In today's lesson, students take the facts from the text and record them on their tree map. Later students will then take these facts from the tree map and write their informational paragraphs. In this way, I am trying to show students how to research effectively and efficiently. The tree map helps my students in several ways. First, the students are able to categorize information. For example, when we talk about a shark's body parts we put the main idea at the top of a column and the details in the rows beneath. When the students then begin to write their story, they know that they are drawing information only from one column on the map for each particular section of their writing. Secondly, I am showing students how to avoid copying the author by having them just jot down notes on their tree maps. This way, when they begin to write their own stories, their maps are helping to support them in crafting the ideas they recording in their own words.
Students are thus participating in shared research and writing projects (W.1.7) and using that research to write well-structured informative/explanatory texts (W.1.2). The students are also identifying what the main idea of each part of the story is and record it in the appropriate place on the tree map and then write the details on the detail part of the map (RI.1.2).
I only have 30 minutes to teach writing each day and it did take me more than one session to complete this lesson. You can adjust this lesson based on your own time constraints and needs. For today's lesson you will need the Sharks Smartboard lesson. You will also need to make enough copies of tree maps and circle maps for each of your students.
I wanted to make sure my students knew the purpose of today's lesson. I said, "Today our objective is to read the main idea and details from yesterday's graphic organizer and transfer them to our tree map. Remember: you will have to take your research from today and use it to write your informational paragraph using your own words."
I pulled up my Smartboard lesson and went to the slide of the tree map. I said, "Turn to page 1 of your graphic organizer. Who can read the main idea sentence to me?" After someone read the sentence I said, "Can we fit that whole entire sentence in this little space at the top of the column?" The students said they couldn't, so I asked, " f we can't fit the entire sentence what do you think are the most important words that we should put to give us the idea of what the main idea is?" I called on several students for ideas. We eventually decided to write "What Sharks Are" at the top of the first column. You can see our class discussion in the video here in the resource section.
I continued in this manner, asking students to read me sentences and then we would discuss as a class how to whittle down the information so we had just enough of an idea to tell what each detail was supporting. Once we had finished with this first column it was time for my students to do the remaining 3 columns on their own.
Since this was the third expository writing unit we've done I had it in my mind to really step back and see what my students could do. My eventual goal is to have my students be very independent with the writing process, and I have to step back in order to get them to that stage.
Having said that, I want to make it clear that I didn't just go sit down at my desk thinking, "O.K they're on their own." There are still students in my class that struggle. There are still students in my class that are having a hard time whittling down information. It comes down to knowing what each of your students need. For those students who need help, I do work with them more closely, but, for the most part I stood back, circulated around the room, and let them "do their thing" so to speak.
I recorded that this part of the lesson should take about 40 minutes. Some of my students did need the full 40 minutes. Others just breezed through the work quickly and confidently. One strategy I implement is to have these early finishers help some of my struggling students. I have had to teach my students to help others in the correct fashion. I didn't want my higher achieving students doing the lower achiever's work for them or making them feel badly. If you begin to train your students in the beginning of the year about the correct way to help each other it benefits the higher achievers as well as your lower achievers.
If you watched the video of their independent work, you will see how quiet my classroom is. This is something unusual for my classroom because I have my students talking a great deal throughout the day. I am a teacher who really wants to integrate many skills into one lesson and I think this task reflects that. You can see by how quiet they are that they are really having to spend a great deal of mental energy on the task because it's a complex one: they have to read what is on their graphic organizer from yesterday, analyze that information, determine what is the most important, and then synthesize the information, forming an idea of their own.
After going through the entire writing process in our crabs unit, there were a few students I wanted to make sure I paid extra attention to. One of my students would copy details haphazardly onto their tree map. The student didn't understand that the main idea and corresponding details all had to be in one column. I brought this student to the back table and worked with him on the first column. Then I sent him back to his seat to continue working.
Another student I wanted to focus on is a student who writes things down quickly, doesn't read them back to himself and then his writing doesn't make sense. After working with the first student, I also pulled this student back and made him tap out his words in order to spell them more regularly. I also made this student read his fragments so these made sense to him. This would help him a great deal when writing his story on his flow map in the next day's lesson.
At the beginning of the year my closures weren't stellar. I found some information online with some great closure ideas. One of these ideas is called "Summary Sam". I have a cat puppet that sits behind my red teacher chair. At the end of the lesson I tried to act like a ventriloquist and started meowing. My students started shouting "Summary Sam!"
I pulled the cat puppet out and put it on my hand. I said, "Lazy Sam is sleeping in our classroom again. He woke up just in time for the end of our lesson. We can't tell him everything that's happened so let's give him a summary about our lesson. Who can tell Sam the important parts of what happened in our lesson today?" I called on several students and we talked about the important parts of the lesson. This is a quick and easy way to synthesize the learning that took place, while also working on the skill of summarizing (even if it isn't the focus of the lesson).
I have a video of some of my student's work here in the resource section. You can see that the work isn't totally perfect because I stepped back and let them be more independent and responsible for their own learning. These maps are a complex task, and the task is one that we will continue to work on until we reach mastery.