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Ecosystems #3: Five Facts and a Story

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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)

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