Today we continue our series of posts with back-to-school lesson ideas built around picture books and connected to each standard. Yesterday, we shared books for teaching standard 1 across the grades. Today we look at literary text standard 2 for each grade-level (K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) and offer a connected lesson idea. Once again, the way the CCSS are written, any book of substance can pretty much teach any standard, if you are intentional in the way you write the lesson. The lessons below specifically address standard 2, but if you analyze them you will find they can also easily connect to several other standards. Since these are lesson ideas for starting the school year, the titles explore topics such as community, learning to read, loving books, the importance of print, and identity.
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Kindergarten and First Grade Lesson Idea
ELA.RL.K.2 With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.
ELA.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
Suggested Title: The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni
In this dear book written and illustrated by Leo Lionni, the letters on each leaf of a tree must band together to form words and then sentences before the wind blows them away. Each time they pull together, the letters form increasingly complex words and sentences, learning that the important thing about words is the ideas they convey. Lionni’s lovely parable about the power of the written word presents a beautiful context for talking about the ways letters and ideas work together.
Before reading, use a green marker to draw leaves (as if in the top of a tree–like on the cover of the book) and put magnetic letters on each leaf. Then, arrange three magnetic letters –M-O-M– on a magnetic board. As an introduction to the story, say the name of each letter and then model for students how to say the sounds of each letter and blend them together to read mom. Tell students that the way you said the letter sounds and read the word mom is how letters work, but that the important thing about the letters is that they go together to communicate ideas.
Read aloud The Alphabet Tree to students and engage them in discussions about the meaning of the story. Talk with students about how they are going to get to write important messages and stories during the year, as well as read books with important messages (main idea).
Let students retell the story as you use the magnetic letters on the board to illustrate their retelling by moving the letters for each part of the story. If you have small, plastic insects, you can attach magnets to the insects from the story and use these for the retelling, too. Otherwise, you can draw and erase the various insect characters. Help children remember the sequence of the story, the characters, and the details.
As an extension, leave the book, the magnetic letters, and the insect magnets out as an independent center for students.
Second and Third Grade Lesson Idea
ELA.RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
Suggested Title: Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
In this enchantingly beautiful retelling of the classic folktale, Jon J. Muth sets the tale in war-torn China, where three, weary travelers stumble into a village of suspicious folk who are unwilling to even talk to the strangers. Each villager is hoarding his/her food stores, with windows and doors tightly locked. With the help of a little girl, the travelers manager to lure the villagers out as each one contributes to a pot of stone soup. In the end, the travelers serve the villagers, who have discovered the power of love and community.
Stone Soup’s illustrations really accentuate the circle, so we recommend you let students sit in a circle for this story. (Note: students may have heard a version of this story before, but this version is special, so keep reading and let them know that they can compare this version to other versions later.)
Read aloud Stone Soup sharing the illustrations as you go along. After reading, have students talk with partners about what they think is the central message of the tale. Engage the whole class in a discussion about the meaning of the text and the ways it can apply to the new classroom community you are all building together.
As an extension, bring in other versions of “Stone Soup” and let students read them independently or in small groups to make comparisons. For even more fun, make stone soup by letting each student bring something to contribute.
Fourth and Fifth Grade Lesson Idea
ELA.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
Suggested Title: The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
This beautifully written and illustrated retelling of a story by Leo Tolstoy, comes from one of our favorite author/illustrators, Jon J. Muth. In it, a boy named Nikolai wonders how to decide what is the best thing to do in a given circumstance. He asks three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important? What is the right thing to do? The story follows Nikolai on his quest for the answers to these questions. Along the way, life happens and he is pulled into various situations that require him to make decisions. In the end, he learns that the best time to do things is now; the most important person is the one you are with; and the most important thing to do is what the person with you needs.
Before reading the story, perhaps when students come in one morning, let them free write/journal in response to the prompt: What is the right thing to do? Students are likely to express confusion over the prompt, but encourage them to interpret it any way they want. After letting some students share their responses or letting everyone share with a partner, read aloud The Three Questions. Engage students in a discussion about the meaning of the book. Explore with students the possibility of letting these three questions guide decision-making in the classroom. Talk through classroom conflict scenarios or other hypothetical events and role play the ways the three questions could be applied to the situation. How might the questions help with decision-making in the classroom? What are their shortcomings as a tool for your classroom community? Depending on the response of your class, you may want to illustrate the questions to hang them in your room and/or let students “Three Questions Posters” around each of the classroom rules you develop together.