By Paula Dugger, M. Ed., Guest Blogger
Thematic units provide fun ways to teach students especially when there are leveled books that can be included in guided reading lessons. In today's blog post, I'll explain how you can use narrative texts at levels C–H in a thematic unit about farms and farming. If you like today's blog post, be sure to stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I'll help you teach kids about farms with nonfiction books at levels C–G.
I didn’t grow up on a farm, but my parents and my grandparents did. I have memories as a young child visiting my grandparent’s farm. It was a place with cows, chickens, and a garden full of vegetables. I remember the barn where I gathered the hen’s eggs, and I remember picking tomatoes from the garden.
Up until the mid-1900s, farm life was more common than city life in the United States. Today, few kids have experienced or visited a farm. As Dr. Seuss reminds us, “Reading can take you places you have never been before.” So, let’s look at some leveled guided reading books within the Kaleidoscope Collection that you can use to teach kids about farms.
Kids may have background knowledge that hens are female chickens and are common farm animals. Hilda Hen is a fun level C narrative text about a hen named Hilda that has five eggs, which give her five chicks by the end of the story. Counting eggs and chicks in this story give readers the opportunity to use math skills while counting from one to five.
In addition to providing kids with counting practice, you can ask questions before, during, and after the story to help them develop critical thinking skills. Questioning helps readers make predictions while activating their prior knowledge. Here are a few examples of questions that you can ask before, during, and after reading Hilda Hen.
- Question to ask before reading: Where does this story take place?
- Questions to ask during reading: How many eggs does Hilda have? Why does Hilda sit and sit on page 7?
- Questions to ask after reading: How many eggs does Hilda Hen have at the end of the story? What happened to the eggs Hilda Hen was sitting on?
It's extremely important for kids to practice after they finish reading to demonstrate their comprehension. You can have students write sentences and draw pictures to indicate how many eggs and chicks Hilda had in the story. This is one way that a reader can show his or her understanding of the text:
Are you looking for an activity to practice short vowel sounds or more questions to ask before, during, and after reading this fiction book? You can download the Kaleidoscope Collection Teachers' Guide and go to page 69. This page will help you practice foundational skills and comprehension strategies with kids while reading Hilda Hen.
Hay! is a level D narrative text that introduces kids to a source of food that many farm animals eat. Some students may have background knowledge about this crop. If not, you can introduce the topic by asking what they think cows, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs like to eat. This book offers opportunities for kids to practice sequencing and retelling.
After students have read the story, let them retell it using a think-pair-share activity. Have students think about the story independently and then pair with a partner to share the retelling. Then create a guided reading activity using sentence strips with different events from the story written on each strip. Ask students to put the events in the correct order and then reread the sequenced sentences to a partner.
You can also have them read the organized sentences to you so you can check for understanding. Below are some suggested sentences for sequencing.
- The farm gate was open.
- The animals went out the gate.
- The farmer got some hay.
- The farmer shouted, “Hay!”
- The animals ran back.
The Farmer and the Groundhog is a funny level H story about a farmer’s problem with a pesky groundhog. This leveled reader offers an engaging way to help kids develop critical thinking skills throughout the book. This narrative text also contains several words that may be unfamiliar to beginning readers, such as crop, critter and pesky.
I would recommend providing some detail about the meanings of these words before having students read the text. Helping students link these unfamiliar words to something they already know will help them develop a better understanding. Here are some suggestions for linking new words to something familiar.
- Crop can be linked to the word hay, which is the subject of the level D book I suggested for this thematic unit. Since plants that are grown on a farm for food are generally referred to as crops, have students name some other crops that they think are grown on a farm.
- Critter is a word commonly used to refer to tiny animals so kids can have a great time making a list of things that might be considered critters.
- Pesky is a word that pertains to the groundhog in The Farmer and the Groundhog because of how much trouble it makes for the farmer. To help students understand the meaning of this word, you can ask students to talk about someone or something that causes trouble.
This leveled book also uses rhyming words within the text. For instance, pages 2 ends with the word crop, and page 3 ends with the word stop. After reading, have students find and list pairs of rhyming words that they find. Extend the activity by having readers add additional words to the pairs found in the text. Students should be able to generate a list that might include cop, hop, flop, and mop as additional rhyming words for the pair found on pages 2 and 3.
Narrative texts offer fun and entertaining ways to teach students during a thematic unit about farms. The characters and illustrations will hold the interests of readers while improving reading comprehension and real-world connections about farming.
Don’t forget to visit us soon for the upcoming blog post on using informational texts at levels C–G within a thematic unit on farms and farming!
Paula is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Paula on our blog.