Sample Lessons

Comprehension Lessons 

Activate and Build Background Knowledge

Initiate:  Begin by selecting a good read-aloud text on a rich topic.  Next, have kids pair share about what they think they know about the topic.  Teach/Model:  Create anchor chart with two columns (What We Think We Know and What We Learned).  Think aloud about what you think you know.  When you read on and learn something different, share.  Then, strike through what you thought you knew in the first column and add what you learned in the second column.  Invite kids to share what they think they know and record thoughts on chart.Guided Practice:  Read on in the text together and continue to add information to the chart.  Celebrate when kids reverse a misconception.Independent Practice:  Have kids read on for themselves in a nonfiction text at their level.  Hand out a sheet labeled “What I Think I Know/What I Learned), for kids to fill in as they read for information and answer questions, clearing up their misconceptions as they go.  Meet with individuals or small groups as they go.   

Think and Wonder About Images

Initiate:  Bring in large, compelling images and have kids turn and talk about what they notice or wonder about these photographs.Teach/Model:  Share a Big Book or photographs.  Model how you notice information, make inferences, and ask questions from the photos.  Place post-it notes with your learnings, questions, and inferences on the images.  Talk about how much you can learn when you “read” images as well as text.Collaborative Practice:  Engage kids in the process.  Have them get together in small groups.  Hand out large images on a topic they are studying or on any topic of interest.  Ask them to view the images and then jot their questions and thoughts on post-its.  Share.Independent Practice:  As they read independently, remind kids to pay attention to photographs and illustrations and jot down what the images make them think or wonder about, and what they can learn from the images. Variation:  I See, I Think, I Wonder…     


Collaboration Lessons  

Creating Group Ground Rules

Initiate:  “We have already made a list of things that make meetings and discussions more effective and more fun.  Now you are launching into different inquiry projects with your own groups, so you may need some special guidelines just for your particular team.  You’ll be doing more than just discussing:  you’ll be researching, interviewing people, doing experiments or surveys, and creating writing or charts, videos, artifacts, or performances.  It’s a good idea to talk about how you will work together and solve any problems that arise, before you begin your projects.” Teach/Model:  “Get into your groups and brainstorm for a few minutes.  What would be some important rules to have as your team works together?” Allow 5-6 minutes for kids to talk. Re-gather as a class and list suggestions.  Comment on suggestions and let kids know which ones sound useful and enforceable.   “Now you have two jobs.  First, you need to decide what rules you want to adopt.  You don’t want tons of rules – maybe just three or four important guidelines for your projects.  When you have decided, write them down on the Ground Rules form. “   

Written Conversations

Initiate:  Identify “debatable” topic for discussion – maybe specific questions that have come up in inquiry groups, or a whole-class subject relevant to all.  The best topics for written conversations are open-ended, with no right answer, have a value or interpretive or judgment decision, and are subjects that reasonable people can disagree about.Teach/Model:  Kids sit in their small groups and each writes name in upper-left-hand margin of large piece of paper.  Explain two rules:“First, be sure to use all the time for writing.  Second, don’t talk, even when passing notes.  We want to keep all the energy in the writing.  Write for a minute.  Write your thoughts reactions, questions, or feelings about today’s topic.”Keep time by walking and watching.  When most students have filled a quarter of a page, it is time to pass.“Pass your papers to the next person in the circle.  Now read the entry on the page and just beneath it, answer for one minute.  Tell our reaction, make a comment, ask questions, share a connection you’ve made, agree or disagree, or raise a whole new aspect.Collaborative Practice:  “Pass again, please.”Repeat this process three or four times total.  Kids read all entries each time and may respond to one or all.  “Now pass one last time, so that you get back the paper that you began with.  Now read the whole conversation you started.”As soon as kids are done reading and start talking, invite them to continue to conversation out loud.  After a few minutes, call the kids back for a short, focused whole-class discussion.      

Inquiry Lessons 

Model Your Own Inquiry Process

Initiate:  When you begin teaching the research process, share your curiosity.  Begin all inquiry projects with a celebration of curiosity.  Talk about how curiosity drives you to learn more.Teach/Model:  Explain how research is an important process that adults go through every day to make choices and decide how to act.  Create a list of things you wonder about and share them with your students.  Share a time when you got a question answered.  As you share your inquiry process, talk about different ways you found information – reading, going online, asking a specialist, doing further research.  Also explain that some questions (Quick Finds) are easily answered by jumping online or asking a knowledgeable person, while others require much more research to find answers.Guided Practice:  Have kids come up with at least three authentic questions they wonder about and create their own wonder list.  Then have them talk to a partner about their questions.Collaborative Practice:  Have students check their wonder lists and see which questions they think might be Quick Finds and which will take further research.  Code with QF and explain you will also build in time for them to research more complex questions.  Invite them to search for answers to their QF questions.  

Organize Group Findings:  Create Question Webs

Initiate:  Share how hard it can be to keep group information organized while pursuing answers to questions.  Question webs help us stay on top of what individual members are learning by offering a place to make thinking visible and hold it over time.Teach/Model:  Question webs place the group inquiry question at the center of the web.  The spoke lines are used to add information that relates to the question.  Individual group members continue to add lines as they come up with more information related to the question.  Model using one of the inquiry circles.  Guided Practice:  Have each inquiry circle create question web, writing theirnames at the top and the group question at the center.Collaborative Practice:  As kids research their question in their inquiry circles, they should post information related to it on the question web and notice whether the answer is emerging.