What Is the Arctic Tundra? Day 1 of 3

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SWBAT: Ask and answer questions to understand an informational and literary text.

Big Idea

The Arctic tundra, a place of unusual beauty, is the setting for a heartwarming tale of a boy and a wolf.


10 minutes

Summary and Context

This week, my students will read the story Nutik, the Wolf Pup, written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Ted Rand. We will read the book in three different parts. Today, we will read the first part and review it using text-dependent questions.

Before embarking on the reading, I will help build my students' knowledge about the setting of the story, the Arctic tundra. To do this, I will show an informational video. It will help my students deepen their conceptual understanding of the story.

In addition, I will help my students understand the plot of the story by discussing it using a Socratic Seminar. Lastly, they will be given the opportunity to reflect on the story in writing.

Opening Activity

On the rug, I share the objective with students and proceed to ask them what they know about the Arctic. I have them pair share with each other before they share with the whole group. I  transcribe their responses on a circle map.

I consistently ask my students to pair share, because it is a routine that helps them practice academic language. Routines help students feel safe, which helps them take risks.

Video: Tundra Biome

20 minutes

In order to teach to the rigorous demands of the CCSS, I always look for ways to integrate technology. One way is to use videos to help build students' content knowledge in different areas. Today, we are watching a video on the Arctic tundra. As we watch, the students take notes on a template I created for them.

Before students view the video, I ask them to read the questions on the template. This allows them to practice their reading skills, as it helps them focus on what they need to pay attention to in order to answer each question.

The template also includes a section for students to think about what words are key to understanding the topic. This allows me to see their conceptual understanding. If they choose a word that is irrelevant, this tells me that they are not understanding what they have just viewed.

Students are familiar with the note-taking process from earlier lessons, and the video is short. However, the process still takes us about 20 minutes, because I make sure to pause and give my students the opportunity to answer the questions as they go along. I have included some sample student notes in the Resources.

Pair Share

3 minutes

I give my students many opportunities to practice academic language. Having them pair share accomplishes this task. Their sharing is very intentional.

I gather students on the rug. Today, I mix up the students in heterogeneous pairs, with a boy and girl sharing with each other. I feel it is important for students to pair up with different partners throughout the year. It keeps the process fresh.

I instruct pairs to sit around the room. Before dismissing them from the rug, I have them repeat the question they will ask of each other: "What have you learned about the Arctic tundra?"

Once pairs are seated, I ask them to designate a Partner A and Partner B, and give instructions as to who shares first.

I walk around and listen to as many shares as possible. I listen to see who will be sharing with the whole group. Walking around also gives me the opportunity to monitor their behavior and help students be on task, if they need redirection.

Whole Group Share

5 minutes

Now, I give my students the opportunity to share with the whole class. Giving them different audiences and purposes for sharing helps validate their learning. Everyone gets an opportunity to hear what their peers have learned.

Students may read from their completed templates as they share. I also encourage them to share any questions they still have after finishing the video. I try to give a variety of opportunities to ask questions before, during, and after reading and viewing. It keeps the questioning process fresh.

This time on the rug also serves as a transition to the reading task. Students need to move around!

Reading: Nutik, The Wolf Pup

20 minutes

Now, students are seated back at their tables. I instruct them to look for the story Nutik, the Wolf Pup in the Table of Contents. I ask the first student to find it to please raise a hand and inform the rest of the class. Giving them a task helps them stay busy as I transition from one part of the room to another myself.

Today, we read the first seven pages of the story. I use a couple of reading techniques. First, we use a cloze reading: as I read a sentence, I leave off a word for the class to fill in chorally. I like using this technique because it keeps the reading moving quickly. Later in the lesson, I may ask students to read a paragraph or page silently, depending on how they are doing.

While I have a plan as to how to read each page, I feel it is also important to notice how students respond, and to make accommodations depending on that. For example, if the class is tired, it could be appropriate for the teacher to read aloud. It is important to know our students and to pay attention to their needs.

This is a first read of the story, so the text-dependent questions ask about what the text says explicitly, as opposed to more advanced questions about structure or analysis. The questions are about the setting, characters, and events from in this first part of the story. I included several videos of questions and responses in the Resources section.

I also attached a list of questions I developed for the first part of the story. I tend to develop more questions than I use, because I want to make sure I am prepared. The list of questions helps me to think about follow-up questions to ask on the following days. Not all questions need to be asked.

Socratic Seminar

10 minutes

Before proceeding with the Socratic Seminar, we review the rules for participation. I attached a document listing the rules I use to carry out a Socratic Seminar, as well as a student version I post in the discussion area. I also provided a chart of discussion starters I like to use in open-ended discussions.

The purpose of watching the video about the tundra before reading was to give students a deeper understanding of the setting of the story. During this Socratic Seminar, we discuss where the story takes place, and how students know. I ask students about the characters they met and the events that took place. My goal in asking about the events of the first part of the story is to practice the skill of recounting.

As student share, I have them go back to the story to find evidence that supports their statements. In this way, I help them value evidence, which is emphasized in the CCSS.

You can find a short video of part of our discussion in the Resources.

Independent Writing

15 minutes

Now that students have discussed the events of the story, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of what has happened in writing.

In order for them to do so, they will need to reread the section, which is valuable practice for my students. They will need to use the vocabulary of the story and demonstrate their conceptual understanding of key details of the text: setting, characters, and plot.

As they write, I walk around and assist them. Some need help focusing on the specific story pages. Others need help with spelling words. Others need me to repeat and clarify the task. I've posted several samples of student writing in the Resources.