Working on getting a better understanding of non-fiction content and materials. I like to use as many visuals as possible when it comes to non-fiction text. Many students can find themselves overwhelmed by information or new words when reading non-fiction. I like to break everything down for my students to really find the meaning of our words, illustrate the words, and get all the details needed to explain ourselves using the text.
We first started out with asking, “what is transportation?” Transportation is how people get around from place to place. I then asked, “how did you get to school today?” to begin stirring up thoughts and ideas. When brainstorming methods of transportation, we went over and learned any words that were unfamiliar. Once we got a good list, we went on to reading the text. These non-fiction resources were found at school and include 4 sections including 2 short paragraphs in each packed with information about the different ways to travel.
One method of transportation is the underground subway train system. A written response quests asked “why are subways found in big cities instead of the countryside?” This question definetly took some critical thinking to figure out. Some had to make a chart or even draw a picture of the differences between a city and the country to determine their answer. The facts all came down to the amount of people and how busy each place is. The countryside too big and people are too spread out to need subways, and the city is just too busy.
Here are some other short answer questions related to the text. Students got to choose between 2-4 answers to complete in their journals.
Another visual aid used to understand the timeline of events of these methods of transportation in relation to each other. These facts were taken straight from the text and required no outside resources. This lesson and materials could certainly be geared upto a higher level of thinking and include additional research. A math lesson using transportation could be done to see how long it takes to travel a certain distance using each of these methods. You could also tailor this lesson to beginning students by having them illustrate each method of transportation. The possibilities are endless just like the world we can explore.
How will you travel next?
It’s the little things that you find when going about your day, that you discover these teachable moments. The moments when you realize, “first graders don’t know how to use a glue stick” or “learning to cut with scissors” or “what is an opinion?” These things are sometimes planned in our lesson as a discussion or learning activity, whereas others come from a simple movement or discovery that shows us as teachers that there is more to be learned. In these teachable moments we get to shed light on something different and focus on some specific detail to our assigned task or lesson. They can happen suddenly and usually take no more than 5-10 minutes to share.
We can’t cut and paste words in alphabetical order if we don’t know how to hold scissors or manage a glue stick in an orderly fashion. When completing a reading check over, A Rainbow of Foods, there came a question asking “Which sentence is an opinion?
A. Corn can keep your stomach healthy.
B. Blueberries can help you remember things.
C. Avocados are best used in dip for chips.
Both of my students said “A” and didn’t understand the brief reminder that an opinion is what someone thinks. The mini-lesson then came with three new statements written on the board. After reading each sentence I asked is this a fact or opinion and why. This opened up the discussion as to why certain statements are indeed true facts, with others being what a person thinks or favors. This short activity was easy, quick, and efficient.
We then went back to the reading check and focused specifically on that opinion of “Avocados are best used in dip for chips. Do you agree or disagree? Why?” A new short answer response to ensure that we understand the term “opinion” as well as practice writing our own.
An extension activity would be to then ask students to write their own facts and opinions about themselves and things they enjoy. They could trade statements with a partner to try and figure out their facts and opinions.
Easily a new all-time favorite amongst the early learners is the game “Who has? I have…” There are a multitude of subjects and themes that can be composed within a game such as this. These particular ones used have letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. They combine the color and shape cards, but only give three different shapes to choose from. This helps with learning the three basic shapes: circles, squares, and triangles. We also did a little interactive movement with our hands to show each shape as we said its name.
The game starts with whomever has the smallest number or the first letter of the alphabet. When it’s your turn, you read the card and say, “I have ___. Who has ___?” Then whomever has that card will do the same. The game ends when there are no more cards. This game does not go in any sort of order so the kids really have to be paying attention to what is being said and what cards they have in front of them. So this game is very high energy, good focus on listening and reading, and can be styled to just about any topic you’d like.
“Look, I have a mountain of letters!”
Redundantly putting together, sounding out, and stretching CVC words in order to build up our word count. We can read simple words and rhyme, but putting the letters together and really feeling for every letter sound changes the dynamic. It’s one thing to rhyme words and write out CVC word patterns for those rhyming -am, -at, -ed, etc. but to physically move around the letters to build words tends to change their thinking. This really peaks the interest of those kinesthetic and visual learners to physically grasp the concept of building words and sounds them out. When we can touch the letters and really think about the sounds they make that makes a difference when we go back to pencil and paper writing.
Students worked on building their words independently with some scaffolding on my part. Often times students would ask me to double check a word they had spelled or even to read their words aloud to me. After we were all finished spelling words, each student read their words aloud.
We can write adjectives anyway we want, as long as we write them right. Adjectives are so important in our writing because they paint the vivid watercolor dreams into our heads and let us imagine exactly what the author is telling us. Adjectives are used to describe or tell; more specifically adjectives are used to describe or tell about a noun. At this point we are introducing adjectives into our students’ writing to enhance their writing and to encourage them to write more, to tell us more. We get so stuck on simple sentences and avoiding all the mushy details.
For beginning writers, we are focused on just getting them to write, putting their thoughts on paper. As we progress, we are looking for those added details, the understanding of words, and the comprehension of our language. Children, especially our English language learners, are just like sponges. Through inclusion and intensive instruction, they are absorbing everything they see or hear. There’s so much going on in the world, so many things to see and talk about. They’ve all lived such interesting little lives already just by coming to a foreign country. Many times when they are writing and can’t think of a word they tend to describe what they are thinking about, what they are trying to say. So naturally adjectives are already a part of their day-to-day speaking.
Depending on their writing skills, decided how this part of speech was going to be presented. It also helped to look into books and text features that exaggerate these describing words. My example always seems to be describing a pizza. You don’t know what kind of pizza I have unless I tell you it’s a hot cheesy pepperoni pizza. When we think about the cheese sliding off of a big piece of pizza, that really gets our imaginations going…and our stomachs growling.
With the above activity, we focus on what on what we are told. We are told “the tall tree” so that tells us how big to make our tree as well as what it is that we need to draw (a tree). With the beginning writers/readers we read the statement together and I would ask “what are we drawing? What does it look like?” Whereas with more intermediate writers/readers we are coming up with adjective lists as a group or scanning short stories in search of these descriptive words.
Lately when it comes to writing out answers and giving details, my third and fourth graders have been coming to a hault. They have so many creative ideas and want to get straight to their answers, without having fully explaining themselves. We have been working on restating the question in our answers, but that just isn’t enough. The writing block has still smacked us right in the face and left our time to looking up at the ceiling.
So I decided to drop everything and just write. I got together a basic graphic organizer to list out the important factors to a story and just write. To keep the stories relevant we wrote about winter, but we had complete creative reign on the subject. We decided that we should have at least three characters and we brainstormed some settings and potential problems to really get our brains working. From there the writing process was completely independent. We each sat down, myself included, and came up with a winter story. We took two days to gather our thoughts and get our words down. On the last day we added illustrations to go with our stories. I chose to participate along with the students to model what writing looks like. Although we worked independently, I believe it’s important for students to see their teacher reading or writing and to model those behavioral work ethics. I too illustrated my story and we proudly shared them with one another on the last day.
The energy and confidence that was exulted on this activity, I think, will really make a difference in their writing stamina as well as their writing responses. After reading through our stories, we checked over our writing for any grammatical errors, in which we resolved together. A big thing with ELL students is learning all of the complications that make up the English language. Grammatical errors are very common and often overlooked at first in our beginning writers but becomes a bigger focus when they become advanced. A lot of these differences come up between translation due to words or phrases not translating exactly like we are used to.