Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids About Women in History and Resilience

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

Today's blog post is the second part of a series that is written to help kids practice reading and writing strategies while learning about resilient women in history. Keep reading if you're looking for ways to help students determine main ideas and key details with biographies at levels O and P. Mother Teresa and Princess Diana are excellent chapter books that I'll highlight in today's blog post because they share examples of resilience with striving readers in upper-elementary grades and middle school.

Helping Students Summarize Main Ideas with Mother Teresa

Reviewing the table of contents is a great way to begin a guided reading lesson with the leveled biography titled Mother Teresa: Mother to the Poor . To model for students how to develop an understanding of key details in the nonfiction book, encourage them to take a close look at chapter titles. Then you can say, The author has introduced us to the main idea of the book with a title, and the chapter titles in the table of contents give us an idea of supporting details. Let’s read the chapter titles together.

Read the titles together and ask students to use their background knowledge to make inferences regarding the contents in each chapter. Then you can encourage them to read through the third chapter. When they're finished reading, say, Take a look at the big promises listed in the box on page 12. Please write poverty, chastity, and obedience in your journals. Leave some space for writing a sentence about these words and Mother Teresa. If they need help understanding the meaning of vows , remind them to check the glossary on page 37.

Helping Students Write to Develop Comprehension

As students hear and share words in conversation, you can encourage them to use new words in their writing. This facilitates their ability to understand words in print and strengthens their comprehension. Have students add the word poverty to the list in their journals and help them determine a meaning. When they have definitions for all four words, encourage them to write a summary statement that includes a sentence containing the word. Then help them write a concluding sentence, such as These four words tell us how Mother Teresa made a positive impact for others.

Teaching Students How to Identify Key Details in Princess Diana

The first chapter of Princess Diana: The People's Princess provides students with a summary of major events that took place in the life of Princess Diana. These include marriage, helping others, and a funeral. After introducing the book, invite them to make inferences about the pictures in this chapter. As students discuss the significance of the photographs in this chapter, remind them that the images are helpful to understand the significant events in Princess Diana's life.

Have students write Diana's marriage at the top of a page in their journals. Then have them write Diana's funeral in the middle of the same page and say, Let's use these two sections as a way to organize supporting details about these events that you will need to find. You can find supporting details in the pictures and the text.

While students search for key details, you should monitor their progress and answer any questions students may have. Their lists do not have to be in a certain order or look the same. You may want to encourage them to check the index to search the text for key details. After they have completed their lists, invite them to share some of the key details orally.

Improve Writing Skills with Support from Peers

Once students have read the chapter book about Princess Diana, explain that the things she did to help others will help with understanding the main idea. Then have them search for more examples of key details by using nonfiction text features within this leveled book. To encourage oral language development, have students talk about the sources that helped them find key details.

To improve writing in an organized way, use a graphic organizer that includes spaces for the main idea sentence, key details, and a concluding sentence. To review the writing process and facilitate their use of the information they have collected, you can say, To write a paragraph about our topic, we will first need to write a sentence that includes the main idea.

Give some time for students to write their introductory sentence and say,  Now you are ready to use the details you collected to write more about Princess Diana. If you have questions or need help, raise your hand, and I will come to help.

You can be creative with how you organize the content on the graphic organizer to help students improve writing. It's also important to provide tips for editing their writing. You may need to have a writing conference with some students who struggle with this activity. After they've completed their writing activity, you can encourage them to read their compositions to a neighbor.

Keep in mind that struggling readers will need consistent support with reading and writing to ensure students achieve Common Core State Standards. If you'd like to explore more ideas to help practice writing and reading comprehension strategies with these leveled books, you can download the free Hameray Biography Series Teacher's Guide . Pages 34–38 provide tips to use with Mother Teresa . Pages 138–142 provide tips to use with Princess Diana .

Be sure to visit our blog soon to read the next segment of this three-part blog post series that will help you teach kids about women in history. If you missed the first part, you'll find great tips in Reading and Writing About Women in History, Part 1 . In the third part, I'll explain how you can use level O and level S biographies to improve vocabulary and practice 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 .