Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts

As April wraps up and May approaches, we approach field trip season. Whether you are traveling with a class or making memories with your own children, field trips provide a wonderful opportunity for writing narrative texts. Strong readers and writers should be able to "write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well structured event sequences" (CCSS W.3). The language experience approach is a great way to introduce narrative text writing to kindergarten and first grade students. Students experience an event and then record details of the event. Children can then transfer that knowledge to their reading as they look for examples of narrative texts. We've applied this to our study of Eric Carle books.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Writing Narrative Texts Using the Language Experience Approach

We love to visit The Butterfly House in St. Louis or the Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo. I prefer the butterflies to the creepy crawlies. The boys, of course, would rather experience piles of cochroaches. Gross! After a recent visit, we recorded our experiences in our journals. We drew pictures of our favorite butterflies and insects. Through interactive writing, we recorded the events that happened on our outing. I wrote a lot of the text and they contributed the parts they knew. We talked about words that show order (first, then, next, last).

Reading Narrative Texts for Details and Story Order

After writing about our experiences, we began to explore imaginary narrative texts. We connected to our learning about insects and butterflies as we read Eric Carle's books "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle", "The Very Lonely Firefly" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".

Recalling Details in Text from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Our first book activity was very engaging for the boys. After exploring real butterflies, we looked at the life cycle of a butterfly in the narrative text, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". We read the book and created a caterpillar out of an oatmeal box and retold the story.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle
Here's How we made our Very Hungry Caterpillar
Cylinder container with plastic lid (oatmeal box, pringles can, etc)
Construction paper (red, green, yellow)
Purple pipe cleaner
Printable food for Very Hungry Caterpillar

Cover the container with green construction paper.
Trace the plastic lid circle onto red construction paper. Cut.
Cut a large mouth hole from the plastic lid. Trace onto the red construction paper and cut out. Glue on the face, lining up the openings.
Then I provided them with printable copies of the fruits and foods that The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate. They "fed" the printable paper food to the caterpillar by putting the cards into his mouth. We talked about story order and used story order words. (You can find all of the food cards in my insects unit or draw your own based on the book).

Exploring Beginning Middle and End with The Very Lonely Firefly

We began talking about the order of events by talking about stories that have a strong beginning, middle, and end. We read The Very Lonely Firefly and drew sketches of what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This is an interesting book because it begins at night. It's fun to contrast this with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book and talk about how it begins on a Sunday morning. Students can discover that the time of day is the setting and doesn't necessarily impact the order of the story.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

For classroom purposes, you might want to display these sketches in the classroom with labels. You could also have students draw and write the beginning, middle, and end on a graphic organizer. These printables are included in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Determining the Order of Events with "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle"

One of my favorite classroom activities for teaching order of events is team sequencing. This activity helps all readers talk about their thinking. It is fantastic for struggling readers as there is scaffolding provided by working in a team, but each student is "forced" to particpate. Here are the rules for team sequencing. Each child gets one card. Each child may only touch his or her own card. The team must get all of the cards in the correct order. Team members should use verbal cues and work together to get the story in the right order.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

You can use this with any story by creating picture cards to retell the story. I've created a set for The Very Clumsy Click Beetle in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Additional Resources
You can find more activities including scoring guides and more graphic organizers in my complete unit Reading and Writing about Insects which you can purchase in my store.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

How have you used the language experience approach to teach writing? How do you connect your writing to reading? I'd love to see your ideas-- share in the comments. I'll pin and share links to posts as well.

You can also find me busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Close Reading Informational Text about Insects

Did you know that there are some 8,500 species of click beetles? Did you know that click beetles frequently fall on their back and can't roll over?  Did you know they have to release a snap mechanism to fly through the air and hopefully land on their feet? Did you know that the 4,000 types of crickets can be found underground, above ground, and even in water? Did you know only the male cricket can make a sound? Did you know that ladybugs eat aphids that feed on leaves?
Where did I learn these fun facts? I've been reading books by author Eric Carle with my boys. When you think of Eric Carle, you may think of classic stories: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Click Beetle, The Very Grouch Ladybug, and more. What you may have overlooked are the informational text passages in each of these narratives. Most of these paragraphs can be found at the beginning or end of the book. You may have also overlooked the potential for using these as close reading passages for K-2 grade students.

Close Reading Informational Texts

Locating Passages for Close Reading

It can be tricky business finding informational text for K-2 students to read closely. Ideally a passage needs to be short, include strong vocabulary, and engage students. Well written texts can provide a mentor text to students so it's helpful if the passage has a strong main idea and details. I know a lot of teachers have scoured libraries and online resources to find these types of paragraphs. Some teachers are even writing their own passages. You probably have several of Eric Carle's picture books in your classroom and these are a great resource you could use today!

Routines for Close Reading of Informational Text

Provide the students with an introduction to the text. It could be simply looking at the illustration on the cover or a few selected illustrations in the book. Carle's art is very engaging to students and they will probably take notice of a lot of information from simply looking at the illustrations.

Read the paragraph. Depending on the reading level of your students you may want to read the passage aloud, together, or let students read independently. Consider projecting it for the whole class to see if you are reading it aloud.

Ask students to stop when they notice something that surprises them. Then have them ask, "Why does this surprise me? What does this suggest?"  I found this question from Kylene Beers blog. She is the author of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading and she is working on Notice and Note for Expository Texts. She is already sharing a lot of tips on her blog. I tried out this strategy on my kindergartener when we were reading a book about Koalas. It surprised him that Koalas have two thumbs on each hand. When I asked him the follow up questions, he said, "It tells me I'm not a Koala." At first I thought, "no, duh!"-- but I didn't say it, promise. But as I continued to listen, he said, "Maybe it's because I don't eat just leaves. Maybe I need more energy than that, so I eat other foods. Maybe the Koala needs those thumbs to eat those leaves." All of those were facts he had drawn from the text. Koalas have two thumbs. Koalas eat leaves. Koalas don't have much energy. So, I think it was a successful close read. Allowing kids time to talk about their reading, really does pay off.

More Close Reading with Insects

When you are working with your students to closely read the informational texts, you may also want to focus their attention on vocabulary and text dependent questions. It may be useful to put your TDQ on cards and let groups draw cards and talk about them. You might even want a card that says, "Your Question". I think the ultimate goal is for students to take ownership of the questioning and discussion. Here's an example of one close reading passage about ladybugs. 

Insects are a popular spring theme in K-2 classrooms. If you would like an additional close reading passage, activities, and more lessons for reading and writing informational text, check out my Reading and Writing about Insects unit.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Insect Unit with Eric Carle Books

Eric Carle is a much loved children's book author. Many of his books are written about creepy crawlie critters which are perfect for spring reading. We love to watch the very hungry caterpillar as he eats, grows, and changes into a butterfly. We love to read about the very clumsy click beetle who could not turn over and the very quiet cricket who could not make a sound. I enjoy sharing these well sequenced narrative texts, but I also enjoy learning facts from these books as well. Many of Eric Carle's books include an informational paragraph about the insect featured. This is a great mentor text for students who are writing their own informational texts. One of my favorite units to teach in spring is Reading and Writing about Insects (and other creepy crawlies) featuring Eric Carle books.

Eric Carle Book Activities

Eric Carle Insects Unit

The common core state standards  require students to both read and write narrative and informational text. My common core aligned unit helps students to do both. Students will read literature with Eric Carle texts such as
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle
The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
The Very Clumsy Click Beetle by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

There is also a focus on close reading of informational text in this unit. Students will answer text dependent questions and focus on gaining new vocabulary. 

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit, Close Reading Passage

Students will work with a variety of graphic organizers to record details from their reading and plan their own writing. They will use a plan for reading informational text and connect that planning sheet to their writing. 
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit
They will also use a graphic organizers that focus attention on specific details and events in narrative text. 
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

The projects in this unit are fun and create an engaging environment.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

Students will enjoy retelling The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Bright colored printable signs will help you display student work.
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

The entire unit is focused toward helping students meet the standards so they can create meaningful writing of their own.  In the unit, students are often required to take on a role such as bug researcher, coauthor, or party planner.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

Reading and Writing about Insects is a fun writing unit for K-2 grade students.  You can easily print the activities which are aligned to the standards. There are scoring guides aligned to standards which will make standards based grading quick and efficient. You can purchase this unit in my teachers pay teachers store by following this link or clicking the picture below.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit


Frozen! Frozen! Read all About It!: Frozen Storybooks and Apps

Do you want to build a snowman? Or read a book about some girls? Disney has brought the award winning film Frozen to the pages of storybooks. We recently had an opportunity to check out the digital storybook and print books for the movie Frozen. Disney has provided books for every age and learning style of young reader. I think all ages are going to be excited about reading when they find their friends Elsa and Anna lurking in the pages.

Disclaimer: I was provided review copies of each of the books and apps in exchange for my honest opinions. 

Frozen Storybooks and Apps

We were able to review the Frozen Storybook Deluxe app as well a beautiful Frozen picture book, a read along storybook and CD, an early reader book and a Frozen chapter book. I was really impressed that Disney has thought about each level of learner and made the text accessible to kids.

A Sister More Like Me
This picture book is the one book of the Frozen line of books that doesn't retell the movie story exactly. Instead, the book focuses on the relationship of the two sisters. It is based around the sisters comparing themselves to one another and wishing to have "a sister more like me." In the end, the sisters recognize they each have unique strengths and gifts and learn to accept and love the other. It's a cute rhyming book with a sweet message. There is also an ebook version with read along narration.

Frozen: A Tale of Two Sisters

This step into reading level 2 book is great for early readers. It retells the movie in a simple manner. It's a great book to read for enjoyment. The text structure is very simple and it would work well for struggling readers or speakers of other languages who are learning English. Students will feel success as most will already know the story line and characters.

Frozen: The Junior Novelization
I've been reading the Frozen chapter book to my kindergartener. It's definitely too hard for him to access independently. He is so familiar with the content of the story, so he's doing a great job listening to the book. It's perfect for readers in the 2-5 grade range who are huge fans of the movie. I reads like a retelling of a movie rather than a deeply written piece of literature, but kids need light enjoyable reads from time to time. They will love this one. As long as kids are reading, I count that as a win!

Frozen Read-Along Storybook and CD

My boys (ages 4, 5) were most impressed with the Frozen Read-Along Storybook and CD. This is a condensed version of the movie. It hits all of the highlights from the movie in a paperback picture book. The CD has great music and sound effects and the narration is great. We listen to it nearly every day on the way to school. In fact, I've been working with my kindergartner to write book reviews and here are his thoughts:

"I like the sound effects because the voices sound like Elsa and Anna."

Frozen Storybook Deluxe
The Frozen Storybook Deluxe is an interactive digital storybook. There is a narrated story which is told from two points of view. You can flip your device to hear Anna or Elsa's point of view. We loved the story but the games are less than thrilling. So buy it for a good digital storybook, don't buy it if you are looking for a game. Also, it takes a ton of space, so be aware of it before purchasing.

I think these Frozen storybooks would be a great treat in Easter baskets this weekend! Check them out and let me know what your readers think.