Teaching Organization Using A Busy Year
- Grades: 1–2
Overhead Transparency download
Twin baby mice Willie and Winnie befriend a fruit tree, Woody, in the winter and, in doing so, experience the beauty and wonder of a whole year of the seasons. They play in the snow and then celebrate the return of Woody's leaves as spring arrives. In the summer, the dry weather causes a fire-and the two mice come to Woody's rescue. In the fall, they harvest Woody's fruit and say goodbye soon after that, but not without presenting Woody with a special gift from the heart. This is a charming story. In this lesson, second-grade students explore the organization trait by categorizing the months of the year by season and thinking about ways to begin a story that takes place at a particular time of year. They develop the middles of their pieces, again, by grouping months by season and writing about an activity they enjoy doing during that time. Finally, they examine how Lionni's book ends and create their own special gifts from the heart.
Organization: A Definition for Primary Students
Think of organization as the framework that holds a building together-the concrete foundation, the steel beams, the weight-bearing timbers. When the building is finished, the skeleton isn't visible. What you see instead are the shapes of the rooms, the finished walls, the windows, the light fixtures. But the building is solid because of its sturdy framework. You know it works. Same goes for writing. If you look closely at the work of even emergent writers, you may see signs of organization, such as:
- several pictures on the same topic, in sequential order
- information grouped by circling, highlighting, and connecting lines
- a clear beginning and/or ending
- use of connecting words such as and, but, and so
- use of sequencing words such as first, then, later, and the end
Lesson #1: Starting With a Bold Beginning
- a copy of A Busy Year
- overhead transparency of "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" (page 5)
- "Months and Seasons" printable (page 6)
- overhead transparency of "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" (page 7)
- paper, pens, markers, crayons, pencils
What to Do:
- Discuss with students that a key part of planning a piece of writing is thinking about how it will start. Display the overhead "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" and talk about the importance of a bold beginning-how it grabs the reader and makes him or her want to read on.
- Show students the cover of A Busy Year, read the title, and ask them what they think it is about. They may respond that it's about all the things we do in a year. Or, they may indicate it's about a school year. Or a calendar year. Point out the picture on the cover and ask who they think will be having the busy year. Students should notice the two little mice, which are the main characters.
- Read the first four pages of the book, showing the pictures as you go. Ask students to guess the time of the year. They will likely respond that it is winter because there is snow on the ground and snowflakes in the sky, and the little mice have made a large "snowmouse."
- Give students the "Months and Seasons" printable. Tell them the months are out of order and ask them to put a "w" for winter by the months that Lionni mentions in the first four pages of A Busy Year. They should mark January and February. If you like, make the "Months and Seasons" into an overhead transparency and fill it in along with students, as a model.
- Continue reading A Busy Year, stopping to help students mark the months on the "Months and Seasons" graphic organizer as you go. Use "sp" for spring, "s" for summer, and "f" for fall. The book ends with December, so students will need to add one more "w" to complete the printable.
- Ask students to cut out the months and paste them into the corresponding season boxes on the printable. (Be sure they paste right below the season name to leave room for drawing.)
- Tell students to draw a picture in each box of an activity they enjoy doing during that season. Then ask them to caption the drawing.
- Display the overhead transparency "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" and discuss how Lionni's story begins. Students should recall that it starts with the winter season and the months of January and February.
- Ask students why Lionni didn't start with December, since it is a winter month. Some students may answer that January is a good starting place because it is the beginning of the calendar year. Others may say that he couldn't have ended with a Christmas surprise if the book started in December.
- Ask students if they can think of other times of the year when things begin. The school year begins in August or September, for instance. The growing season begins in the spring.
- Put students into pairs and ask them to choose one of their four drawings as inspiration for the beginning of a new story, keeping in mind points of "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning."
- For students just beginning to write: Focus on step #7. Have students illustrate an
activity they enjoy doing during each season with as much detail as possible-and
caption the pictures to the best of their ability.
- For students who are writing independently: Ask them to write out the beginning
of their story, from step #11, and draw pictures to go along with it.