Posts Tagged Common Core & NGSS

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– Writing Tips & Resources

 

Accordions and Information

The five-paragraph essay. Love it or hate it, it’s a thing. One of the reasons it is so hard to teach? Young writers rarely see pure examples in their pleasure reading. Still, this formulaic approach can help young writers learn to organize their thinking and writing.

So, how do we teach them to use this tool?

Step By Step

My favorite is the accordion method. Start by printing each of the sentences below on a separate sheet of colored paper.

Green paper:

  • Bugs have wicked cool mouthparts.
  • These mouthparts allow insects to chow down on their favorite food.

Yellow paper:

  • Some bugs have hypodermic needles for mouths.
  • A few insects use sponges for mouths.
  • And, others have strong grinding jaws.

Post those in random order on the board or wall. Challenge students to physically re-arrange them into a logical paragraph. This can be done together on the board or students can copy onto sticky notes and work individually on their desks.

Now, on the board, lay the sentences out with the yellow ones indented to look like an outline. Introduce the color scheme and provide examples from texts they are familiar with (textbooks, student writing, etc.):

Green = General topic

Yellow = Reason, detail or fact

Red = Example or explanation

Accordion it!

Next, demonstrate how a paragraph, like an accordion, can be lengthened if we add additional information. Show the new sentences below and have students move these examples into place on the outline.

Red paper:

  • The assassin bug stabs its sharp proboscis through the exoskeleton of other insects.
  • The house fly uses its labella to sop up spit-soaked food.
  • The mandibles of a cockroach crush with a force five times stronger than human jaws.

Rewrite on the board in standard paragraph form.

Once students are comfortable with the color scheme, challenge them to use highlighter markers to color-code pre-written paragraphs. You can write your own or use examples from textbooks or STEM Tuesday’s reading list. For example, Page 30 of What was the Ice Age:

“To have enough energy, Megatherium needed to eat a lot! It ate grasses, buts, and fruits. It dug roots out of the ground with its sharp claws. It stood on its hind legs to pull leaves from the highest branches. Some scientists think Megatherium might have even eaten meat.”

Once they are ready, have students use this color-coded sticky notes to create a paragraph about their favorite animal.  For some fun, let students swap yellow and red notes to create silly paragraphs.

Extension

To extend the lesson, demonstrate how a single paragraph can be lengthened like an accordion into a 5 paragraph essay, a section of a longer work, or an entire book. For example, in Ice: Chilling Stories from a Disappearing World students can study the introduction as one accordion and the entire book as another.

Finally, have students examine nonfiction trade books, magazines, and a variety of informational texts. Are super-structured paragraphs common? Discuss why and why not. Are they more common in one type of informational text? Is the formula more common in the over all text than as paragraphs? Do students prefer them or not?

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Prepared by:

Heather L. Montgomery writes books for kids who are wild about animals. She is author of 17 nonfiction books for kids, including What’s In Your Pocket? Collecting Nature’s Treasures and the upcoming Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs.

www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

Perspective in MG Lit: Lessons in Empathy

I read an APA article recently that quoted a Stanford psychologist who referred to empathy as the “psychological ‘superglue’” that helps us all to react with kindness, understanding, and support. Empathy is one of greatest, most important life lessons for anyone, any age, any background; it fosters cooperation, inclusivity, forgiveness, and volunteerism; it can serve as both a preventative and an antidote for conflicts and disagreements on matters personal, political, familial, environmental, and worldly.

Many schools and classrooms actively or subtly coach the development of empathy. The middle grade ELA classroom offers prime opportunities for coaching empathy because many MG readers are still developing the cognitive and social tools needed to perceive someone else’s point of view. And let’s face it, the middle grades (well, school in general) can be a hazardous proving ground to navigate with the potential for strong emotions, communication struggles, and impulsivity; generally speaking, middle graders can benefit from lessons in empathy to better weather the storm.

Since the ability to perceive issues and conflicts from another’s perspective is key to an empathetic reaction, teachers, librarians, and homeschooling parents have consistent opportunities to coach empathy in group study by introducing, reviewing, and analyzing point-of-view as a story element. Discussing the viewpoints and perspectives of fictitious characters (rather than friends, family, and other real people) can provide and promote a safe space for exploring emotions and observing the empathetic reactions of peers. In thinking how that article and others might be useful in MG lit instruction and the coaching of empathy, here are some interpretations and takeaways:

  1. Offer the chance to students to practice empathy toward a variety of characters. It might be easy to empathize with the comfortable familiarity of the I-voice character, the character who looks and speaks in ways similar to their own appearance and speech, or the central character whose conflict is often made clear. Discuss instead why readers might try to empathize with the antagonist, with a character who is different from the reader in multiple ways, or with a character whose actions cannot easily be explained by a clearly stated conflict. Readers should strive to see implied motivations, points of connection, and new, potentially challenging perspectives.
  2. It’s actually not about “stepping into someone’s shoes.” Readers shouldn’t try to empathize by imagining themselves (as exactly who they are) in the problem or conflict, because each reader’s experiences, being different, have the potential to change or remold the problem or circumstances around their own preferences, needs, and background. Instead, practice “other-oriented” empathy, which would encourage the reader to focus closely on how and what and why the character is feeling—and how, therefore, the character’s actions might be explained or interpreted.
  3. As teachers, librarians, writers, and parents, we want readers to have an appropriate emotional reaction to a book; readers shouldn’t, though, let themselves become burdened with a character’s suffering or sadness.

Some classroom activities that may help to develop empathy:

  • Rewrite a scene from a secondary character’s perspective.
  • Focusing on a character’s drastic or surprising decision, create a “Top 5 Reasons Why” list to explain implied or explicit reasons for the choice.
  • Represent a character’s emotions in a symbolic, stylized collage, design, piece of music, or poem.
  • Review the subtext of a scene and a character’s movements and body language to practice interpreting nonverbals.
  • Extend reader understanding of a character’s role in the story (or a key figure’s role in nonfiction) with a character interview (crafting that character’s first-person responses) or a diary entry (written as that character).

Some works that offer the potential for empathy-building strategies, discussion, and activities (though, happily, most MG reads in general fit this bill 😊):

Jacqueline Woodson’s Remember Us: Almost-seventh grader Sage must balance the comforts of the past with the inevitable (and sometimes exciting) potential for new changes.

Landra Jenning’s Wand: Eleven-year-old Mira struggles under the heavy weight of grief since her father died and feels unhappily out of place with her stepmother and stepsisters. When a mysterious girl steps out of the woods and offers Mira three wishes, she hopes fervently that magic might be real.

Jarrett Lerner’s A Work in Progress: In a mix of prose, verse, and sketches, middle schooler Will seeks acceptance from peers and a crush named Jules; plagued with body image concerns, Will determines to transform his physical appearance.

June 2023 releaseJ. Anderson Coats’s A Season Most Unfair: Set in medieval times, Tick—short for Scholastica—is proud to help with her father’s candlemaking business, even though she isn’t permitted to take the role of an official chandler (candlemaker) apprentice. When her father allows a boy named Henry to apprentice the trade, Tick knows she must prove to her father that she is a capable chandler—in spite of being a girl.

STEM Tuesday: Snow and Ice– In the Classroom

What can we learn by studying ice and snow? From chemistry to poetry, try these classroom activities to get your students excited about the cold!

 

Mission: Arctic: A Scientifc Adventure to a Changing North Pole: Weiss-Tuider, Katharina, Schneider, Christian: 9781771649568: Amazon.com: BooksMission: Arctic: A Scientific Adventure to a Changing North Pole

by Katharina Weiss-Tuider and Christian Schneider

 

Until now, the world of the Arctic was a mystery. This guide follows the 2019 MOSAiC expedition whose mission was to let their vessel freeze in the sea ice and drift to the north pole. Why? To study how the Arctic is changing. Featuring photographs, facts, diagrams and more; the thrilling world of the Arctic will come alive as readers discover its secrets.

 

Student Activity

The MOSAic expedition site has a whole list of educational activities for elementary to high school students. They can learn more about the Arctic ecosystem, make ice cores, and much more. Find the entire list here: https://mosaic.colorado.edu/activities. Also check out educational resources about the expedition here: https://mosaic-expedition.org/education/.

 

 

 

What Was the Ice Age? by Nico Medina and Who HQ

What Was the Ice Age?

by Nico Medina

A part of the “What Was” series, this book is a look at our world 20,000 years ago when glaciers and ice covered most of our planet.

 

Student Activity

All kinds of interesting mammals lived during the Ice Age. Have students research some of their favorites. Here are some ideas: woolly mammoths, saber-toothed cats, giant ground sloths, and Irish elk. Have them create diagrams of their ice-age mammal, drawing pictures of them, labeling different parts, and including facts when they can. Here are a few sites where students can find more information about their favorite ice-age mammals:

 

 

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past: Eamer, Claire, Shannon, Drew: 9781771387316: Amazon.com: Books

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change Is Revealing the Past

by Claire Eamer and Drew Shannon

A fascinating look into how unexpected things have been emerging from ice melting due to global warming. The book  discusses glacial archaeology, a scientific field in which researchers study these finds and discover new things about our past.

 

Student Activity

Ice mummies are revealed when ancient ice melts. And there is so much we can discover about their lives by studying their remains. Ask students to read more about an ice mummy, such as Ötzi the iceman, and then write a story about a day in the life of that person. Tell students to include factual information in their narratives, citing their sources.

 

Ice! Poems About Polar Life Book Review and Ratings by Kids - Douglas Florian

Ice! Poems About Polar Life

by Douglas Florian

With poetry, wordplay and lots of humor, poet Douglas Florian introduces children to animals that live in the polar region, and also explores scientific concepts like global warming, animal adaptations, and much more.

 

Student Activity

Take a look at a different part of the cold—snowflakes. Show students some macro photographs of snowflakes, explaining how each is unique. Have students pick a favorite and write a poem about its shape and form. The Library of Congress has some great resources for students.

 

 

 


Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. Visit her at https://latchanakenney.wordpress.com