Carvin’ Up Some Great Informational Writing

by Kelli Lewis

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Gotta teach informational writing this year and need a way to spice it up a bit?  How about teaching it during the month of October and having your students learn about pumpkins…while carving them in the process, of course!? Consider this fun twist on traditional expository writing assignments: Have your students create instructional books about pumpkins, along with a step-by-step “How-To Carve A Pumpkin” guide to go along with it.

Like the idea? Here’s a detailed lesson plan to follow. (This plan was created for first-graders and designed to take one day, but it could be easily modified for older grades, as well.)

Standards:

ELA1W2 b.) The student produces informational writing that stays on topic and begins to maintain a focus.

ELA1W2 d.) The student produces informational writing that begins to use organizational structures (steps, chronological order) and strategies (description).

ELA1W2 h.) The student produces informational writing that may include oral or written prewriting (graphic organizers).

Materials Needed:

The Pumpkin Book, by Gail Gibbons (available at The School Box)

-sticky notes

-chart paper

-markers

-web/bubble graphic organizer, for informational sentences

-pencils

-pumpkins: choose one of the following, according to your classroom’s needs: 1) small pumpkins for every child, 2) medium-sized pumpkins for each group, or 3) two large-sized pumpkins for you and a parent volunteer to demonstrate.

-carving tools

-large trash bag

-butcher paper/newspaper to lay down on the floor/table, underneath the pumpkins

– “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet for documenting (This graphic organizer should just have spaces for: materials, “First you…”, “Second you…”, “Next you…”, “Finally you…”)

Procedure:

  1. Ask your students: What is informational writing? What is a topic?
  2. Read aloud The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons.
  3. Reread the book again, using sticky notes to demonstrate how to take notes and copy an informational statement as you’re reading. Post the sticky note to the page in which you found it. Make as many ‘notes’ as you have room for on your web/bubble graphic organizer.
  4. Go back through the book and transfer your sticky-note information onto the web/bubble graphic organizer. Demonstrate this process to your class. Write each statement from the sticky notes onto the graphic organizer, around the topic “pumpkins” in the middle of the page.
  5. Have students return to their desks and copy your graphic organizer’s information onto their own graphic organizer. (For older grades, students could repeat this process independently with a second pumpkin story or book).
  6. Discuss the “step-by-step” processes for creating a jack-o-lantern.  Discuss the importance of listing the materials and being sure the steps are in order and nothing is left out. Discuss ideas with your students about what you would write.
  7. Record ideas, as you discuss, onto your “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  8. Decide, as a class, what the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet should say. Then, start to create the list of materials and steps.
  9. When it is complete, have your students copy it onto their own “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  10. Now it’s time to carve!  As you carve, refer back to the the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet, made by your class, to see if the steps are in the correct order and that nothing was left out!

Happy carving!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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2 Comments

Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Cooperative Learning, Reading, Writing

2 responses to “Carvin’ Up Some Great Informational Writing

  1. Rachel

    This sounds like a fun activity! I know the students would love it! I could see some students having issues with celebrating something to do with Halloween, so maybe you could just carve designs into the pumpkin instead of a jack-o-lantern face! Thanks for including all the materials!

  2. Kelli,
    I love this idea! I have my children create informational booklets on “How to make a PBJ sandwich, make their bed, etc. I also have my students carve pumpkins during Fall Centers. But, I didn’t think about having them write an information writing about pumpkin carving! It would be cool to have them write the piece and have to follow their own plan or a buddies plan step by step. They would see how important it is to have every step in place with clear directions! I am going to take pumpkin carving to a whole new level this year! Thanks again Kelli for the idea! Love it!