Communicating with Light: A Fiction Connection

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SWBAT identify words and phrases that suggest feelings and appeal to the senses.

Big Idea

The joy of catching the summer's first fireflies lights up today's fiction text. Grab a mason jar and come along!

Instructional Notes

I love integrating science instruction with English Language Arts.  Julie Brinckloe's fiction story, Fireflies!, is the perfect companion to the previous lesson about how animals (including fireflies) communicate with light.  This text is part of our investigation of the essential question, "How do we communicate with light?" as we learn ways that animals (like fireflies) communicate using light.  This question moves students towards the culminating engineering design product for this NGSS standard:
  • 1-PS4-4. Use tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.

The exploration section of this lesson focuses on Common Core ELA standard RL 1.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.  As you read the story aloud, classroom conversation will center on inferring the main character's feelings and what words or phrases were clues.
At the end of the lesson, students can work with partners to meet ELA standard RL1.5 Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide range of text types.  With copies of the previous lesson's nonfiction article and copies of Fireflies! students can complete a Venn diagram comparing the two types of text.

You might consider teaching this lesson during an ELA block, if you would prefer a longer time.  There are popular poems such as Meish Goldish's Fireflies that could go into a Poetry or Fluency center.

by: Meish Goldish 

Glowing, glowing in the night,
Fireflies shine a yellow light.
Flashing signals to their mates,
Such a bright sight each creates!
Glowing, glowing in the night,
Fireflies shine a yellow light.

There are adorable firefly crafts online too, which are great for indoor recess days!


5 minutes

To begin, I connect to the prior lesson and our essential question, displayed on the KLEWS chart.

Friends, we have been focusing on the essential question, "How do we use light to communicate."

I ask students to recall the animals they know that use light to communicate.  Then, I ask, "Why do fireflies glow?" to retell key details from the nonfiction article.  I tell them that many people have had that same question, and that Highlights Magazine for Children published the answer!  We visit the site to review bioluminescence.  While reading the Highlights article online, I follow the text with my cursor and also highlight key words as I read.  This helps support developing readers.

Reviewing facts about fireflies and why we are studying them builds a bridge between the science content and the fictional story we are about to read. 

Exploration ~ the wave crest

20 minutes

I set the purpose for learning by sharing the objective, "Today we will identify words and phrases that suggest feelings."

I introduce the three column graphic organizer that we record on as we read.  Recording during a read aloud is a great way to validate student ideas, keep track of the thinking that has occurred, and promote writing skills.  Across the top, I write the title of the story.  In the left column, we record the event from the story (catching the fireflies, releasing the fireflies, etc.).  In the middle, we write the main character's feeling.  In the right column, we write the words and phrases from the story that were clues. 

At the beginning of the story, I model filling in the chart.

The character saw a firefly outside!  I am going to write that in the first column, it's the event in the story.  I am thinking that the character is feeling excited.  I will write this in the middle.  My clues are the words "forked the meat and corn and potatoes into my mouth."  He is eating fast because he is so excited!  I also thought that when I read the words "ran from the table."  Listen as I read the next two pages.  Do you hear other words or phrases that tell you the character is excited?  ("ran back up, two steps at a time" or "screen door banged")

Take a peek into our learning here!

During reading, as we reach events and the main character's feelings change, students turn-and-talk to share a feelings word and their clue.  If you find students struggling to find text clues, continue modeling this skill by rereading portions and thinking aloud to them.

Here's a clip from the classroom:

In my classroom, we build WOW (Wonderful Outstanding Words) throughout the year.  It is not uncommon for one of my students to state that a character is "joyful" instead of "happy."  If you have not previously introduced higher level vocabulary words for feelings, this is a great time!  Add the student-suggested word (happy) and also a higher level word (joyful, ecstatic) to the chart.  I usually incorporate the words into my morning message the following week to reinforce them, "Dear Joyful Friends, I am ecstatic that we are learning about fireflies today!"  I also have a feelings rainbow posted prominently in our classroom that we developed together during a Health unit on feelings.

This year, my students love taking notes!  A few opted to take notes right along with me with feelings, words, and phrases.  Here is the completed 3-column organizer.


5 minutes

After reading, students work in teams of 2-4 (depending on how many copies of the text I can round up!) to complete a Venn diagram comparing the National Geographic nonfiction text from the previous day and today's fiction text, Fireflies!

I have students complete this activity because I like to have them hands-on with texts as much as possible.  Plus, this is a great way to review both texts while meeting Common Core ELA standard RL 1.5.  

If your students are not familiar with the Venn diagram, definitely take the time to explain how to fill one out!  Here's an engaging video that also helps:

While students work, I circulate and ask questions such as:

  • Which text gives information?  
  • Which text is more enjoyable for you?
  • How do you know this text is nonfiction/fiction?
  • How are the illustrations different?

Additional Resources

Another BetterLesson teacher has a great reading lesson on fireflies.  Check it out!

Here's a Scholastic News article that is similar to the National Geographic one I chose in the previous lesson.