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Find more Unpacking a Standard
Animals are a reliably high-interest subject for students. Even reluctant readers are often eager to investigate their favorite creatures while also learning about new and different species. Luckily, educators have many informative, skillfully written, and attractively illustrated books about animals from which to choose. The following recently reviewed titles and accompanying activities can help teachers meet the interests of a wide range of students while implementing the standards CCSS.ELA-Literacy RI.1.5–RI.6.5.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.5. Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
Kinkajous. By Rachel Lynette. 2013. 24p. illus. Bearport, lib. ed., $21.32 (9781617727528). 599.76. K–Gr. 3.
An interesting subject, presented in simple text and familiar nonfiction text features, makes this a sound text to share with young readers. Take a look at a page of your choice and determine as a class which words and information are most important by noting the text features the author has used. Have students discuss why they think the author highlighted those particular pieces of information. Would the students agree that the highlighted information is the most important? What information would they have drawn attention to instead? What text features would they have used?
Snow School. By Sandra Markle. Illus. by Alan Marks. 2013. 32p. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (9781580894104). 599.75. Gr. 1–3.
Snow School is a fascinating narrative about snow leopards growing up in their first year. Here, readers won’t find typical nonfiction text features. But throughout the book, the author highlights in italics the lessons that the cubs learn. Read the story together as a class, and then have students go back through the text to locate the italicized information. Discuss why the author may have thought these sections were important and why they think Markle uses subtle features to highlight that information.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5. Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
Animal Superstars and More True Stories of Amazing Animal Talents.
By Aline Alexander Newman. 2013. 112p. illus. National Geographic, lib. ed., $14.90 (9781426310928). 591.03. Gr. 2–4.
Animal Superstars is broken into three sections about three different animals, which are then broken down into three further sections. This is an informational text, but the book’s captivating narrative reads more like a collection of short stories. Separate students into three groups, one group per animal, and then have each group analyze the various text elements, specifically, the “Did you know?” fact sections, chapter endings, and informational inserts. Do these elements add or detract from the animals’ stories? Have students refer back to the text as they answer why or why not.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.5. Analyze how a particular sentence, paragraph, chapter, or section fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the ideas.
Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope. By Bridget Heos. Illus. by Andy Comins.
2013. 80p. Houghton, $18.99 (9780547681269). 595.4. Gr. 7–10.
This entry in the Scientists in the Field series combines phenomenal photographs with intriguing text to help students discover the world of science outside of their classrooms. Interspersed throughout this title are two-page informational spreads that present topics related to the central narrative. Pair students up, and have each group read and study a different spread. While reading, students should think about why the author included this spread in this place in the book. How does it reinforce the information on the surrounding pages? Does it restate information? How would the book as a whole be affected if this insert was removed?
The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal. By Sy Montgomery. Illus. by Nic Bishop. 2013. 80p. Houghton, $18.99 (9780547815480). 599.66. Gr. 5–8.
Photographs are essential to telling this tapir tale, another entry in the Scientists in the Field series. Have students analyze the photographs and their captions. Next, discuss as a class where the captions fit into the particular text on each page. Have students think about if there are any pictures that they wish had more information to accompany them. Finally, ask students to record any questions they have about the photographs that are not answered by the captions or text. These questions can lead to further inquiry and research.
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