on a friend's choice they may lose interest in the project.)
I collect the papers so I can help assign a variety of topics to the members of the class.
I suggest breaking up the research time into several shorter sessions. I allow about 60 minutes total for individual research. I use reading blocks for the research part of this lesson.
I begin the research project by handing out research note pages. I show students how the paper is divided into sections with small triangles at the end of each one. I tell them, "you will read about your topic and write down interesting facts, one on each section. I want you to see my example. I have decided to write about streams." (I pick a topic that no one is using so there is no copying of what I have written). I pick up a book with information about streams and read aloud from the book. I put the ideas on the page into my own words and write them in the first section of my research notes page. I read a little more of my book and record a second fact in the next section.
I say, "you will now read about your topics that I have assigned to you. Each time you find an interesting fact you should record it in a different section of your paper. Are there any questions?"
I provide internet sites that I have already previewed, books and printouts for students to use in getting their research. I know that at times I may need to find another research site. I type in the topic name "for kids" in my search engine to get sites that will be appropriate for their reading levels, (i.e.: canyons for kids).
I have plenty of resources and research note pages available for students. I have them put their notes in folders each day so that they do not misplace the pages from work session to work session.
After about 4 work sessions, where I have supported learners in the room by helping with reading, finding resources and helping students putting things in their own words, and checking in to see that students have at least 10 facts to work with, I know we are ready for the next step in our research projects.
Students have researched different land forms. Now I want them to have a way to share their scientific knowledge. Being able to talk about, or write about scientific understandings is an important part of the NGSS and this project is a beginning in learning that skill. The books will also provide me with a way to assess student understanding of land forms.
Today we begin writing our books. I say, "if we write a book about our research will that be a fiction or a nonfiction book?" (nonfiction) I ask students to brainstorm parts of a nonfiction book. On the board I record their ideas. They have looked at nonfiction during Reader's Workshop so they are familiar with Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, Sections with Headings, Pictures, and facts. (If your class is not familiar with nonfiction, you may wish to talk about nonfiction books and their parts before beginning the writing portion of this lesson.)
I say to students, "today we will begin with the Table of Contents to help us organize our material. I want you to read through the facts you have collected. Try to think of 3 areas that your facts might be about." I demonstrate with a topic that no one has used. I say. "if my facts were about stars I might see that I have 2 facts about how far away stars are, a few about what stars are made of and 3 about the names and shapes of stars so I will write each of those as 1 of my section or chapter headings." I record these on the board and number them. "Now I would like you to do the same with your facts. If you have several facts that don't seem to go together you could add a 4th section called Fun Facts." I check for understanding and then circulate around helping students to identify the topics for their table of contents.
Once everyone is done, I ring the bell and ask for students to look at the board. I point out my Table of Contents again and then I show them the triangles beside each fact they wrote. I tell them that these triangles will help them to organize their ideas. I say, "Now I want you to look at each fact and decide which chapter or section it will be in. Write the number of that section in the triangle beside the fact. When you start to write your book you will use those numbers to know where to put your information." I give students time and support as they number their facts.
I have created booklets for the students to write their books in Booklet Format. The Table of Contents is already inside the front cover. I begin today by saying, "before you write your book I want you to label each section with a section heading. These headings will match your Table of Contents and be in the same order." I demonstrate writing my headings about stars across the 4 inner pages of my booklet. "I would like each of you to write your headings and then look up here."
After students have labeled their pages I say, " Now you will use your numbered facts to write each page of your book. I want you to think about a paragraph when you write each page. A paragraph begins with a topic sentence, or a sentence about what the page is about. I am going to use, "I want to tell you about stars." I write this on the board leaving a blank for the word stars. "You may use my topic sentence or think of one of your own to begin each page. You will have time to write each page and to put a picture or digram with labels at the top of each page. If you find you need more information for one of your pages you can go back to the resources to find more information. "
Students will need time to do the writing and illustrating. When they are done (and this make take several writing or science blocks) I will help them find 1 word to put on the last page and write a definition for. We will label this page glossary. They will also illustrate the cover and add a title. See Inside the Book.
The finished books can be shared in the classroom library in Our Book Display or at a writer's share A Writer's Share Train. I will use the books to assess student understanding of what a landform is, as well as to assess writing, punctuation, and understanding of nonfiction books.