Math Workshop

Themes & Holidays

My Classroom

Nonfiction is Snow Much Fun!




It's finally starting to feel like winter around these parts. Anyone else have their AC on for Christmas? I don't know about you, but in New Jersey that has never been a thing. The cold came just in time for our nonfiction winter fun! Both our January reader's workshop and writer's workshop units focus on nonfiction, which makes me feel as if all the stars are aligned. :) To me, it is most meaningful to make the connection between the two so that our students can see themselves as readers and writers- together as one. 

I always introduce a unit with immersion lessons- which is just that in itself. We "immerse" ourselves in unit together as a class. For this unit, it looked like me guiding the class towards exploring nonfiction reading and writing by engaging the class in numerous read alouds. I use this time to model my thinking about how and why we read nonfiction. We made the white anchor chart for the first immersion lesson. The second focused on "what types on nonfiction texts can we read? " This was lesson a personal favorite! It was so exciting exploring magazines, menus, flyers, recipes, etc. Then we took the time to explore the library together as a class to hunt for some nonfiction books and book bins. This is something we do in the beginning of the year but can be beneficial to do again as a refresher... especially after they had a few months to explore on their own. After, I told them that they could now have 3/4 dessert books in their book bins since our just right readers are predominantly fiction texts. They went CRAZY and book shopped until they dropped. :) When I'm telling you there were at least 10 readers in the library, with their arms tangles, hands lost in book bins and you could hear a pin drop... I'm not lying!


My mini-lessons have now been focusing on nonfiction text-features, about 2 or 3 a day. I model my thinking about what they are and how they can be used by reading nonfiction books about penguins that I had read during our immersion lessons. We record our thinking each day on the reading nonfiction anchor chart. Last year I created a nonfiction text feature anchor chart by coping pages from the nonfiction penguin books I was reading and referring to in my mini lesson. I place star post-it notes next to the text features we are learning that day. I found this helped students learn the language of text features. 


I draw a link between reader's and writer's workshop by immersing the class in writing a nonfiction book about Penguins. First we discuss the concept of main topic and subtopics. I engage the class by telling them our main topic is winter animals. Then I passed our post it notes and had the class list subtopics (aka examples of winter animals). Next we brought our post it to the front white board and built a web with the subtopics. This allows the students to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between main topics and subtopics. Our class selected penguins as our subtopic to write about.

Luckily and *coincidentally* ;) we had all these facts we knew about penguins (from reader's workshop). Our second immersion was listing facts we new about penguins on the penguin anchor chart and organizing them in categories. Next we took the time to think about the categories and created headings in a table of contents, correlating to the categories. This week we will continue by looking at the list of facts in the categories and re-write them into complete sentences. I did my best to plan by aligning what nonfiction text feature I was teaching in reader's that day and then adding that feature to our nonfiction book. For example teaching diagrams and writing a diagram. 

Our writer's workshop nonfiction unit is a two month unit. Therefore, the first month each student writes their own version of a nonfiction book about penguins. Next month, after having done one book together, the students will choose a topic of their choice and write one on their own. From experience, this worked really well because the kiddos had more schema on the writing process and could thus focus on their research. I'm hoping to team up with a second grade class in our school that just learned how to *safely* research on chrome books to help my kiddos list gather on their topics. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have access to technology, I head Google Jr. is a safe search engine for kids! Next year my first grade team will hopefully have a class set of chrome books to share!  After this unit, we will have a big Author's Celebration by inviting parents in to come and read our books.
Raise your hand if you support cross-curricular integration? *Insert girl raising her hand emoji here.* :) It is AWESOME-SAUCE! I love to kick off a science unit by engaging my students in some real world topics. Our next unit is on solids and liquids. What better way to engage students and build schema than with an exploration on the science of snow?


First we read one of my favorite science texts, The Story of Snow, which integrates math, science and nonfiction. It tells the story of how a snowflake is formed. Last year I just happened to read this on a day that it was snowing in school and we were getting let out early- it was magical! One of my kiddos from last year even went home, got a snowflake and put it under a microscope. Somehow he was even able to take a digital picture of it to share with the class. SO COOL!!!!!!!!! 

The next day we got all hands on deck and explored water and ice. We compared on contrasted our findings and listed them in the chart below.  (Please don't judge my seven pointed snowflake- I know it's supposed to have 6 but I made a boo-boo ha!) We were lucky to have some Scholastic News articles on Penguins and Winter States of Matter this month.  This added more schema, had great videos and even review games on various nonfiction text features.
 We used nonfiction mini readers and articles found in the Snow Nonfiction Pack from the fabulous A Year of Many Firsts, to focus on vocabulary words for this unit. 


Last, I had to pull out the big guns! I surprised the kiddos by saying it was going to snow in room A-14. Hoping and praying that it would work- we modeled the formation of a snowflake in small groups by creating snow!!!!! By far one of my favorite science experiments. I used a kit from Scholastic. You can get it here!  

This nonfiction stuff is seriously SNOW much fun!!!! :) In the beginning of the year I always touch upon nonfiction but it doesn't seem to "stick" like it does now. They realize that by reading it, they turn into smartie pants' because they are learning new facts! 

Thanks for reading along and happy nonfictioning! What do you do in your class when teaching nonfiction?

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