Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Notable Non-Fiction Continued!

So as not to overwhelm you, I was planning to break up my Non-Fiction Unit into 2 two week chunks.  After starting to explain week 3, however, I decided that I will go ahead and break it up into 3 chunks: Weeks 1 & 2, Week 3, and Week 4.  If you would like to read weeks one and two, please scroll down to my first Notable Non-Fiction post!

Before I get started with Week 3, I wanted to add one more resource for you to read.  If you’re a nerd like me, you will love this research article about the benefits of integrating Non-Fiction text.  Yes, it’s a little wordy and “college-esque”, but as always, skim it, read it, take what you need/want, and go on with life! J  You can visit Tiffany and Lemont Flowers’ article here (and as always, since I’m posting this link with their names, please don’t give me any credit it it!  I’m just an admirer—I had nothing to do with writing it!)

Okay, so now on to the next week in my classroom.  When I left off, I told you guys that at the end of week 2, it was a great time to gauge students’ progress.  I use the first few days of week 3 to really work with strugglers, and you’ll see why (and how there’s time!) in just a second!
Week 3 actually begins to incorporate Non-Fiction reading with 2 writing units: Non-Fiction writing (of course!) AND Authors as Mentors.  During the first few days of week 3, our classroom focuses A LOT on books by Gail Gibbons.  She writes AH-mazing Non-Fiction books for children.  Let me count the ways I love her books: 1. They are child friendly.  2. They layout is wonderful! 3. The topics are interesting. 4. While her books are non-fiction, they have accurate illustrations instead of real pictures.  This helps kiddos when they are trying to “model” her work (so they don’t become frustrated with their own illustrations!) 5. I could go on and on and on…….
But anyways, back to week 3.  The first few days, we spend time learning about Gail Gibbons and exploring her work.  Her website has a great biography, as well as some blurbs about her books!  You can view it here:

During these first few days, I also put out ALL my Gail Gibbons books for students to use.  Our school library has lots, and I’ve collected many at garage sales, thrift/resale stores, and at online sources.  Also, if need be, always has many of her books at great prices!

While we are exploring her text, I always pick one book for ME to model with  mini-lessons to the class.  This year, I picked Owls.  I, of course, begin by looking for those Non-Fiction text features (which not all GG books have).  This is a good conversation starter about how not ALL Non-Fiction books HAVE to have ALL of the features we’ve talked about!  Then, we read and discuss how Gail Gibbons must have done a lot of research to write this book (they should already know this by reading her bio from her website!).  Finally, I bust out the Graphic Organizers for students to write a few facts from my Owls book today.  Once they finish at their desks, we come back together and share a few before I send them back out with a GG book of their own and a new Graphic Organizer.  Their job is to read, fill it out, then come back later to share.

During this time, I pull my small groups for extra support with NF text.  It is up to you how/what you want to concentrate on, because you know your kiddos better than me!  But, you should have a good chunk of time to work with your small groups for the next few days!

When we all come back together as a class, we share facts the facts students found.  THEN, (this is the fun part), we try to “guess the fact” from GG website under Teacher Resources.  The students love this game and are very eager to listen.  Sometimes, even, those facts lead them to reading that book later on in the day!

Okay, so this goes on for 2-3 days.  On Tuesday of this week, I have them use one of their Graphic Organizers to actually form and write a page.  The page I give my students looks like this:
My team is awesome and helps me come up with ideas like this one! (Props to SK!)

Generally, their facts are so well laid out that we do not need to pre-write.  But as always, it is completely up to you!

After this first “round” of research and writing, I am very careful to check students work.  Sometimes I get a student who likes to sneak in “facts”.  Yes, I put it in quotes because we all know those “facts”… “Skunks lay eggs”, or “Owls are cool”…. So even 3 weeks in, I still have to stress the difference between facts and not facts.

On Wednesday of week 3, I assign students a topic to begin their Non-Fiction research project on.  It tends to go hand-in-hand with another content area (I’ve done Savanna Animals and Money).  This year, our grade linked it up with the specific Science Habitats listed in our TEKS: the Woodlands, the Garden, the Beach, the Park, and the Lake.  Our class habitat was the Woodlands!

To begin with this project, I assigned multiple students to the same topic.  Students complete their writing and final project on their own, but having a partner or group really helped with the research part (I’ve learned this the hard way-- after wanting to pull my hair out, running around like a fool, trying to help 22 kiddos research all different topics!).

So again, we incorporate the graphic organizers, but this time, for our specific animal.  I am sure to model beforehand with MY animal (the Owl).  They watch me find information and record it on my sheet (4 different topics: Attributes, Habitat, Life Cycle, and Diet), then they go off and complete their own with my guided help.  I generally try to have kiddos complete 2 a day, since this project falls into the categories of Reading (using NF text to locate facts), Writing (planning a first draft by using Graphic Organizers), and Science (observe, record, and compare needs and characteristics of animals). 

Graphic Organizers are so useful for this project—they help guide the students to find the correct needed information, and they are very visual and well laid out!  This year, I used all of mine from Scholastic teacher resource books.  Here are some of my favorites (and one filled out):

So with week 3 coming to an end, let me recap quickly: Monday and Tuesday, we begin Gail Gibbons, Tuesday or Wednesday, we write an example page by using our Graphic Organizers, Wednesday or Thursday, we begin researching our animal, and Thursday and Friday we research, learn, and record information about our animal’s Attributes, Habitat, Life Cycle, and Diet.

Whew!  Are you tired yet?  I keep reminding myself that week 3 is, truly, the busiest week.  Also, please remember that every classroom is different—so please tweak this to fit your specific needs! 

Thanks for putting up with all my Non-Fiction babbling!  Be sure to come back tomorrow to see how my class finished up this unit!  As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns! 

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