One of our favorite stories is A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle. While this book is typically geared toward early elementary, I find it has still been quite intriguing and useful for upper elementary grades, too! I love that I have the book available, especially during our research on animals unit.
1. Planning and Prepping
My students need to know and understand our ‘end goal’ before we start. What is our target of the lesson and what will the product be in the end.
I let them know that we will be working with a packet to research information and, in the end, will write an informative paper. We are specifically working on animals to make learning easier. Though I don’t just print packets and pass them out, we need to practice together first. I already know my students have had experience with practicing writing, and expert or not, I will continue to guide them in the right direction.
2. Where Do We Begin?
For this winter selection, A Mother’s Journey, I ask my students to turn and tell a partner one thing they know about penguins. I use questions such as “What is one thing you know about a penguin? In the title the term journey is used, what could this mean? Why would we discuss this book during the winter season?” I allow students to share out their responses and record them. Having background knowledge is a great starting point. After we have this mini-discussion, I tell the students that we will be conducting research on penguins today using the story A Mother’s Journey.
I plan to read the entire story to the students and I stop to pick out important vocabulary terms, especially those that repeat themselves frequently, such as brood pouch, colony, and emperor. While reading, I allow time for students to ask questions should they arise. As well as record facts on a “Writing with Vocabulary” graphic organizer.
My students use this entire writing process checklist set when we work with vocabulary to write an informative paper.
3. How to Finish Strong
Once we have finished reading and recording our facts using the vocabulary terms we picked out, it is time to write a short paper based on the additional information learned.
I remind students of the expectations. There should be at least five paragraphs: introduction, three middle paragraphs, and a closing. The three middle paragraphs can be written using the facts from the terms that were prepicked. We discuss great intro and closing headers, and then students begin writing.
I find that using the Writing with Vocabulary graphic organizer is a great way to practice listening and reading skills, as well as finding important vocabulary terms necessary for the topic being learned.
At the end of every animal unit, my students can independently complete an Animal Report using a research packet and creating their own Animal magazine to showcase their findings.
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