By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger
Using leveled books to help students practice content-area literacy skills can be fun and easy, but it's important to encourage kids to write while they practice reading. Children who are given opportunities to practice the early stages of writing development can quickly develop phonemic awareness and mastery of sight words. In today's post, I'll share fun ways for you to provide kindergarten and first-grade students with fun writing practice as they read leveled books that will help them achieve science standards.
In Kid Writing, Eileen G. Feldgus, Ed.D., Isabell Cardonick, M.Ed., and Richard Gentry, Ph.D. describe many different ways for you to help kids understand how to use a journal to make comments or ask questions. The use of journals with guided reading leveled books mentioned in today's post will ensure that kids improve writing skills. By asking students to write a sentence or illustrate in their journals about what they learned about seeds, they will be engaged in this lesson and want to show their reading comprehension through writing more often.
Making Observations About the Life Cycle of Plants
Planting from the My World series is a wordless book that gives kids an opportunity to make meaning of images that depict the life cycle of a plant growing from a seed. You can use each page to prompt children to share background knowledge that they may have about seeds with their peers.
Ask questions to help children understand why seeds are covered with soil and what the hand in the picture is doing. Then invite students to write sentences or draw in their journals to show what they observed on each page that will help a plant grow. Explain to kids that they should label their pictures, but be sure to write words on the board for children to copy for their labels.
After students complete their journal work, you can give each child a portion of an egg carton to hold dirt, a small cup for water, and a seed for them to put in the dirt. Be sure to model what students should do so that they have guidance on planting their seeds. Don't forget to show them how to carefully put a few drops of water to help their plants grow!
Using Pictures and Words to Organize and Discuss Data About Seeds
From Seeds is a nonfiction book from the My World series that shows pictures of various seeds as well as things that grow from each seed. The text in this informational book uses a simple sentence structure that is great for your next science theme. While you read aloud, use the following questions to prompt kids to make observations about what they see: Does every seed look the same? How do these seeds help us?
Another leveled informational text that gives kids one- to three-sentence details on each page about things that grow is Seeds from the Kaleidoscope Collection. This guided reading leveled book is a great resource that will help activate prior knowledge because of the images of different plants that are shown. Students will also learn that some seeds grow in flowers and that few and many are words they can use to compare and contrast.
As a follow-up activity, pre-label plastic baggies with the name of each student on each bag. Then distribute the bags and ask them to look for seeds to put in their bags to bring to school. Remind them that they probably may able to find a seed in something that they can eat, like an apple, or they may be able to find seeds on plants outside. Don't forget to include a note to explain to families the purpose of the bag so that relatives can get involved in the search too.
Understanding Ways that Plants Help People
Take a walk with your students around the school and remind kids to watch for types of plants they see around the building and near houses. When you've returned to the classroom, use a chart to make a list of the types of plants the children saw on the walk, then read What Are Plants? with students.
After reading, ask the following questions to help them compare and contrast what they saw in the book with what they observed outside: Did you see plants from the pictures outside? Does anyone have a garden at home? What plants do you grow in the garden? How do the plants in your garden help make your life better?
Then have students write or make illustrations with labels in their journals to record what they saw on their walk outside. They might choose to illustrate or write about a fruit or vegetable that had seeds that they have eaten. If some students struggle with illustrating plants, you can provide a collection of produce ads for kids to glue in their journals and label.
Each of these activities will help kindergartners and first-graders achieve important science standards. You can always ask students to share their writing to ensure oral language development as you continue providing engaging ways to practice reading and writing. Be sure to visit our blog soon for more tips to help students in your classroom!
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.