Finding Kindness in the News

After reading "Thank You Ma'am" and writing thank you notes (which the kids LOVE, by the way), I wasn't sure how I was going to incorporate non-fiction reading into our studies on kindness and thankfulness. I turned to my good old standby, Newsela, and was rewarded with a cute story about a football player sitting at a lunch table with a boy with autism who was sitting all alone. The story had gone viral due to a photograph taken by a security guard at the school that day.

I'll be honest... the students got a little caught up in the aspect of the boy's autism. Not curiosity about the disability itself, but more not understanding how use the word in the correct syntax of the sentence. They would say, "the athlete sat with the autism boy," intending no disrespect, just unsure of how to change the word into an adjective and move it around in the sentence.

We started our first reading with our Newsela worksheet. We studied the photo, read the title, and made a prediction about the text. When we read we incorporated our annotations. We reviewed the annotation marks we made before and talked about how they would translate into nonfiction texts. We highlighted in the text and added our annotations. This is a feature available in Newsela PRO, so if you don't have PRO, you can just print out the article and make your annotations by hand (that's why I used to do before my school got FANCY!)

Students followed along with my annotations as I read aloud. They contributed a few, but honestly, getting them comfortable with highlighting, typing, and following along in a nonfiction text was my goal, so I was OK with allowing this to be mainly a Think Aloud.

They're working so hard!! (And in such a tiny space!)

After reading, we worked together to choose the five most important words. I explained it this way: "If someone asked you what this story was about, what five words from the text would you HAVE to use to explain it to that person?" This helped them with determining importance of words. They did try to choose words that were similar in context (lunch, cafeteria) and I would ask whether they needed both or which one was more important. We also had to make it clear that NAMES WERE NOT ALLOWED! Names are important, but once you start putting names on the list, it becomes less about incorporating words into sentences and just about placing the nouns.

I had all the students try out a 25 word gist statement (including each of the important words) on their own. Two got it and a couple came close, but I also had two that were struggling (which I kind of knew would happen). Once everyone had gotten a fair chance to write their gist statement, we worked together to write one for everyone. We wrote that in the notebook underneath where the Newsela sheet for this article was taped in. Even doing it together, we still had to make changes and edits.

Once we were done with this part, I had students determine the most important section of the article. Instead of choosing a section title (which next time I WILL do), I just had them choose a part of the "story" that seemed the most important to them and we filled out a "Keystone Section" chart that I got from someone much smarter than me.

Finally, we went back to the Character Trait Anchor Chart and added the two main guys from this story. While they aren't CHARACTERS, they do have traits, which were important for us to discuss. They enjoyed thinking and talking about what was in the text and remembered our work from "Thank You, Ma'am."

That seems like it took seven years to get through, doesn't it? I agree! It did take a while, but more like two weeks-ish, with breaks (I only see them four days a week and one of those days is thank you notes and progress monitoring). So, not too shabby. Let's see how the next one goes. We're reading Ray Bradbury...

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