September 15, 2012

Making the Social Studies and Literacy Connection

Making the Social Studies and Literacy Connection - Two great informational texts and two freebies to use on Constitution Day!
Free Resources for Constitution Day

September 17th is Constitution Day, and it’s a great time to integrate social studies into your literacy lessons. I discovered two outstanding informational text books to read and discuss with your students, and I couldn’t resist creating some freebies to go with them! Both books are perfect for upper elementary students, and if you only have one copy of each book, you can read it aloud and show the pages so your students can follow along. If you don’t have these books now, you can click the book covers below to order them from Amazon.com. Then use the activities later in the year when you are studying the US government or the Constitution. You'll find these freebies in my Constitution Day freebie on TpT during September and on my Social Studies page on Teaching Resources all year round.


What's the Truth? (Sorting Activity)

Author: Christine Taylor-Butler

The Constitution of the United States is a part of the Scholastic "True Book" series, and it's an excellent informational text for upper elementary students. What's the Truth? is a hands-on sorting activity to stimulate thinking before you read the book to your students. Print one set of cards per team, and ask team members to cut the cards apart and stack them in the middle of the team.

Here's what to do:
  1. Before you read the book, ask students in teams to take turns picking up a card, reading it aloud, and discussing whether or not they think the statement is true or false. 
  2. As they decide if each statement is true or false, the card is placed into one of two piles accordingly. 
  3. Optional: Have team members write a T or an F on the back of each card for future reference. 
  4. As you read the book, stop from time to time and ask your students to discuss what you've read so far. If you mentioned a concept that was on one of the cards, they may check to see if they classified it correctly. 
  5. After you finish reading the book, review all the statements to be sure everyone has the correct answers. 

Constitution Discussion Questions

Title: If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution 
Author: Elizabeth Levy

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution is a longer book and will take several days to read. I've created a set of Constitution Discussion Questions that you can use when you finish reading the book or where appropriate during the book. Because the questions are quite challenging, I suggest using the Talking Sticks discussion strategy in small guided reading groups or as a whole class.

The book is most appropriate for upper elementary students, but you may be able to use it with middle school students as well. You’ll need to preview the book to decide. The discussion questions are fairly generic and can be used with any in-depth discussion or study of the Constitution. After you’ve discussed all of them as a class, you may want to have your students choose one to write about in a journal entry.

Where to Find These Free Resources

These sorting cards and discussion cards are available for free in several places. During the month of September, you can download them from my TpT when you click over to my free Constitution Day Literacy Lessons. You can also find them on the Social Studies page on Teaching Resources. Additional activities on that page include a Branches of Government sorting activity, a cooperative learning lesson to learn the meaning of the Preamble, and a printable you can use to create your own Classroom Bill of Rights. 

With limited time in the elementary school day, it's important to be able to sneak in a little social studies with your literacy lessons. These activities can be used on Constitution Day or any time when your class is studying U.S. Government or the Constitution. What are some ways that you connect social studies and literature in your classroom?

September 5, 2012

Tips for Teaching Informational Text


About the only thing we can count on in education is that something is always changing! Our society changes, technology changes, our students are changing, and as a result, the curriculum is constantly evolving. Change can be exciting, but often it’s frustrating as well. This is especially true when it comes to the Common Core Reading Standards and the new emphasis on informational text. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to explore this aspect of the CCSS while writing Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. Now I’d like to share some of those tips and strategies for teaching informational text with you.

Comparing and Contrasting Text Types
One of the best ways to get started is to have your students compare informational text with literature. Sounds like the perfect time for a Venn diagram, doesn’t it?  Show your students several examples of both types of books, and ask them to help you brainstorm how those text types are alike and different. Record their ideas on a class Venn diagram. If you have a document camera, use it to display the pages of the book so that everyone can see all of the features on each page clearly. If you don’t have a document camera, ask the students at the back of the room to move closer and have a seat on the floor near you.

Choosing the Right Informational Text
Most students are very familiar with fiction, but they may not be nearly as familiar with nonfiction. That’s why it’s important to select just the right informational text to use for this lesson, something that includes a variety of nonfiction text features. Last year I discovered the perfect book for this activity. Did you know that Rachel Lynette of the Minds in Bloom blog is the author of over 70 nonfiction books for kids? In fact, she has a nice Informational Text Structures freebie that you'll want to check out. Rachel sent me a copy of Gravity: Forces and Motion, and it turned out to be just what I needed as an anchor text for my Informational Text Features Search lesson. If force and motion are not a part of your curriculum, take a look at Rachel Lynette's other nonfiction books on Amazon.com. I'm sure you'll find something that fits in with what you are teaching now or will be teaching later in the year.

When you display a nonfiction book like Gravity: Forces and Motion, your students will see at a glance that informational texts look quite different from literary ones. Within a few minutes, they will identify many details to add to your class Venn diagram. As you can see from this snapshot of Rachel’s book, informational text elements often include numbered steps, headings and subheadings, illustrations with captions, and so on. Explain to your students that these items are referred to as “text features,” and the author includes them to help make the text easier to understand. As you discuss each feature, ask your students how it helps them to comprehend, or understand, the text.

Informational Text Features Search Freebie
After your students become aware that informational texts are different from literary ones, they can apply their knowledge to text of their own choosing. Because I included this lesson in Graphic Organizers for Reading, the easiest way for me to share it with you is to give you the directions and graphic organizer as a freebie. Click the image or this link to download your copy. Before teaching the lesson, gather a collection of books on a variety of topics that include many different informational text features. If you don’t have enough of these types of texts in the classroom, it’s worth a visit to the school library to hand pick books on a variety of topics and reading levels. Or you can schedule a class visit to the library and ask your students to find informational books on topics that interest them.

Combo Book Giveaway
Last year when Rachel sent me her book, Gravity: Forces and Motion, she also sent me a second autographed copy to pass along to one of my followers in a giveaway. Since she generously donated one of her books, I’ve decided to donate one of mine, too. These two books are a natural combination because Gravity is actually one of the recommended texts in Graphic Organizers for Reading: Teaching Tools Aligned with the Common Core. Even if you don’t teach science, you can use Rachel’s book in conjunction with the lessons in my book to help your students become more comfortable with reading informational text. Before you know it, your students will discover that nonfiction books can open doors to worlds they never knew existed!




Note: The giveaway end at 9 p.m. EST on September 10th. I'll be selecting and notifying the winner soon.