Teaching Visualization, Vocabulary, and Sequencing with The Curious Garden

May 8, 2017 2 Comments

I’m so glad you’ve stopped by!  Today I am going to share how I teach with mentor texts to grow readers and writers in my classroom…

Being a visual person myself, I think in metaphors :o)  I view comprehension as a room that can be accessed by many doors.  While some of us comprehend best by listening, by re-reading, or by any other strategies, there are many of us who learn by linking the text to visual images.

Connecting text to images – whether that be present on the page (book-provided illustration), created on the page (student-generated illustration), or in the mind (visualization) – is a valuable strategy to strengthen comprehension.

The reality is that our children live in a visual world.  Connecting text to visual images honors that reality and builds on what our students are already used to.  This strategy also taps into the preferred modalities of our Visual-Spatial thinkers and helps them to strengthen their Verbal-Linguistic intelligence.  To top it all off, using visuals in reading can deepen understanding.

The book I’ve chosen to focus on today is The Curious Garden by Peter Brown because we are in the middle of our ecology unit!  This lushly illustrated picture book packs a lot of thematic value – the gardening subject matter is seasonal perfection during springtime months but also applies during any study of plants or ecology, the stewardship theme is timely around Earth Day and all that it represents, and the initiative and perseverance demonstrated by the main character provide the bonus application of character education all year long.  This is the story of a young boy who lives in a rather colorless city; when he happens upon a struggling tangle of plants, he acts on his desire to help them live… and out of his caring grows a ripple effect that impacts his entire community in a very beautiful way.

Whether reading a novel or a picture book, I typically introduce a mentor text lesson by activating background knowledge.  With this book, I have my students share what they know about gardening.  Next, we discuss vocabulary that students will need to understand the book.  This can be a quick conversation or lengthier word work, depending on how long you plan to spend on this book.

Because I share The Curious Garden with my students over several days, I created more opportunities for them to work with the vocabulary words.  I begin by introducing the words and discussing the part of speech and definition for each – download this freebie for the vocabulary slide and two activities!

Next, students create a foldable that organizes the words’ definitions and challenges the student to come up with a “quick draw” for each.  When I first started this type of activity many years ago, I had my students carefully draw each picture, coloring each… and effectively wiling away our reading block with arts and crafts.  Because my goal here is to have students access meaning visually, I came up with the “quick draw” method: using only one color (usually pencil, but I let students pick – if they prefer a colored pencil or marker or crayon, it doesn’t matter – I just limit it to one color to keep the pace lively and the focus on the vocabulary development), the student draws a picture that reflects the word.  I usually recommend that students use stick figures, because this makes clear the level of artistry I’m looking for with this activity (which is not much!).

We continue to connect text with visual images throughout our work with the book. For instance, after I have activated background knowledge and introduced vocabulary – but before I actually read the story aloud – I distribute this sequencing and vocabulary graphic organizer (also included in the freebie) and have student “quick draw” what they notice in the illustrations at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. After students have a few minutes to sketch their observations, they share with their elbow partner what they’ve noticed and predictions they’ve made. Now we are ready to read the story. After our first read, students do a bit of word work on the same graphic organizer. Under each plot point that they’ve sketched, they write a noun that will remind them of that part of the story; finally, they generate five adjectives to describe each noun. Now equipped with rich vocabulary, students are ready to meaningfully discuss and write about the book.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREEBIE-The-Curious-Garden-Mentor-Text-Intermediate-Grades-2453193To download the pages I’ve shared with you today, click on this link:

Thank you so much for reading!  I’m working on lots more posts that feature ideas and activities to teach literacy through mentor texts, so please be sure to check back often!  Happy teaching!

Hedgehog Reader

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  • The Techie Teacher® March 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I love how your lesson includes vocabulary work from beginning to end! Great activity 🙂
    The Techie Teacher

  • Carla March 19, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    Pam…I just love your blog. It is so bright and cheery. I appreciate this fabulous lesson too. Vocabulary is a weakness for so many of my kids, so I will enjoy using this to help them.

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    I teach 5th Grade Gifted children in sunny Arizona. I love to learn, to read and write, and to nurture kind, creative, and effective classrooms! Please join me as I share children's literature, inspirational teaching ideas, and other things that are close to my heart. Read More



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