I am a firm believer that if children are able to talk about story content and then write about the content they will retain concepts that much better. This activity will do just that.
If you've never heard of Dinah Zike, check out her website here. She is a former teacher and she makes foldable activities that encourage written work. I use a great deal of her activities in my classroom. What this woman can do with a piece of paper is amazing!
I've taken notes and pictures on how to prepare and assemble the pyramids. When they're done they'll have a 3-D effect to them. In should take about 10 minutes to prepare the papers for your pyramids.
The story that I'm using for this lesson comes from our basal reader. My district uses Pearson Reading Street. The story that I'm using for this lesson is "The Big Blue Ox". You can take this exact lesson and apply it to whatever story is in your basal reader. All you'll need to do is find some clip art to go along with your story.
Before I started this activity I wanted to make sure the students knew the story well and that they also knew our comprehension skill which was to identify the characters and setting in the story. The Reading Street curriculum has the class read the story for 2 days in a row, so I followed the scope and sequence of what my basal wanted me to do. After we'd read the story on the 2nd day we did this follow up activity.
The Common Core standards are rooted in finding evidence when answering questions. I had my students get out their basals and look for evidence within the story. Knowing that children will rush through written work to get to the art project, I set this lesson up that we would do the written part first and if their work was messy they couldn't make the art project.
I started by telling my students, "This week our comprehension skill was to learn about the characters and setting in a story. Today we are going to talk with our partners about the characters and setting, write about it, and then make this cool pyramid." I then showed them my sample that I had made. I then told them, "We are going to do the writing part first. If I don't see that you have done your best writing and have rushed through it, I'm not going to let you do the art project to go along with it." Would you believe I did not have one problem with anyone's written work?
The students were very excited to get started. They had never made a pyramid before and my class loves to do art.
The students basals were open to the story "The Big Blue Ox". I had partnered the students up with someone at their table. In each group we had Partner 1 and Partner 2.
I said to the students, "The last few days we've been talking about characters. Who can tell me what a character is? That's right. A character is a person or animal in the story. Person 1. I want you to find evidence in your story and I want you to tell your partner all the characters in the story. Remember, when you are talking to your partner, you have to face them and look them in the eye when you are talking. You also need to speak in a complete sentence which we've been working on. Go." I gave them 2-3 minutes to do this. Then I asked if someone could tell me all the characters in the story.
I passed out the writing paper to my students. I then directed them to the Activboard. Since this lesson took place early in the year, I knew that most of my student's reading and writing skills were at a beginning level. I wrote this sentence frame on the board - The characters are __________________. I said, "Now, your partner groups just talked about who the characters in the story were. I have given you a sentence starter( I read it for them). You are to copy the first part of this sentence and then finish the sentence with the names of the characters. Does everyone understand what to do? Remember, you need to do your best writing." I also told them not to dilly dally because then we won't have enough time to do the art project. Talk about motivation!
After the students have finished writing, we went back to the basal reader. I said, "This week we also talked about what the setting is. Who can tell me what a setting is? That's right. A setting is the place where the story takes place. Person 2. Your job is to find evidence in the text about all the different settings in the story. Find your evidence and tell your partner. Remember, when you are talking to your partner, you have to face them and look them in the eye when you are talking. You also need to speak in a complete sentence which we've been working on. Go." After 2-3 minutes, I called their attention back to me and asked if someone could tell me all the different settings in the story.
I then directed the students back to my Activboard. This time the sentence starter was- The settings in the story are ___________________. I said, "Now your partner groups just talked about what the settings were. I have the sentence starter here (I read it to them). You are to copy the first part of the sentence and then finish the sentence with the settings from the story. Does everyone understand what to do? Remember about best writing and managing our time.
When the writing was finished I passed out the construction paper backing and modeled for the students how to glue the paper on without using too much glue.
I collected the written work so no one would lose it while we were working on the pyramid. Yes, I have students who can lose work that quickly!
Since this lesson was done so early in the year and the student's fine motor skills weren't strong, I did a lot of the prep work ahead of time (see the prep work resource). I had made folds in each of the papers and then I modeled how to make one cut to the center of the paper. I then modeled how to fold in the tabs to make the pyramid. (See cutting and assembling the pyramid resource) I then quickly walked around the room and put one staple in each pyramid to hold it together.
I then showed the students how to fold the paper to make the prop part and make tabs to glue their clip art on. I put a pile of these paper tabs in the center of each table. The last thing I did was to pass out the clip art for each student. The kids were ready to make their projects!
It takes first graders so long to do anything at the beginning of the year. It took a while but we got the project done. The students colored their clipart and cut it out. They made their tabs and glued their pictures to their tabs and then glued their tabs into their pyramid. They did all of this independently.
Once their pyramids were done, I quickly showed the students how to glue their written work to their pyramid. Once I graded the projects, they had something really impressive to take home to their parents.
After we had finished our project I asked my students "What did we learn today with this project? Who are the characters? What are the settings? " I have a short little video of what my students thought of the project and they shared just a bit what they learned from doing this activity. The video is here in the resource section.