I’ve recently begun using children’s literature in my middle school classes to provide a rich context for increasing the amount of comprehensible input I am providing for my students. I began by acquiring some of my favorite childhood books and some current favorites, also taking into consideration the accessibility of the reading level for students. Initially, I had the books available for reading during choice time. Then, one day I decided reading a children’s story might be a fun, engaging way to start class on a regular basis and give kids lots of comprehensible input, with a built-in, rich context.
While I originally had intended for it to be an engaging way to start class, I soon found that the images and text on the pages provided much more than just the storyline I had planned to work with. (I have the story projected on my SMART Board so students can easily see the image and text. One way this can be done is with a document camera.) So far I have used La Paloma encuentra un perro caliente and currently am using Buenas Noches, Luna. As I tell the story, I also talk about what else is on the page to continue to re-introduce the vocabulary. One unplanned activity that turned out well and resulted in comments such as “This was the best Spanish class” was making the students part of the story. With Buenas Noches, Luna the pictures of the cow jumping over the moon and the three bears or even the doll house provided fun contexts make the students part of the story. In one instance a student lived in the house in the picture and realized that the cow jumping over the moon was about to crash into it when he heard the loud moo's of the cow. He ran to his friend’s house next door to escape. It got much zanier than that, depending upon the class. For the 3 bears picture, the students started by naming the different bears. In one story they included a student from the class, Santa, and Morgan Freeman. I asked questions and they explained how all of the different people ended up there. The story came alive in a whole new way!
When I first used La Paloma encuentra un perro caliente, I read the story and talked about the vocabulary, having students help me read in parts, much like I do with my son. My intention was not to create a vocabulary list with it and worksheets. However, I determined that a vocabulary sheet that students could illustrate and use a resource could be a very valuable tool for many students to speak about the story, write about it, or use it in other contexts. From that shift in thinking, the resources that are attached to this post evolved. They include a Google Presentation that introduces students to background information in a comprehensible way about Margaret Wise Brown, as well as many activities for practicing descriptive writing, reading comprehension, speaking, and more. My intent with the activities is to do one a day, but more than one could easily be done. Also linked is the vocabulary sheet and activities that can be done in class with a partner that are tied to a picture of a modern looking children's room with text in Spanish. The activities are designed based on the my interpretation of an Integrated Performance Assessment. However, they are not meant to be an assessment, rather a set of interconnected activities to use in class. I purposefully have tried to make the conversation part include questions students would want to talk about because they are of personal interest.
A couple of ideas for sequencing are included below, as well as the link to my Google file. Feel free to make a not for profit copy of the resources from my Google files! I will continue to revise the file over time, so check back for a most recent copy.
1) Introduce the author of the story with the Google Presentation and have students answer T/F questions about it as background knowledge.
2) Have students use the vocabulary sheet with the word bank to figure out as many of the vocabulary words before seeing the story for the first time.
3) Read the story. Talk about things on the pages as long as students seem to stay focused. Ask yes/no, either or questions.
4) Do a follow up activity from the presentation file.
1) Allow a few minutes for students to add new vocabulary they figured out and add drawings to their vocabulary sheet.
2) Read the story. Add in questions. Ad-lib a story that includes the students in the story
3) Have students do an activity from the presentation file.
Subsequent days can follow a similar structure. I have had students just describe what they see on particular page in the novel as well, as a couple minute speaking activity. I ask them to include as many adjectives in their descriptions as well.
Here is another resource that includes a video that could be intriguing for a Movie Talk, as well as three versions for Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles. I am seeing lots of possibilities here!
See a list of children's books here. The list will continue to be updated.
How are you using children's literature in the classroom?