We just finished a unit on Sharing the Planet in Grade 1, where we basically focused on mini-beasts (invertebrates). One way we integrated science with literacy during this unit was by writing a pattern poem about a chosen mini-beast. I knew that my little ELLs will need a lot of scaffolding, so this is how it all went:
1. We read a book about snails.
2. We co-created a mind-map to show what we learned about snails after reading the book. We used verbs to make sentences.
3. We summarised our learning individually.
4. We each chose a mini-beast and we brainstormed adjectives, adverbs and verbs that were describing our chosen mini-beasts. We created a mind-map for each part of speech. The names of mini-beasts and the parts of speech were colour-coded to match each other. Adjectives, adverbs and verbs were introduced through questions.
Adjective: How are...?(Look)
Adverb: How do... move? (-ly)
Verb: What can... do? (-ing)
5. We introduced the poem pattern.
6. We drew our mini-beast. Then, we selected adjectives, adverbs and verbs that best described it, using a graphic organiser. Then, we wrote one or two poems following the pattern. We also edited them.
7. Finally, we published our poems.
So proud of my kiddos!
In Grade 4 Readers' Workshop, we are currently working on making inferences, and I wanted to give my ESL students the possibility to practice this skill in a visual way. Therefore, I decided to use a carousel of 15 images with a message and a sentence that accompanies each of them. (It can be found and downloaded for free on www.teacherspayteachers.com, more precisely here.) To go with it, I decided to use the thinking routine What makes you say that?
The students had to rotate from one picture to another in the carousel and for each picture, fill in the blanks of the statement, "I think....because...", focusing on the 2 main questions of this routine:
1. What's going on?
2. What do you see that makes you say that?
I emphasised the fact that reasoning is the key and I guided the students to look for reasons to support their thinking in the pictures and in the accompanying sentences, but also in their prior knowledge of the world, as this is what inferring implies first and foremost. Then, we shared our thinking and the inferences we made, and we closed up with a reflection on our thinking process. We ended the activity with another thinking routine, making headlines about our thinking.
Initially, the kids were excited by the fact that the pictures were spread randomly in the classroom, so the activity felt like a treasure hunt. The fact that they got to share their thinking with their classmates was an eye-opener, because they realised that other people's points of view might be completely different from their own. Also, a good learning point was the fact that their prior knowledge of the world plays an essential role when making inferences. No known fact is too insignificant to be taken into consideration. This activity offered opportunities for practice in all language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as viewing and presenting.
The most challenging part was for them to understand what we meant by thinking about thinking, but in the end they came up with headlines such as, "Look a lot, think a lot, ask a lot", "Look, read, think, explain", "Give reasons for your thinking", "Look, think, share", "Speak your mind!"
Coming from English language learners who are still not often enough exposed to this kind of routines, I am very pleased with their understanding of their own thinking at this stage. I am thinking that some of their headlines might even be used as titles for new thinking routines!
Introduction to Narratives
I started the Grade 1 ESL unit on narratives with a visible thinking routine. At present, I am enrolled in the Visible Thinking course from Harvard's Project Zero, and I felt inspired. I wanted to bring the culture of thinking more visibly into my writing lessons, therefore I thought I would use the thinking routine See/Think/Wonder, as it is straightforward enough for my Grade 1 ELLs.
I chose a picture from the PM Readers book The Three Little Pigs, retold by Annette Smith to trigger observations and to help my little learners to generate thinking.
The next step was to choose the picture which was going to serve as an artefact for our thinking routine. I thought this was a good choice because it lends itself to extensive vocabulary exploration, and it can also trigger some good observations and wonderings. It also doesn't give away too much of the story.
See/Think/Wonder was a success with my little learners. Their response was enthusiastic and the depth of their thinking and questioning increased as the activity progressed. I scribed, and the fact that I added their names after each "I think..." statement or "I wonder..." question made them try harder and think deeper, in order to share more with their classmates. They made connections and shared many relevant comments as we were progressing through the activity, and their level of interest increased considerably as the activity unfolded. I was most pleased to see that all the students were very engaged and used English successfully to participate and to share their thinking.
We read the story of The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man together and we looked at the elements of a narrative more in depth. We realised that each story has different characters, settings, problems and resolutions. We also learned that stories begin with Once upon a time... We wrote our own version of The Three Little Pigs during a session of shared writing.
The excitement grew when it was time for each student to start writing their own narratives. I used The Storyteller's Writing Box from Lakeshore and each student got to choose 3 characters that were going to appear in their narratives. I did this to ensure that they were not going to re-write or copy a story or a fairytale that they already know, but to help them create original narratives. The Storyteller's Box is a a resource that I used many times and I highly recommend it for various learning situations, with different age levels.
Planning, Drafting and Editing
I used the first graphic organiser to allow students to plan their narratives using pictures, and the second one for them to write the first draft of their stories. We edited them together for punctuation.
The process finished with the publication of our very first narratives in English!
Overview of the Writing Process with Student Examples
Very proud of my young authors!
As part of the Poetry unit in Grade 4 Writers' Workshop, we have been looking at different ways to generate poetry. One was to use visible thinking routines as 'recipes for poetry'. I chose a routine called Looking 10x2, which we used with 2 paintings of Van Gogh, The Church at Auvers and Cafe Terrace at Night.
Students are already familiar with Van Gogh's work from a previous unit on Visual Arts and therefore found it very easy to engage with 2 new paintings.
The Looking 10 x 2 routine looked like this for us .
A most interesting and valuable moment happened towards the end of our shared writing, when students had to come up with questions to close up the poem. Questions varied greatly, and each question lent a completely different feeling and message to the poem. We had chosen to write about The Church at Auvers. The questions students came up with stretched from "Is there any hope left?" to "May we enter?" to "When will we see the darn sun again?" to "Is this my home?" to "I wonder where God is?", etc. We couldn't settle for one.
What I really appreciated was the fact that each students' individual personality and voice transcended the writing. They made personal connections, they enlarged minimalistic details and gave them maximal meanings, and overall they submerged themselves in poetry and painting with enthusiasm. Using this routine, the students were able to create meaningful poetry, while thinking deeply about a work of art. They were able to look at a painting and see it from a poet's point of view. This was an entirely new experience for them and it allowed them to find deeper meaning in the art they were analysing, while at the same time engaging in an act of creation themselves, of an entirely different nature, using their words and ideas, instead of brushes, paint and colours. Enjoy some of their writing below!
In Grade 1 ESL we started our unit on Narratives with a thinking routine. We used I see/I think/I wonder to analyse a picture depicting the beginning of the story The Three Little Pigs. The kids showed great engagement and amazed me with their observations and their wonderings. I guess we're never too young for awesome thinking!