Teaching Organization Using I Am America
- Grades: PreK–K
In this book, the many races, religions, and cultures that make up America are depicted lovingly through images of children. Its simple text-recurring "I am" statements-and colorful photographs show what makes American children alike and different. In this series of lessons based on I Am America, young students try their hand at the organization trait by writing and drawing "I am" statements of their own. They explore how to develop their pieces by thinking about their favorite foods, songs, activities, and physical features, and presenting details about them. Finally, they look at the book's ending as a model for putting the finishing touch on their own writing-without simply using "The end."
Organization: A Definition for Primary Students
Think of organization as the framework-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
- a sense of time through a sequence of events
- use of labels, titles, and captions
- use of lists
Lesson #1: Starting With a Bold Beginning
- a copy of I Am America
- overhead transparency of "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" (page 5)
- photographs from the Internet and magazines
- drawing paper, pens, pencils, markers
- writing paper
- "Things I Do Well" printable (page 6)
- "I Am" printable (page 7)
- overhead transparency of "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" (page 8)
What to Do:
- Display the overhead "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" and discuss with students how writers try to begin their work with a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph that will get the reader's attention.
- Tell students that you are going to read a book to them that begins with two words, "I am," and repeats that statement throughout. The first "I am" is the title: I Am America. Ask students what that means to them. How can anyone be America?
- Brainstorm other ways to express the idea in the title, such as "I live in America" or "I am an American." Ask students if "I am America" is more or less memorable than those other ways.
- Show the overhead "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" and talk about what authors do to get the reader's attention. Sometimes they start with dialogue, a sound, a quote, a question, a visual image, a surprising statement, or an interesting fact.
- Read I Am America to students, showing the pictures as you go.
- Ask students what the author, Charles R. Smith Jr., did at the beginning to get their attention. They might say he uses an "I am" statement and keeps repeating it throughout the book. They might also notice that he uses photos of real children, which are fun to look at. Students may also notice that he uses a photo of the American flag at the beginning to represent all children.
- Tell students they will be writing their own "I am" statements and illustrating them with photographs.
- Display the overhead "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" and remind students of the importance of getting the reader's attention right away so they will continue reading.
- Using the "Things I Do Well" printable, help students think of four things that they do well and represent them, such as "I am a basketball game on Saturday morning" or "I am a lover of books about animals." Ask them to draw pictures of their ideas and, if they are able, to caption them.
- Ask students to share their ideas with a partner and circle the one they like best. Then help them browse old magazines or surf the Internet to find photographs to illustrate their idea.
- Distribute the "I Am" printable and ask students to glue photos they found and to fill in the "I am" statement. Encourage them to decorate the rest of the page so it catches the reader's eye.
- Review the overhead "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" and ask students if they think their work would get the reader's attention and why.
- For students just beginning to write: Write an "I am" statement that they dictate on a blank piece of paper and encourage them to copy it onto their own "I am..."printable. If students are not able to write at all, first write the "I am" statement for them and then have students illustrate it.
- For students who are writing independently: Ask students to write out potential "I am" statements for a good friend, only change the heading on their paper to "You are." Encourage students to draw pictures to go with their statements about their friends. Ask them to write statements about each of their choices that clearly explain why each "You are" statement is a positive and strong match for their friend.