Ecosystems #4: Print vs Digital Information Sources

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students compare print and digital information sources.  Most of the students are familiar with both print books and digital devices, but the comparison is a good exercise.  It asks them to think critically and objectively about what each kind of source can do for them, giving them perspective and a better framework for selecting information sources.  I developed this lesson for Grade 3, the age at which students may begin to use digital devices for information searching, and I’ve had good success with it.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

3-4

Objective:

To compare print and digital information sources.  (AASL 1.2.2, “Demonstrate confidence and self-direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.”)

Suggested Time:

40-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Given the categories on which to base their comparison, each student will complete a graphic organizer chart comparing print with a digital information source. 

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

We can find information in many places.  Paper books are only one of those places.  You’ve used paper books recently to find five facts and create a short comic story based on those facts.  However, we can also find information from safe and trustworthy websites.

A website is a place on the World Wide Web that contains information about a person, organization, etc., and that usually consists of many Web pages joined by hyperlinks.

A webpage is a page of words, pictures, etc., that is shown on a website.

Today we will look at one of those websites (which has many webpages) called DK Find Out.

2. Main:

Pass out the student assignments.  Go over the instructions together, making sure that the kids understand their task.   I prefer to do the exercise together, as a group, so that no one gets sidetracked or loses focus.

Remind the students that they have already learned the parts of an information book.  They have also used information books to find facts.  Today they will use a digital source to find facts, then they will compare what it is like to use a print information source vs what it is like to use a digital source.

Project your computer or iPad and, as a class, use DK Find Out to gather five facts.  This will be easy and fun to do.  Here are some of my favorite kid-pleasing “facts.”

  1. Woodpeckers make a very unusual sound.  (Animals and Nature, Birds, Woodpeckers, Audio file)
  2. Drums come in all shapes and sizes.  (Music and Literature, Musical Instruments, Drums)
  3. The most popular car of all time was the VW Beetle.  (Transport, History of Cars, Most Popular Car)
  4. “Ahoy Maties” means “Hello Friends.”  (Talk Like a Pirate Video)
  5. Oil is less dense (lighter) than water, so floats on the top of water.  (Science, Forces and Motion, Floating and Sinking)

Ask the children to record five facts on their assignment sheets.  After you have done this, ask them to think about how print and digital resources are alike or different.  Together, work through the chart on the assignment sheet so that they can carefully compare the two.

3. Conclusion:

Remind the kids that books are great sources of information, but so are electronic sources.  Most of the time they will use both print and electronic sources to find information for school work and personal inquiry.  Both can be helpful for different purposes and at different times.  They must become skilled users of both kinds of information sources.

I like to have kids write in big letters, “Print and digital information sources are both important,” as a wrap-up and finish to this lesson.

Resources:
  1. Internet connection and access to DK Find Out web site.
  2. Ability to project your computer screen so that the class can gather facts together.
  3. Copies of the Student Assignment (attached).
  4. A few paper books on ecosystems or animals that live in specific habitats.
  5. Devices for the kids to use if you want them to explore DK Find Out on their own after the assignment is complete (optional).
Notes:

Kids can get very distracted in this lesson.  DK Find Out is so full of amazing audio and video files that the kids just hop around discovering new sights and sounds.  It becomes very difficult to pin them down and get them to complete the assignment, so I have learned to just do the assignment together.  Once the work is done, they can explore DK Find Out on their own.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A handful of Unit of Inquiry books so that they can be used as points of comparison against the digital source.

Key Terms:

Digital Information Sources, Web Sites, Web Pages

Student Handout, Print vs Digital

Ecosystems #3: Five Facts and a Story

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students gather five facts from a nonfiction text.  Then, they use one or more of those facts to write an original story in comic book format.  It’s a sure winner because kids love to make comics!  The lovely Corinna Mansfield, currently at Renaissance College in Hong Kong, taught me this creative and fun-filled approach to working with nonfiction texts.  A sample of Corinna’s work is attached.  Thanks, Corinna!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

3-5 

Objective:

To gather five facts from a nonfiction text and then use at least one of those facts in a comic-style story.  (AASL 2.1.6, “Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, technology skills to create products that express new understandings.”)

Suggested Time:

45-55 minutes.  However, the comic template is large and if the children make intricate drawings or have trouble translating their facts into images, you may need more than one lesson for them to complete the project.

Success Criteria:

Each student will gather five facts from a Unit of Inquiry text on ecosystems or animals that live in specific ecosystems.  Once the facts have been identified, students will use one or more of them to write a short comic-style story.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the students that they have been learning about elements of nonfiction texts.  Nonfiction texts are loaded with information!  But, as students, you are tasked with taking in the information out of the text and making it your own.

Ask the students to tell you the difference between a fact and an opinion.  Usually, teachers cover this material so I do not teach it.  The children should be able to tell you, but if they can’t, teach these basic concepts.

Explain the assignment.  Tell the students that they will be using the Unit of Inquiry books to find five simple facts.  Using five simple facts, they will create a comic-style story.  So, the assignment has two parts:

  1. Find five simple facts
  2. Illustrate the facts in a comic-style story

2. Main:

Pass out the student assignment sheets (see attached.)  The assignment sheets should be one piece of paper with printing on both sides.  When folded, there should be a front cover, a double page comic spread inside, and a back cover with space to write five facts.

Explain that the first step will be to gather five facts.  Students should choose one of the Unit of Inquiry books that interests them that they can read independently.  Using the text, students will write five simple facts on the back of the assignment sheet.  After the five facts are written down and have been checked, the students can work on their comic-style stories.

Give children time to gather five facts.  I have seen a lot of kids struggle to do this.  They will be required to read, think, and write information in their own words, which is quite difficult for some of them, so be prepared to support.  They can, of course, help each other.   However, each student should do his or her own work.

Once the facts are in place, encourage the students to think of a simple story that highlights at least one of the facts.  One of the most interesting student projects I have ever seen was from a little girl who collected facts on hippos.  She learned that mother hippos protect their offspring from crocodiles.  So, in her story, a mama and baby hippo were out for a swim in the river.  A menacing crocodile appeared, the baby started to cry, and the mama hippo scared off the crocodile.  This student put the mama hippo in a superhero cape at the end!  She used only one fact, but she had a delightful time on her project and the project clearly showed her new understanding.

3. Conclusion:

Ask students to reflect on their experience.  What was fun about this assignment?  What was hard?  What did they think of making a comic?  Would they ever want to do something like this again?  Have the students share their work with one another, tidy up, and place their comic-style stories in their Unit of Inquiry notebooks.

Resources:
  1. A selection of Unit of Inquiry books.
  2. Student Assignment sheet (see attached).
  3. Pencils.
  4. Colored pencils or art supplies for creating the comics.
  5. Additional comics templates from Printable Paper (optional) https://www.printablepaper.net/category/comics.
Notes:

I have done this assignment with students as young as Grade 2 but I find that students in early elementary (Grades 1 and 2) are simply not yet mature enough as writers to be able to handle a blank template.  Thus, I recommend using the lesson with Grades 3 and above.

You may very well need two periods to complete this project.   Please plan accordingly.  You will get great work out of the kids, but there are a lot of pictures to draw and that work can’t be rushed.  Be sure to show them how not every box needs a full picture.  In Mrs. Mansfield’s sample, some of her boxes only show a small part of her lion.

Be prepared in case students ask you for extra, blank comic templates.  My students enjoyed this process so much that I now keep comic templates for them in the library.  They know that they can choose a template and create a comic anytime.  Many comic templates are available online and are free.

Finally, there are apps that students can use to create comics.  If they already know the software, great!  However, if they don’t know the software or don’t have access to the software, stick with paper and pencil for now.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A selection of nonfiction texts on ecosystems or animals that live in specific ecosystems.  Use the books that the children have been using in their Unit of Inquiry.

Key Terms:

Facts, Comics, Creative Writing, Lions

Work Sample, Diary of Lion

Student Assignment Sheet, Diary of (Blank)

Ecosystems #2: Non-Fiction Texts, Part 2

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, student complete work on understanding non-fiction texts. Last week students worked on textual elements of non-fiction books.  Today they will work on non-textual elements in non-fiction books.  If they know how information books are “built,” they will be more likely to work confidently and use them more effectively.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

3-4

Objective:

To successfully identify both textual and non-textual elements of non-fiction texts.

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will be able to independently identify and explain textual and non-textual elements of a non-fiction text.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Last week we worked with information books.  We found and checked the table of contents and index.  We looked at heading and subheadings.  Who remembers what the difference between a heading and subheading is?  (Answer: Headings are usually chapter titles while subheadings show us the parts of a chapter.)   Today we will look closely at non-fiction (information) books again.  But, we won’t be looking at the words – we’ll be looking at everything except the words!!  Let’s see how much we can find out and how much we can learn.

2. Main:

Teach elements of the non-fiction text, one element at a time.  Be sure to have students record their findings on their assignment sheet.  The assignment sheet is the same one from last week.  This time, however, have the students work in the section for non-textual elements.

In this lesson, teach students the parts of the book that relate to pictures, diagrams, illustrations, etc.  These are usually:

Non-textual Elements:

  1. Photographs
  2. Captions (descriptions or comments that accompany pictures)
  3. Diagrams
  4. Illustration
  5. Maps
  6. Charts or Graphs
  7. Fact Boxes
  8. Anything else??

It is usually best if the students are seated at tables so that they can open and use their books comfortably.

I usually teach that:

  • Most students can identify a photograph, but very few know the term “caption.”
  • A diagram has labeled parts. This is new information to most students.
  • An illustration is a picture that is drawn by a person, not a picture taken by a camera.
  • Maps usually represent the land or water features of a place.
  • Charts and graphs show relationships in numerical data.  Examples are pie charts and bar charts.
  • Fact boxes isolate and highlight special information.

You will find many more non-textual elements because there is a wide variety of techniques used in non-fiction publishing.

In PYP programs, teachers often write their own curriculum and do not use textbooks.  If this occurs in your school, then children are expected to get information from non-fiction library books.  This lesson, paired with the preceding lesson, is essential for students to be able to work with confidence in non-fiction books.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to make sure that their assignment sheet is complete.  If anyone is missing something, ask them to work with a partner to go back and find the missing elements.

Congratulate the children on their work over the last two weeks.  Tell them that you expect them to be able to use non-fiction books easily now!  There will be lots of chances to practice working with the parts of non-fiction books as the year progresses.

Finally, ask the children to gather the books and return them to a central location in the library or return them to the classrooms for further Unit of Inquiry study.

Resources:
  1. A good supply of non-fiction books on the unit subject.  You need at least one for every child, but I prefer as many books as children in the class plus five or six more, just in case one of the books does not have all the features.
  2. Copies of Student Handout.  (Attached, but you should not need to make copies.   Continue working on the same handout from last week.)
Notes:

The same student handout is used both for last week’s and this week’s lessons.  Make sure you have the student’s assignment papers so that they can continue this week.

The “Elements of Non-Fiction Texts” lessons can be noisy.  The kids get so excited about what they are finding that there is a lot of talking and sharing.  You may wish to have a little bell or another signal to get the kids to quiet down and pass their books on to their neighbor.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A selection of Unit of Inquiry books from the library or the classroom.

Key Terms:

Fiction, Non-Fiction, Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, Headings, Subheadings, Keywords, Text

Student Handout, Non-Fiction Texts

Ecosystems #1: Non-Fiction Texts, Part 1

Lesson Overview:

In the next two lessons, students work on understanding non-fiction texts.  Book design is non-standard.  That means that our students must navigate various forms, layouts, and designs to find and use information.  In these lessons, students learn the elements or components of non-fiction texts in the hopes that they will be able to use printed information resources more confidently.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

3-4

Objective:

To successfully identify both textual and non-textual elements of non-fiction texts.

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes over two separate lessons

Success Criteria:

Each student will be able to independently identify and explain textual and non-textual elements of a non-fiction text.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Not all books are the same!  Some contain stories, others information.  If we looked only at information books, what do you think that we would find?  How are they organized?  What do authors and publishers do to organize and present the information?  What should we know to find and use the information?  In the next few lessons, we’ll be looking very closely at non-fiction (information) books and trying to work out how they are built.  You may be surprised at what you find!

2. Main:

Teach elements of the non-fiction text, one element at a time.  Be sure to have students record their findings on their assignment sheet.

In this lesson, concentrate on textual elements.  That is, teach students the parts of the book that relate to the writing.  These are usually:

Textual Elements:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Glossary
  3. Index
  4. Headings
  5. Subheadings
  6. Key Words
  7. Text

When working on this lesson, be sure that the students are seated at tables so that they can open and use their books comfortably.

Ask students to find “the part of the book that tells you how it is organized.”  For the table of contents, students should understand that:

  • It shows the names of the chapters
  • It shows the pages where the chapters begin
  • It helps you know what the chapter will be about

Ask students how the table of contents is organized.  (Answer: Numerically.)  Ask students how you would best use the table of contents.  (Answer: To go directly to specific parts of the book.)  Ask students to check their table of contents to make sure that the chapter headings and page numbers match.  Then, ask students to pass their books to the student on their right.  Once books have changed hands, teach the next element.

I find that most students have a hard time understanding the index.  Be sure that students know that the index is organized alphabetically!  There should never be any reason to randomly flip pages through books if they know how to use an index!  Give them time to practice, show a neighbor, then pass their books to the student on their right.

Headings and subheadings are also tricky for the children.   They think of “words”, not headings and subheadings.  However, if they understand chapters, heading, and subheadings, they are close to being able to make an outline.  I usually teach that the name of the chapter is the heading and sections of the chapter are subheadings.  Again, have the children practice and show their findings to a teacher or partner.

Keywords and text are a bit easier – they should be the remaining material that is printed in paragraph form.  Keywords are usually in bold.  Remember that keywords should link to the glossary.  Have the kids check to make sure that any bolded keywords are found in the glossary.

In PYP programs, it is often the case that teachers write their own curriculum and do not rely on textbooks.  If this occurs in your school, then children are almost certainly expected to get information from non-fiction library books.  These lessons are essential for students to be able to work with confidence in non-fiction books.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to quickly run their eyes down their assignment sheets to make sure that they have found everything they were looking for today.  Tell the kids that they will continue next week by looking for the non-textual elements of non-fiction books!  Challenge them to begin to pay more attention to the table of contents and index, especially!

Finally, ask the children to gather the books and return them to a central location in the library or return them to the classrooms for further Unit of Inquiry study.

Resources:
  1. A good supply of non-fiction books on the unit subject. You need at least one for every child, but I prefer as many books as children in the class plus five or six more, just in case one of the books does not have all the features.
  2. Copies of Student Handout (attached).
Notes:

The next lesson will look at non-textual elements of non-fiction books.  The same student handout is used for both lessons, so be sure to keep or ask the teacher to keep the students’ working papers.

The “Elements of Non-Fiction Texts” lessons are full-on!  There is a lot of energy and learning going on.  Often, I find that these lessons get really noisy.  The kids get so excited about what they are finding that there is a lot of talking and sharing.  You may wish to have a little bell or another signal to get the kids to quiet down and pass their books on to their neighbor.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A selection of Unit of Inquiry books from the library or the classroom.

Key Terms:

Fiction, Non-Fiction, Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, Headings, Subheadings, Keywords, Text

Student Handout, Non-Fiction Texts

Forces and Simple Machines #4: Eggshell and Books Challenge

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, the children conduct a simple science experiment with eggshells and library books.  This is the only lesson in BiblioGarden that is designed to be a science experiment, so take advantage of this opportunity!  Building on the children’s work with forces, you will use library books to demonstrate how strong eggshells are.  My kids love this lesson, no one ever correctly predicts the outcome, and it is something they’ll be talking about all year.  So, pick up some fresh eggs, have a sponge and bucket ready just in case, pile on the books, and keep your fingers crossed!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested grades:

2-5

Objective:

To measure the strength of four eggshells.  (AASL 2.2.3, “Employ a critical stance in drawing conclusions by demonstrating that the pattern of evidence leads to a decision or conclusion.”)  There is probably a better science standard, but this is the best I can do from within the librarian framework.

Suggested Time:

55-60 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will participate in testing the strength of eggshells with library books.  The books will push down on the eggshells.  This push can be measured in terms of kilograms or pounds of weight (technical, pounds-force as opposed to pounds-mass).

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the students that every force is either a push or a pull.  (Link in case you want to revise this with DK Find Out:  DK Find Out!  What is a force?)  They might have different names like “thrust” or “lift” or “gravity,” but every force is a push or a pull.

Explain to the students that it is rare that the librarian gets to take part in a forces lesson, and even more rare for library books to be used in a science experiment.  But today is a special day because we’ll be doing a science experiment with books!

Ask the children what would happen if they went outside and dropped a raw egg on the pavement.  Everyone will predict that the egg will break.  Ask the children whether eggshells are fragile or strong.  They will almost certainly answer, “Fragile.”  Could an eggshell support its own weight?  Could an eggshell support more than its own weight?  Ask the students to make a prediction about how much weight four eggshells could support.  Ask the students to predict how many books the eggshells could hold.  As a comparison, how many books could they easily hold or carry in their school backpacks?

Tell the students that today, they will be testing their hypothesis using library books.  Have the class “number off,” then begin by giving instructions to the students one or a few at a time.

2. Main:

Ask the children to sit in a large circle around the experiment table.  It is important for the kids to keep their distance so that everyone can see and so that everyone can come up and participate.  Give instructions to children according to their number so that each child gets to be involved in several steps.  Ask the teacher to scribe the experiment and photograph the experiment as you and the children work.

The children will perform the action, but the steps of the experiment are:

  1. Cover table with plastic or protective sheeting.
  2. Set four eggs in bottle caps.
  3. Set four more bottle caps on top of the eggs.
  4. Position the eggs so that they are at the points of an imaginary square about the same size and shape as a book.
  5. Place the cardboard piece on top of the four top bottle caps. The cardboard should be touching all four top bottle caps and is used as a platform for the books.
  6. A few at a time, in numerical order, have the children take turns putting books on top of the cardboard platform.
  7. Continue placing books on top of one another until you run out of time or until the children are satisfied that the eggs can hold a lot of weight! Every child should get two or three turns to place a book on the eggs.  I usually stop the experiment before the eggs break.
  8. Once every child has placed two or three books on the pile, call a time-out and use the bathroom scales to weigh the books.

When I do this lesson with Grade 4 students, we focus on the scientific method.  Afterward, the teachers usually have the children write up the experiment using the scientific method template they’ve been working with in class.  My Grade 2s typically do not write up experiments, but they certainly can weigh the books and record their findings.

If your kids will be doing a write-up, instruct the children to return to their seats and use the teacher’s scribed notes.  At a minimum, Grade 2 children could write the:

  • Question (Example: How strong are eggshells?)
  • Hypothesis (Example: The eggshells can hold ten books.)
  • Conclusion or Findings (Example: The eggshells held 50 books!)

3. Conclusion:

If you have not done so already, take a group photo of the kids standing behind the books piled on top of the eggs.  Ask them if they enjoyed today’s experiment with library books and challenge them to find another experiment that they can do with library books.

Resources:
  1. Low table in the center of the class carpet area.  (Experiment will be done on this table.)
  2. Four fresh eggs, roughly the same size.
  3. Eight plastic, screw-on bottle caps, all the same size.
  4. Plastic sheeting, tablecloth, or protective covering
  5. Cardboard piece large enough to span all four eggs when they are in place.
  6. Books from the classroom library.
  7. Bathroom scale to weigh the books after the experiment.
  8. Camera to photograph the experiment.
  9. Sample lesson with photos: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/eggshell-strength-experiment-kids-stem-activity/   (This lesson uses three eggs, but I prefer to use four.)
  10. (Optional) Scientific Method graphic organizers, one for each child. Use whichever one the teacher is using for the unit.  You can find a free one here:  Free Scientific Method Graphic Organizer
Notes:

I have found that when working with full classes, it helps to assign each student a number.   This way you can make sure that all the children have an equal chance to participate.  Move in number order asking questions and having students take turns putting books on the pile.  For example, “Student #1, please spread the plastic sheeting over the table.  Students #2, 3, 4, and 5, set up one egg on top of one bottle cap.  Students #6, 7, 8, and 9, put the second bottle caps on top of the eggs.  Student #10, please position the eggs at the points of an imaginary rectangle, roughly the size of a book.  Student #11, please add the cardboard platform on top of the four eggs.”

Many versions of this experiment are available online.  Feel free to compare them.  I prefer the experiment using whole eggs, but there are sources which ask you to crack the eggs in half or punch a small hole and remove the contents of the egg.  I prefer using fresh, raw, untouched eggs simply because it’s less preparation for me.

We have found that the eggs easily support over 14 kilograms or 30 pounds.  I’ve had one class get the weight to 24 or 25 kilograms, which is as much as an airline suitcase.  The eggs are shockingly strong, so you don’t need to be afraid that the eggs are going to break early.

Recommended books for this lesson:

None

Key Terms:

Eggshells, Strength, Experiments, Scales, Hypotheses, Scientific Method

Eggshells and Books