This week I was privileged to spend time in first grade and kindergarten classes. The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn displayed by these young students was a treat!
First grade was embarking on their unit on communities, beginning with community helpers. They asked if I could co-teach a lesson introducing these community members which included a writing piece. Whenever someone mentions people who work in a community, the Sesame Street song “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” immediately begins to play in my head. Is it possible today’s students would be as enraptured by these singing Muppets as my children had been years ago?
We began by labeling a two-column chart Community Helpers and What They Do. We then played the first video clip of the Muppets singing about the Fireman and the Postman. (See chart below.)
The characters had the same appeal to present day primary students!
After the video, we looked at our chart. What community helper was mentioned in the video? What did we learn that he or she did as a job? What else do we know about this community helper? (We were careful to mention that these occupations can be done by both men and women!) Together, we filled out our chart.
It was now time to write! Our notes were that – notes. We discussed what we needed to add to our notes to make a complete sentence. The students eagerly chose a community helper and a job they performed. The room was abuzz as students wrote their sentences and then shared them with both adults and other students.
We repeated the process with another “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” video.
Students were able to glean the information from the video, complete the chart and set off on their writing. Before we ended the lesson, we gathered to discuss what we had accomplished in our time together. We had asked a question, looked for the answer, taken notes on what we had learned and transferred the notes to writing! Wow!
The same process - ask a question, look for the answer, take notes on what we learned and transfer the notes to writing – happened in kindergarten. The five year olds had been observing apples and had created a map together on the attributes of an apple. Their teacher and I wanted them to write about their findings in an organized manner. As their science unit was on senses, we chose to blend the two.
Looking at their attribute map, we posed the question, “How does an apple taste?” Students discussed the words written on their map and chose the words they felt best described how an apple tastes. As they chose words, we circled the words in pink and wrote them on the bottom of our chart. After we finished choosing the taste words, students set off to write. A sentence starter “An apple tastes ..” was provided for students who needed that structure. The kindergarteners were happy to share their sentences with us. We repeated the process asking the question “How does an apple look?” Students debated if a word could belong to more than one category and if they could add words to their attribute map. As they began to write a second time, many began to combine more than one attribute in a sentence – “An apple is red and shiny.” Using a page for each sense, students were writing books on their own, which they could now read and share with one another.
As I left school on Friday, I noticed a stack of red construction paper books in my box. The kindergarteners had completed their apple books and wanted me to read them. They had an audience for their writing and were eager to share their knowledge! What more could we ask of our young writers?