This lesson starts with a high level nonfiction book full of rich vocabulary, text features, and interesting connections. It can be used in a variety of age levels depending of the books you incorporate for the small group/partner reading texts. I chose to start with the topic of animals because kids tend to be very interested in animals and it’s adaptable to curricular plans in place. For the lesson below, I have chosen small group/partner texts based on a third grade classroom. I'm wary of recommending books for the independent work simply because kids and schools are all so different. I chose books that kids at my school would find appropriate, but these may be too low for your groups. I suggested a variety of habitats so that students could have rich discussions, so think about that when you are choosing books for your students.
DAY ONE: Text Features
Introduce the book, Zoologists and Ecologists. This book is part of a series called Out of the Lab: Extreme Jobs in Science. Tell the students they will be working with this book for the next few days learning about nonfiction texts, scientists who study animals, and scientists who study animal habitats. Today, they are going to be looking through the book and talking about the features of nonfiction texts.
Out of the Lab: Extreme Jobs in Science Zoologists and Ecologists by Ruth Owen
o Text features are things we find in nonfiction books that help us to understand what we are reading. They can be pictures, words, or graphs that give us more information about the topic.
o Show the Table of Contents on page 3 and talk about how we can use a Table of Contents and what information it gives us. Continue this discussion throughout the book with other examples of text features: Headings, bold words, photographs, captions, labels, glossary, resources, and index.
o Tell students they are going to get a chance to look for text features with a partner (or small group) in another book. Ask, “What kinds of things will you look for?,” “Where will you find that feature?”
o Pass out sticky notes (or have students bring them at the beginning of the lesson) to write down questions they should be thinking about when they work on their own: Which text features did you find in your book? How do you think that text feature will help you learn new information from the text?
Release students to their partnerships (or small groups) with their sticky notes ready to go. They should get started exploring their books and talking to their partners about which text features they are finding and using the post-it notes to help them keep track of what they should be talking about together. Below are the books I suggested, but use what is available to you. The students don't necessarily need to read the books cover to cover (you aren't in the read aloud book), but it should be a book in which they can easily track down information when they need it (and one full of rich beautiful pictures).
Science Vocabulary Readers (Scholastic) Powerful Polar Bears by Elizabeth Bennett
Time for Kids Science Scoops Bats! by Nicole Iorio
National Geographic Kids Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney
Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
Meet back for five minutes and let a few students share some of the text features they found and how they think the features will help them when they read their books.
Students should add their partner (or small group) book to their book bins. They have the option to read this book later in the day for No Agenda Reading if they would like.