As educators, we experience immense pressure to meet our varied responsibilities.  Not only do we need to teach the curriculum, we must do so in a way that is engaging, differentiated, and culturally relevant for our students.  It is very easy to become overwhelmed with expectations, as we strive to teach them all successfully.

I am now in my third year as a primary teacher, and have struggled most with teaching the subject reading in a way that is cohesive for my students.  I have found it difficult to teach “making connections” without talking about visualizing or inferring.  The reality is that the very act of reading consists of many strategies, and as such, we can’t always single out each expectation for our developing readers.

This past term, I conducted a personal inquiry to guide my teaching practice in the area of reading.  As an educator, I explored the following question: How might the use of a guiding question help my students make connections, infer meaning, and ask questions while reviewing information from a variety of texts?

This may seem like a heavy question, but it really wasn’t.  The first step was to create a question for my students, and then select a variety of texts that would help my students find the answer.  Here is a brief overview of our unit, which took about eight weeks to complete.

Guiding Question: Can one person change the world?

We started the unit by discussing this question, and the class was pretty divided in their responses.  Some students said that one person can change the world by helping people, where as others said that one person could not do enough to help the world.

The next step was to explore this question by using mentor texts, which included the following:

Sam and the Lucky Money – Karen Chinn

Martin’s Big Words – Doreen Rappaport

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference – Katie Smith Milway

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth

Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed – Emily Pearson

As we read each text, we carefully examined each of the characters and their actions.  The students used this graphic organizer in small groups, partners, and independently to record their ideas and use proof from the texts.

Name of Person and their Action

Yes, they changed the world.

No, they did not change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The texts provided opportunities for incredible dialogue with the students.  Throughout each story, the students identified world issues such as homelessness, poverty, racism, gender discrimination, lack of education, and more.  We then continued on by examining children of the past and present who have taken action about various social issues, which included Iqbal Masih, Craig Kielburger, Hannah Taylor, Bilaal Rajan, and Nickole Evans.  The students researched information on each of these individuals using non-fiction articles, as well as carefully selected websites.  These sources allowed the children to see real-life child activists, which provided a different perspective then a story in a picture book format.

While the students focused mainly on the guiding question, we also used questioning as a strategy for deepening our thinking.  During read aloud sessions, the students recorded questions that came to their mind, and used their own inferences to answer in a “Reading is Thinking” journal.  We often shared these questions and had discussions about how our ideas were connected to each other.

At the end of the unit, the students were asked to answer the guiding question in any way that they wanted.  Most students recorded their response in writing.  They also recorded their responses on film, which we created into a documentary called “It Starts With One.”  The film has been shared with all of the other classes in our school, and the students have become empowered to share their thinking about the world as a result.

My learning throughout this process has been incredible.  I have learned about the value of creating an inquiry question to guide instruction and student learning.  I have also reaffirmed my desire to teach children about global issues, even in the primary years, as students are never too young to start thinking about how they can contribute to making the world a better place!

Here are some samples of student work:

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About mslombardo

Hey there! My name is Daniela, and I have been born and raised in Toronto. My two greatest passions are teaching and travelling. I am currently a Grade 3 teacher, and I love learning with students on a daily basis. Aside from talking about the world, I enjoy reading books of all kinds, which I consider to be cherished collectibles. My life goals are as follows: 1) Never become too comfortable to settle. 2) Visit a new country each year. 3) Find my way to help the world, one step at a time. What's your global footprint? Think about it. Happy reading!

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