Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Practice Literacy Skills While Teaching Kids About Martial Arts

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

There are several reasons why martial arts can be an engaging topic for striving readers in upper-elementary grades and middle school. Students can use background knowledge to make real-world connections for social and emotional learning. You can also ask questions to improve oral language development. Keep reading because I’ll explain several ways you can help striving readers practice a range of literacy skills with a chapter book about martial arts.

Reading strategies that I’ll describe in today’s post are based on national and state standards for reading and writing for older striving readers. The strategies that are based on prior knowledge provide opportunities for students to independently make inferences. The combination of informational text and narrative content in Martial Arts , which is a leveled book from the Download Series , can help kids practice the following inference skills: making predictions; cause and effect; comparison of narrative and informational text; fact and opinion; use of context clues.

Things to Consider While Lesson Planning

As you begin planning your lessons to practice reading and writing about martial arts, I would recommend that you double check the pronunciations of different words in the nonfiction book for kids. A free list of tools can easily be found after you search for “how to pronounce” online.

If you worry that this may be a topic that could be misunderstood as violent, you can visit the school counselor for some guidance. You can also check if a demonstration could take place in your classroom. This could be an interactive way to demonstrate some of the benefits of social-emotional learning that come from practicing martial arts.

Activate Background Knowledge to Improve Reading and Writing

Before distributing copies of Martial Arts , ask students to sit with a partner and remind them to have their journals ready. Then say, Before reading this book, we need to brainstorm what we know about the content of the text. Each of you should write the heading “Martial Arts” at the top of a page in your journals. Then write a few facts that you know about this topic.

Provide time for students to write and ask for volunteers to share their responses. Then say the following to encourage their use of questions to make meaning: You are now ready to list some things you would like to learn about this topic. Write a new heading that reads “What would I like to learn about martial arts?” and make a list of questions you have before reading. As we read and discuss the book, you can visit this list of questions and check the items for which you have found answers.

Using Nonfiction Text Features to Practice Reading Comprehension

After you distribute the chapter books, turn to the map on page 4, and explain that the book will explore martial arts from these countries in Asia. Ask if any of the students are from, or have ever visited, one of the countries shown on the map. Then explain they return to the map as they read about the martial arts from specific countries.

To encourage further practice with nonfiction text features, have kids turn to the index on page 48. Then ask if they can find the countries shown on the map within the index. Remind students that if they have any questions about a bold word, they should turn to the glossary.

Social-Emotional Learning and Martial Arts

To help students explore the benefits of martial arts, have them copy the five benefits listed on page 4 in their journals. Then use the following questions to prompt critical thinking about each benefit in relation to social and emotional learning.

  • A fit body: What do we mean when we say a garment fits us. What is a fit body? Why is it important? Why is our body important to us?
  • A fit mind: What is a fit mind? Why is it important? How do we use a fit mind?
  • Self-esteem: What does the word esteem mean? What is our self-esteem? Why is it important?
  • Discipline: Why is discipline necessary for learning. What is involved in being disciplined?
  • Friends: Why do we need friends? Are things like respect, being caring, and sharing parts of becoming a friend? Why is this important?

If there is a student who has been involved in martial arts and has experienced improvement in some of the five results, you should invite that student to talk with the group about his or her experiences.

Making Meaning with Context Clues

At the bottom of page 8, the word routine isn't defined in the glossary. However, kids can use context clues to understand the word in relation to martial arts training. Have a discussion with kids about the routines they have, such as things they do before going to bed. Invite them to share their routines with the group and then encourage them to read page 9 to find out what kind of routines are part of a martial arts class.

Reading Comprehension Practice with Narrative Content

One of the unique features of books within the Download Series is that narrative content is divided into three parts throughout the nonfiction book. This helps expose students to different text types and practice reading comprehension of the informational text. Here are some possible ways kids can benefit from reading the narrative content:

  • Explore cause and effect with the phone conversation and interactions between the characters Scott and Harvey.
  • Use context clues and background knowledge to make meaning of unknown words, such as props and backdrop .
  • Understand the use of similes and distinguishing facts from opinions.

There are several ways you can evaluate your effectiveness of using the book mentioned in today's blog post. Inside the book, there is a quiz that helps you assess students' ability to work with nonfiction text features. You should also observe students' enthusiasm to read more about martial arts. This is a great step in the right direction of fostering a love of reading.

Be sure to visit our blog soon for more tips to help kids practice reading and writing!

Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog .