Today, as my students are seated at their desks, I remind the students of the notable people we’ve read about last week. We pull up our Essential Question Unit Map so that we can review the two texts we’ve read about notable people (More Than Anything Else, which is about Booker T. Washington, and Flight, which is about Charles Lindbergh). Today, ask “Now, we know what makes a person notable, but what do you think would make a person inventive?” Instantly, hands go up and chatter begins! Instead of allowing my students to share right away today, I go around and give each student a post-it note. I ask the student to write one idea that they think would make a person inventive on their note. While students are writing their ideas, I flip our anchor chart on our classroom easel to our Inventive Anchor Chart (which currently just says, “What makes a person inventive?”).
Once students are done writing, I ask the students to share their ideas, or their answers, to the question: What makes a person inventive? The students respond with all different answers, including a person made a machine, a person invented the T.V., a person found a cure to a disease, etc. As each student shares their idea, I ask them to go add their post-it note to our anchor chart. By the time the students are done sharing and posting, we have quite a few answers to the question: What makes a person inventive? Already the students are formulating answers to questions using available sources, in this case, their own background knowledge.
Now I refer back to our Essential Question Unit Map notebook file that contains our essential question for the unit. I tell the students that this week, we’re going to read some texts that are about inventive people, but specifically people that were inventive around the late 1800s to early 1900s, a time period that we know is called “turn of the century”. To do this, we’re going to read some texts that fit into the biography genre. I ask the students to remind me what a biography is, and a student responds that a biography is a text written about a real person, but it’s written by someone else. I remind the students that when we read biographical texts, we can learn a lot about the people the texts are about! In fact, if we read closely and ask questions while reading, we can get the answers were wondering about! We can use question stems, or questions words, such as: Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, and How? to help us formulate questions about the text and then locate the answers!
To label the learning the students are doing today, I tell the class that today, we’re going to do just that: read a text closely to see exactly what it says about the inventive person, and while we’re reading closely, we’re going to ask and answer questions to see what specific evidence we can find about the person in the text.
Before we jump into today’s text, I have a special treat for the students. I want to share a short video with the kids that relates to the text we’re about to read, but, again, I want them paying close attention, with scrutiny almost, to the video to see if they can figure out what could be “inventive” in this clip.
Interestingly enough, my students respond after the video with ideas like: someone invented the buildings, or someone invented cars around that time, but no one guess what we’re really about to learn about just yet (which is the inventor of the Macy’s Day Parade balloons, Tony Sarg).
Now, it’s time to introduce the text we’re going to share today. Today, we’re going to focus on Tony Sarg, a very inventive person from the turn of the century time period. In order to learn about him, we’re going to read the text Balloons Over Broadway, written by Melissa Sweet. I first ask the students to take a picture walk through the text to preview what this book may be about. Then I ask the students to give me a list of questions they’re wondering about this text or about Tony Sarg. Once students have looked through the text, they start putting the video and text connection together, as the students offer questions, such as “Did Tony Sarg invent the balloons we just saw?” or “How could Tony Sarg invent balloons like that?”. As students offer their questions, I make a note of these on the SmartBoard. I tell the students that as we’re reading today, if we find an answer to any of these questions, I’d like the students to raise their hands immediately so we can see exactly what the text says to answer these questions. I also add that if we come up with other questions too, please raise your hand so we can add these additional questions as well!
I share some vocabulary with the students that I feel will support my readers before we begin, and then, we start reading. Depending on the ability of your readers, you may want to read this text in a variety of ways (i.e.: independently, buddy reading, listening to an oral recording, etc.), but today, my class shares this text aloud together as a group. As we read, we stop to discuss any questions we can answer. We also discuss any additional questions we have that we want to add.
After we are finished reading, we return to our SmartBoard list of questions and see if there are any unanswered questions that we are still wondering about. We discuss what we could do to find the answers to these questions (i.e.: read other books on Tony Sarg, watch a different YouTube video, etc.).
I stop for a moment and ask the students a question. I ask, “Boys and girls, could I get the answer to this question by reading this text: What color was the vest Tony Sarg had on when he talked to the man from Macy’s on the phone?” The kids say yes, that I could get the answer. Then I ask, “Do you think this is an important question to ask if I’m trying to learn about why Tony Sarg is an inventive person?” Students shake their heads no. I ask, “Why not? Tell me about your thinking!” Students share that if we were going to learn about Tony Sarg and what makes him inventive, it’s not the color of his vest that is important. Instead, it was his ideas and puppets and balloon inventions that made him inventive. This is exactly what I want to hear! My students are distinguishing relevant information from irrelevant information and already are able to determine how to sift these apart when asking and answering questions from a text. I tell the class they’ve done a great job reading closely and asking and answering questions today, and tomorrow, we’ll do even more practice with this skill!