Social Studies for May
We love social studies in kindergarten and first grade. We love the subject that allows us the flexibility to teach children about ….EVERYTHING! The world. During the month of May, we dig into some fun topics. While we don’t subscribe to the idea that cultural studies should be confined to one month, we do enjoy giving nationally recognized culture months some attention. May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We discuss who got the ball rolling on this celebration and made it a nationally recognized celebration. From there, we are always reading books and learning about notable people and events!
We also learned about an amazing tradition in South Korea! We learned all about a celebration called Parents’ Day. We loved making connections to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day where we live. It was so much fun to compare and contrast these two holidays.
Another topic we discovered had to do with addresses! Students were really curious about how addresses were assigned. They wondered why we can’t just make up our own addresses and zip codes! We learned why zip codes exist and we even created our own neighborhoods with a system for assigning numbers to each home!
The final topic that we studied was an important one: rights and responsibilities. We love discussing civic concepts in primary! We want to create informed citizens from the beginning. Imagine the type of students we would be able to work with if they’ve been discussing civic concepts since the age of 5! We believe that that would be extremely powerful. In this unit, we discussed the difference between rights and responsibilities. Most lessons stop of the concept of responsibilities by tying it into a lesson on school rules. We take it a bit farther and teach them about the Bill of Rights. Yep. We do! We simply explain that a long time ago, a group of men decided what would be a guaranteed right for an American citizen. We also show the WHO was in the room when those rules were written and ask them who is missing. Lastly, we discuss the fact that when these rules were written, everyone wasn’t a free citizen in America. It all matters.
Real topics are fun. Honestly- we love when these topics come up because the students have so many questions and great conversations. If you’d like to see any of these resources, click any image in this post!
Put Some Fun Into Teaching Nonfiction with Background Builders
LaNesha and I are so pumped about this shift in our teaching. We don’t know about you, but in our many years in education, teaching nonfiction standards was never our favorite thing to do. It’s one of the things we taught because, well, we have to. We knew that kids needed to be exposed to informational text, but we weren’t passionate about doing it. As we evolved and grew in our practice, we realized how valuable background knowledge is. But we were only applying this to fiction texts, math, science, or social studies lessons. One day, it all clicked for us, nonfiction texts are just background knowledge for kids. For what? For life! For the world around them. For experiences they will have. Kids just need to know things. Not only do they need to know things, but they need to know how to process and think about think about things.
We decided to do this by creating a digital magazine for kindergarten and first grade. Because of the demand for a balanced amount of fiction and nonfiction, a teacher would ideally spend two weeks immersed in fiction text(s) and two weeks in nonfiction each month. We created a unit lasts for two weeks. Eight days of lessons and two days for students to show what they know.
Virtually, or in person, teachers will project the magazine for the class to see. A teacher guide has been included for each lesson that outlines actions to take before, during, and after reading each informational article.
The guide is for teachers only. The parts the students see are in the Background Builders magazine. In the magazine file, teachers and students are able to use every slide to project and teach their lesson from start to finish each day!
Let’s walk through a sample day:
This is day 4 from our unit.
(The teacher’s guide for Day 4 is pictured above. What the students will see is pictured below.)
First things first, remind students that you all are reading a nonfiction magazine that contains articles that teach real information. The theme is color, so students should think about how the article connects to color.
Show students the table of contents. Let them know you will be reading the article titled Can You See Me Now? Ask them what page you will be able to find it on. Ask them to remind you why a table of contents is so useful.
Each day starts by showing the focus standards and objectives. There are also guiding questions included. You can tell students to think about these questions as you are reading today. We encourage you all to have students take notes if this is possible.
*Some students’ notes may look like scribbles or drawings. These attempts at note taking should be valued and encouraged as emerging writers as just starting out.* Our students use dry erase boards and markers. (They stop and jot quick notes, not full on dissertations.)
Before each article, you will point out the text features students should look out for in the article. Remind them that text features help readers understand nonfiction texts better. Students will also make a prediction about the topic of the text using the text features.
Finally, you will read the text to your students. Don’t forget to read any captions, too! Consider reading the text multiple times, or as requested by students, to support student learning.
As outlined in the included teacher guide, you should think aloud about how text features you are seeing and how they are helping you comprehend the text.
Some articles are one page. Some are two. Each article is accompanied by four comprehension questions that are aligned to the standards chosen for that day to focus on. Remind student to give text-based answered. Reread the text as needed to support students that are having trouble recalling details. You may only need to reread one section of the text for support.
After you have repeated this format for 8 days (reading 8 different articles and rotating the standards being focused on daily), students will show what they have learned by creating their own nonfiction article. They will use different text features to demonstrate their understanding. They will use the same theme as the magazine they read from: colors. (Each issue will have a different theme.
*Suggestions are available with the download of how to complete this task in the face of COVID.
A rubric has been included to assess student articles.
We truly hope this format is helpful for you and fun for students! Encourage students to take their nonfiction skills to the real world by looking for text features in other areas of their lives.
Naomi and LaNesa
Perspective Through Picture Books: How Can You Implement This In Your Classroom?
This post *should* answer all of your questions about Perspective Through Picture Books!
What’s included in a PTPB Download?
If you have purchased our units, you may have noticed a change in what is included. In an effort to go digital/green, we are reducing the need for printables. This means that the printable workbook that was included in our earlier books will no longer be included.
When we first began writing these units, we were convinced that they wouldn’t be attractive to teachers because they weren’t “cute.” We almost tried to add in some response activities or book-themed crafts to cute-it-up. But then…we remembered who we are and what we believe! We decided to put them out there with the hope that educators would see the power of good books, good questions, and good conversations.
We just couldn’t reconcile the time (or paper) it would take to create a construction paper craft in order to write a sentence as a response. We are after the thinking. We want students to dig into a text and grapple with decisions that are made. We want students to consider the implications of choices. We want students to consider a new perspective. We encourage you to allow your students to collect what we like to call a “Portfolio of perspectives” as they read these books. We envision students leaving at the end of the year with a folder or notebook full of their reflections on windows and mirrors (available for free here) and sharing it with their families. We picture students flipping through and remembering their thoughts about their new perspectives- bravery, integrity, cultural identities, thoughts on homelessness, kindness vs. niceness, etc… When we weigh that against the crafts…for us, there’s no competition.
Now, if you already own the books that we’ve released, you have the printable workbook- and that’s fine! But they will be removed from the books going forward. We have reduced the price to compensate that change. We WILL be leaving the anchor chart cut-outs for teachers that want to use those, but we do encourage teachers to go digital where they can.
Will you be bundling these?
No. We’ll explain.
We firmly believe in culturally responsive teaching. Culture. Is. Everything. When you truly get to know your students on a cultural level, you should be adjusting your teaching practices to reflect your learners. That means that your instruction and materials should look different from year to year! We know that representation matters. When you meet your students, you should be looking for ways to provide representation OR finding ways to disrupt default (white) culture. It is critical for all children to see themselves reflected. White children will see themselves reflected by default as most children’s picture books (or T.V. shows, movies, video games, etc…) feature white children. Picture books are powerful, and white children need to see children of the global majority represented in positive ways. We intentionally choose books where these characters are the heroes, prince/princess, etc… because it’s important to see these characters just living their best life! So many educators wait until February to pull out their “diverse books” and it is only then that children see Black characters in books. This is harmful! If the only time students are seeing Black faces in books is during February (when the books are about slavery, marching, civil rights, etc…) then that sends a clear message to students. Those books SHOULD be taught, but not only during February (Black History Month) and they shouldn’t always show Black characters in a struggle.
All of that to say: You and your team should be hand-picking titles to meet the needs of YOUR learners based on these ideas and more! We can’t do that for you. A boxed set or curriculum guide goes against what we believe is important for teachers that are trying to be intentional about the texts that should be read and conversations that need to be had! We will definitely be able to meet some of your needs, but with each class being unique, there is no way we could meet the needs of all classrooms.
Instead, we encourage you to either a) pick your own books write your own lessons based on the students in your class or b) go through the titles that we’ve selected and sit down and map them out as a team! We will get into this in the next question.
Where should we start? Is there an order you recommend for these books?
Here’s the deal- these aren’t “beginning of the year” book selections. At the core of PTPB is thinking. It’s comprehension and conversation. It’s vocabulary development. It’s not basic.
That means that your students need to acquire the basics BEFORE beginning these units. Here’s a soft set of questions that we ask ourselves before beginning:
- -Are my students able to sit on the carpet and listen?
- -Are procedures for turning and talking tight?
- -Can my students successfully handle getting and using white boards/markers?
- -Can my students IDENTIFY characters?
- -Can my students IDENTIFY the setting?
- -Are my students familiar with the academic vocabulary for literature (setting, plot, retell, compare, contrast, etc…)
- -Are my students able to work in partners/groups?
When the answer is YES to these questions… you are ready to engage in PTPB!!!
Guys. Little kids can do this. Get those kiddos in shape during the first month of school. Get them familiar with talking with partners and assign partners intentionally so that they are able to engage in the questions and tasks in PTPB.
Which books are for Kindergarten and which books are for first grade?
Here is the mantra for PTPB: Any kid (k-1), any book.
We’ve built these units on first grade standards because they are BASICALLY THE SAME!
For most standards the only difference is the phrase “with prompting and support.” The point of PTPB is to lift the level of complexity of reading comprehension. It is supposed to be complex. But- these lessons are delivered whole group. You, the teacher, are providing the “prompting and support.” You will ask students to think and process with each other and then bring it back to the group (this is why teaching charts are critical- they keep track of their thinking!). You might see the questions and think “there’s no way kids can handle these questions…” Okay, first of all, yes they can…. a second of all, yes, they can. Here’s the deal: you’ll do a book with your class. It might be shaky. But then you’ll do a second book and then your students will start to pick up on the cadence of the week. Then comes another book, and another until one day your kindergarten and first grade students are debating the ethical decisions of the characters in a 2nd-3rd level text. They can do it. They can get there. Stick with them and truly serve as their “prompting and support.” Just think about the kind of thinkers your students will be after engaging in a year of these types of texts and thinking! This is the point of read aloud time. We don’t want to put texts in front of them they could comprehend without us. We want to give them the opportunity to engage in high level thinking with our guidance and support. Scaffold as needed and watch how high your kids can soar!
What if I want to do my own book? Can I get a blank template?
Yes!! We now offer a blank template available to plan your own with a full set of directions and a video training. You select a text, pull out your perspective, and literally fill in the blanks! Click any image below!
What about nonfiction?
It is true that our PTPB books focus on literature. We do have plans to begin a line of nonfiction magazines that will hit all of the informational text standards in a similar way. We believe that students just need to learn about the world at large because this is another way to build background. As a matter of fact, that’s what the magazines are called!
We used to have thoughts about all of the units that we would see around a seemingly arbitrary topic. Like foxes. Years ago, couldn’t quite understand the value of spending so much time learning about a fox. What was the point in drilling kids about where they live, eat, etc? Outside of it being “cool to know,” we couldn’t truly see the point. Our thinking has shifted. Now we approach nonfiction with an accessibility lens. If we allow our students to gain extensive knowledge about a fox, when the fox appears in another story or article, they are that much more likely to have higher comprehension. We are equipping them with background knowledge that they don’t need…until they do. When we think of it like that, we are all about it! This way of thinking lit a new fire for random nonfiction topics. Now, we want to build our students up to know facts about outer space, oceans, nature, animals, and on and on and on!
Will you be adding more books to this collection?
Yes! This will be an ever-growing body of work. Basically- if we see a good book, we will make a PTPB to accompany it. Here are some of the titles we are considering or releasing as they are completed.
LaNesha and Naomi