Nonfiction: Getting to Know Rachel Carson

By Brent Vasicek on April 13, 2011
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Reading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. I find many upper elementary students have a hard time sorting through the facts and information in a nonfiction text. One series of books, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists, is becoming a hit with my students. These books are the perfect size for practicing nonfiction reading strategies, and the content is of high interest to the students.

 

You can purchase Getting to Know Rachel Carson here.

My class recently read the book in this series about Rachel Carson, the environmentalist who wrote Silent Spring. Mike Venezia, the author, does a wonderful job of summarizing Carson's importance to the world while drizzling in many interesting facts about her life and the environment.

Prereading

  • First we read "Just a Dream" by Chris Van Allsburg. This is a short story about a boy who litters and then dreams about the effects of his littering on the environment. This story gave us a fiction base to which we can connect our nonfiction reading.
  • As many of you know, I love to incorporate music for those students who have a high musical intelligence, so after the above story I played "Chorus" by Erasure. The students discussed the lyrics and made connections to the "Just a Dream" piece.
  • Science Connection: I also discussed the ozone layer and global warming at this time in science class.

Group Reading

  • We do something called "Notes TM" in my class. One of my college instructors taught this to me, and I find it a very valuable note-taking strategy for any book, and especially for nonfiction. The students fold their paper in half vertically to make two columns. On top of the left column they put a "T."Vasicek Students Carson 2 This stands for "Take Notes." There we list any facts or information from the text that we feel is important. "M" goes on the right side. This stands for "Make Notes." All questions we have or connections we make as we read are written on this side.
  • Be sure to draw particular attention to the photos and cartoons in this book. The photos are purposefully chosen. The cartoons give you an opportunity to explore the life skill of "sense of humor" with you students.

 Postreading

  • Make a Difference I: The students were pretty passionate about doing something to help save the environment after reading these texts. Fellow Scholastic blogger Beth Newingham offers her top ten list for going green at school. And there are Web sites that offer to help save the environment by donating money for every click on their link. Some of these Web sites are listed below. Every time we go to the computer lab, you can be sure to find a student clicking the links to help save the world one click at a time.
  • Writing Connection I: I have the students write a friendly letter to their family about what sorts of simple things they can do at home to help protect our environment.
  • Writing Connection II: I first visit Scholastic's Going Bug-gy page, about insects, and then ask the students to write Rachel Carson from a bug's point of view. You can get some pretty creative responses.
  • Debate Topic: We hold a class debate on the topic "Should animals be used to test products?" This debate topic and both sides of the argument can be found in the book 50 Debate Prompts for Kids.  I really like this book for helping to foster deeper thinking and persuasive essay writing.
  • Make a Difference II: Other ideas for making a difference include raising money to adopt an endagered animal. Our school has done this over the past several years, and we have now saved and named four animals. What a sense of pride the students have when we post the animal photo in the hallway! (A special thank you to Miami's Green Team for helping to support our environment and helping us become a "green school.") 

Vasicek Green Team  Vasicek Green Team 2

  Worth Checking Out

 

2I2 Trademark 2010 Vasicek Read every day,

Brent

www.mrvasicek.com

2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's classroom. It symbolizes living with integrity and pushing yourself to your limits.

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