Nonfiction Reading (FREEBIE!)

I love teaching about informational text.  I think that is can easily be neglected since literary text can be more fun to teach.  It is also easier, since most kids are already familiar was literary text structures.

There is also the tiny, little problem with appropriate text levels.  Informational text often can be WAAAAYYYY above your student’s reading levels. I always had the hardest time finding informational text, with any kind of meat to it, that my kids could actually READ.

So now I just write it myself. 🙂 It makes things so much easier.

My latest pack has FIVE informational articles.

The articles revolve around popular December and January themes.  The topics are: the arctic fox, polar bear, snowy owl, blizzards, and the North and South Pole.
These are perfect for small group instruction.
Most the topics address either survival (human and animal) or adaptations (the animals in the articles).
One great way to introduce ALL the topics is by using a Frayer model.  Have you ever used a Frayer model? It is actually a vocabulary strategy that was developed by Dorthey Frayer and some of her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1960’s.   It is a great way for kids to deepen their understanding of vocabulary words.
 In this case, I am using it as a way to deepen kids understanding of the main theme, or overarching idea in these articles. This would be a FANTASTIC way to introduce the articles.  Then, as you read the articles students could add to the bottom showing examples of human and/or animal survival.
I know in 3rd grade, many science curriculum covers adaptations, so I added this as a Frayer model.  You could use these for students to find the animal adaptions that help animals survive the extreme weather. It could be used instead of (or in addition, if you want) to the Frayer model above. It would be used the same, as an introduction to the articles, and then students could add to the adaptions (behavioral and structural) on the bottom as they read the articles.
If you like these Frayer models they are FREEBIES!  You can snag them here!
Each of the articles includes a page of comprehension questions and a graphic organizer for students to practice finding the main idea.
Each article includes a simple extension project for students to complete.  This is perfect for independent  work after students have read the article in small group.
For the animal articles, students will create a “smoosh book.” These are adorable, one page books that students can create.  They can apply their knowledge of text features and new learning from the article and additional, two page Fact File on each topic.
Have your ever seen “smoosh books?” They are so much fun!
Students can create a tiny, library of books by storing all their research books in a small box, like a jello, pectin, or even the single serving breakfast cereal boxes.
Aren’t they precious?  And only ONE copy per student!
For the blizzard and the North and South Pole article, students will be creating flip books. In the North and South Pole Article, students will read the article, then complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the North and South pole.  Finally, students will use the Venn diagram to complete a flip book about the similarities between the two.
Click on the picture below to grab your copy!
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Three Favorite Fall Books

Here in the south, it is JUST beginning to get cool.  I can finally pull on some jeans without sweating to death!  It is heaven! I love teaching seasonal topics because they are engaging and fun.  Students love fun activities and learning about the many seasonal topics. The problem with teaching anything seasonal is making sure that it is also standards-based and follows any district, state, or school curriculum map. That just SOUNDS like no fun. Cue the sad trombone: whomp, whomp, whomp. However, I have picked from of my TOP favorite fall or seasonal books that CAN be used to teach the standards AND engage students.  These books are not holiday specific, so all children should be able to participate. Even better, with these quality texts, MULTIPLE standards can be hit all with the SAME text! Now that is a win/ win!

Please note that all these links are Amazon affiliate links.  I may earn a small commission at no extra charge to you! It helps to keep this little blog going!

The Little Tree by Loren Long

Summary: This sweet story by Loren Long is adorable.  It is about a little tree that does not want to let go of its leaves in the fall and holds them close.  It watches the other trees around it lose its leaves, and grow more. The seasons pass as little tree holds on to its leaves and stays little until the other trees are much taller now around him. Finally, little tree learns to let go and begins to grow and grow.

Teaching Points:

  • Clear problem and solution
  • Clear character response to the events with the tree refusing to let go of his leaves even after several characters ask him why he will not let them go.
  • The events are clear and would be perfect for students to complete a written recount if they have not had much experience with written recounts.
  • The clear storyline and story elements would lead to a nice introduction to beginning middle and end.
  • Although the lesson is implied, it would be a great story to discuss what lesson the tree learns about letting go and how we can apply it to our own lives.
  • Illustrations tell more about the story and show how the tree grows when it finally lets go of its leaves

Common Core Standards Addressed

  • RL.2.2
  • RL.2.3
  • RL.2.5
  • RL.2.7

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

Synopsis: This is another feel-good story. Fletcher is a sweet little fox that is worried about his favorite tree. As autumn approaches, it begins to turn brown and lose leaves.  His mother tells him it is fine, but Fletcher still worries and tries to help save the tree’s leaves. He tries many different ways to help- even catching them and tries to tie them back. Nothing works. He sadly takes the final leaf that fell home with him. The next day he wakes to see his favorite tree beautiful again, but this time covered in shimmering ice sparkles.

Teaching Points:

  • The story is engaging and perfect for questioning before and during reading. The ending is open enough for students to be able to ask questions after reading the text as well.
  • Clear problem, but the solution is more implied.  This is perfect for taking the students to a deeper level of thinking after reading books with explicit solutions (ie Little Tree)
  • Clear character response to the events with Fletcher trying new things each time to tree loses leaves.
  • Fletcher has a different point of view than the characters around him such as his mother and the animals taking the leaves.  This would be a great way to teach point of view, and also how a point of view affects dialogue and the voice since the characters speak.

Common Core Standards Addressed

  • RL.2.1
  • RL.2.2
  • RL.2.3
  • RL.2.5
  • RL.2.6

The Spider and the Fly by Tony DiTerlizzi

Synopsis: This poem is based on the work of Mary Howitt.  It is a poem about a spider asking a fly to “join him in his parlor.” It was a 2003 Caldecott Honor book.  The illustrations are amazing and add so much to the spooky, dark, mood of the text. Of course, the fly does not listen and is entrapped in the spider’s web. The note from the spider at the end of the book perfect illustrates his point of view.

Teaching Points:

  • The poem is written in an aabbcc pattern,  where the couplets (2 line verses) rhyme. Students can discuss how the rhyme ( and occasional repeated line) provide a rhythm and beat in the poem.
  • This poem is perfect for point of view, especially in the beginning where the fly does not want to join the spider.
  • The illustrations are gorgeous and the details of all the dead bugs and ghostly flies are a great warning and foreshadowing for the reader.

Common Core Standards Addressed

  • RL.2.1
  • RL.2.2
  • RL.2.3
  • RL.2.5
  • RL.2.6

Are you looking for full, engaging and rigorous activities to use these books with? Check out my latest pack, Standards by the Season (Fall Edition)!  It is jammed packed with standards-based activities- many that are open-ended and can be used with any text!

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Fitting in Independent Reading

Time and time again research has supported the importance of independent reading. I had no idea that the idea of independent- and even the NAME of independent reading could be controversial until I started digging around for this blog post. Who would have thought about the semantics of the name would be so, so deep? Not me!

I am just going off of the formative research I have seen in my own classroom and practice. Here is what I believe:

  • Reading begets MORE reading.
  • Students that read and practice the skill (just like drawing, soccer, and skiing) become better at reading.
  • Students that find that magic, watershed book can be open to a new world of reading.

Students need multiple opportunities to read. Period.

Those are my biggies.

So, how can we provide those opportunities in our already jam-packed schedule?  The school day is already crazy busy, how I can I add one more thing to my plate?

Think about times that you can easily “steal away” for reading.

Morning Routine

For example, what are students doing first thing in the morning?  My students came in unpacked, chatted with friends, and finished a short morning work activity. When all that was finished they read.  In one of my friend’s classroom, they chat and unpack, choose books, and then read. The morning activity is skipped and replaced with reading. At first, I was unsure about this- what about using this time for a spiral review.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Coming in and reading makes a calm and relaxed classroom. Students are less stressed about getting that morning work complete.

I’m Done Activities

I have a confession: I never did the whole “I’m Done” or “Early Finisher” activities.  I found that it encouraged students to rush. Instead, if students finished anything, they read.  I like this because it was an easily embedded routine, built in extra reading time, and was easy for me to manage. While it may seem boring or not engaging, you would be shocked at how many minutes this can add up to.  My students actually LOVED it, too!

Guided Reading

I know that it is easy to get caught up in all the center activities for guided reading, but I really cannot emphasize the importance of independent reading during guided reading. I personally used a version of the Daily Five to manage my rotations during guided reading. I loved how explicitly the book helped to introduce guided reading so that all kids can be successful.  Even if you do not choose to use the Daily Five model, the lessons on introduction are worth their weight in gold. However, you really need to read the book- not just go with how your colleagues or a blog post tells you how to do it.

If you are looking for activities for students to apply their learning in their independent reading, make sure to check out these Retelling Projects and Literature Reading Response Journal! These have activities that can be used with ANY literature book so that students can use the books they are reading during independent reading time!  Whoo hoo!

When do you fit in independent reading into the school day?

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Johnny Appleseed FUN!

It may 85 degrees here in the south, but I am totally dreaming of scarves, apples, and pumpkin EVERYTHING!  Am I the only one?  And with September, we have APPLES!

Looking to keep things interesting AND standards based? Check out this Apple Informational Text I created.  I wrote it to mimic a magazine with multiple articles.  It includes these texts:

  • An Unexpected Visitor- a poem
    • The Seasons of an Apple Tree- an informational article about how an apple tree changes each season.
    • The Legend of Johnny Appleseed- A biography of Johnny Appleseed that includes a photo caption, bold print, and a map.
    • An Inside look at the Apple- A diagram of the parts of an apple 

I wanted to make sure that teachers could get a lot of mileage with this one text. Each text includes a short comprehension check. Included with the text are several other additional activities. Students will:

  • Practice asking and answering questions
  • Finding the main idea
  • Determining author’s purpose
  • Writing about the seasons of an apple tree

Looking for more Johnny Appleseed resources? Make sure to check out this set of interactive notebook activities! It has ELA, science, AND math activities!

Students can read a book about Johnny Appleseed, answer questions with the book, and find the main idea. Students can write about making applesauce in the crockpot (recipe included!) using pictures to help supporting writing in sequence.

Several math includes are included such as telling time, word problems (a variety for differentiation if needed), and graphing!

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