In this lesson, I will begin by engaging my students in a conversation that will be an introduction to my story. Class discussions are an important skill for my ELL students to participate in. Listening and speaking skills are practiced and I try to help them recall knowledge and experiences that they have had that will help with comprehension of my lesson. My students are gathered on the carpet for whole group reading block.
"Good morning. Oh my goodness, what was the weather like last night? At my house the wind blew so bad that the chairs by my pool blew over the fence. Mr. Adams had to go get them and put them in the garage. Did the wind blow at your house?"
I give everyone the opportunity to tell me their experiences with the weather last night. I will prompt them with questions that will lead up to the story I want to read today. Elmer and the Wind
"What did the trees look like outside when the wind blew? Oh, you got dirt in your eyes? Hmm. Do you think the wind could blow hard enough to blow a car away? What about a house? Could it blow you away? What about an elephant? I would like to read to you another funny story about Elmer. Let's see what the wind does to Elmer."
Many of my students knew about the tornados that happened last year and they could not stop talking about it. I was amazed at the detailed events they saw on TV. It made a great impact on them. This discussion proved to me that my students come with a variety of back ground knowledge. It is through the opportunities given to the students to talk about what they saw, what they feel and what they know that they make sense of their world. The CCSS puts a lot of emphasis on class discussions. The students learn from each other and are able to connect their knowledge with someone else. Sharing knowledge is a powerful tool. Sometimes I feel my students learn as much from each other as they do from me. Being able to connect what we know to new instruction is important for their comprehension. Learning new skills is difficult when we have nothing in our background knowledge to relate it to.
The students are very interested and a bit concerned about the topic of wind.
"This story is another Elmer story. So nothing bad is going to happen. In fact Elmer and Wilbur play tricks on the other elephants. Then something crazy happens to Elmer. Listen carefully. Are you all sitting criss cross applesauce? Here we go."
I stop in the story when sanctuary is mention and explain what a sanctuary is.
"The wind is blowing very hard, look at the trees. All the elephants and birds went into the cave to be safe. A safe place is called a sanctuary. If it started to rain a sanctuary would be your house. If it was really hot outside, a sanctuary would be in a pool. For the elephants and the birds, their sanctuary or safe place from the wind is the cave."
I read to the part where Wilbur is tricking the birds and elephants by making his voice sound like it is coming from the hole.
"Look, here is the little hole that Wilbur is making his voice come out of. See, the birds and elephants are looking at the hole wondering what is inside talking to them. Wilbur is so funny."
I continue reading and stop to explain why Elmer and Wilbur leave.
"Elmer and Wilbur go out of the cave and sneak into a cave right by the cave the elephants and birds are in. This is where they play their trick. They are safe. Let's listen to what their trick is."
I stop again when Elmer is yelling for help and the elephants laugh.
"Oh, no. Elmer is in trouble. What do you think is happening to him? Do you think the wind is strong enough to blow him away? Hmm. I am going to read some more."
We laugh at the part where Elmer is really flying and all the animals just watch him fly by.
"Elmer had a crazy adventure this time. I have never seen an elephant fly before. Do you think it could really happen? No, I don't think so, but it would be fun to see."
I take the discussion further by having the students compare and contrast Elmer and the Birds. My writing focus lately has been on Comparing and Contrasting, an important CCSS. Students in the upper grades need to be able to read a selected text and then compare and contrast an event or characters from the text. I am introducing the standard and the concept in kindergarten where the characteristics are obvious to the students as to what to compare and contrast. Each grade level increases in expectations and skills. I use a double bubble map to make the concept more visual and understandable. The double bubble map becomes a resource for the students to refer to when writing.
"That story was so funny. Elmer makes me laugh. Before we write our papers I want to fill out a double bubble map. When we use a double bubble map we are comparing and contrasting two things. Everyone put your hands together and say compare. What do we mean when we say compare things? To find the things that are the same. Now put your arms out and say contrast. What does it mean to contrast things? It means to find out what is different. Let's put Elmer in the first bubble. What are some things we know about Elmer from the story?"
I choose name sticks and fill out bubbles for Elmer. Then I make a bubble for the Birds. I continue to pull name sticks to choose students to tell me what they know about the birds.
"We have now contrasted Elmer and the Birds. We used one color for Elmer and another color for the Birds. Now we need to compare, find the things that are the same with both the Birds and Elmer."
I call on more students to tell me what things are the same with Elmer and the Birds. I use a different color for the comparing bubbles.
"Now we are going to write a paper together that compares and contrasts Elmer and the Birds."
I use the document camera to model the writing. We chose one of the bubbles from Elmer's contrasting side, and we chose one of the bubbles from the Bird's contrasting side. Then we choose a bubble from the comparing bubbles in the middle.
"Now it is time for you to write your own comparing and contrasting writing paper."
I find that it is important to model the writing so that my students know exactly what is expected of them. I sometimes leave the modeled writing up for my low students to copy. I encourage my higher students to write something different. Other times I turn off the document camera and they are all on their own for writing. The writing paper is set up with sentence frames.
I send my class paper passers to pass out the papers to every seat. Then I dismiss my students one row at a time to go to their tables to students working. I walk around to help those who need help. I collect the finished papers and have the early finishers sit and read library books until everyone is done writing.
The modeling of all the components that go into this writing activity is intense. It is fun and time consuming. I find I have to spend a lot of time modeling and front loading my students step by step in order to get a three sentence compare/contrast paper out of them. It is important that I do model all the steps. Next year they will be expected to go through the writing process independently. The more I model and expect them to do the process with me, the better they will understand the product. I use Thinking Maps to help my students visualize and organize their thoughts and ideas about the story. In this case we are comparing characters. While the process takes time, the process makes so much sense of the thinking process behind the writing. The information is all laid out in front of my students and all they have to do is choose which bubbles they want to use in their writing. Comparing and contrasting is an important skill for upper grades to know for testing and writing using more difficult texts. One time I did not do all the modeling and using the double bubble map just to see how they would do. Even my high students came up to me with empty papers asking me, "what do I do?" It was a disaster. The modeling is necessary for my students to produce the expected outcome.
This is my favorite part of the lesson. I love to see the end result. When I use the double bubble map, sentence frames and I model the writing, my students have more success. Quick read and writes are not always successful. I need to put time in the lesson with lots of discussion and the visuals to help with comprehension.
When all students are finished we clean up the book mess on the carpet and the students sit ready to listen to the student oral presentations. I call one row up at a time and let each student read their sentences. I find that my ELL students feel more confident when they are standing up in front of the class with friends rather than standing alone. We applaud and cheer after each reading. The students are excited to show their work to their friends.