Teaching Organization Using Red-Eyed Tree Frog
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
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 Red-Eyed Tree Frog
- Overhead transparency of "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" (page 5)
- "Mix and Match Bold Beginnings" printable (page 6)
- Pencils, pens
- Overhead transparency of "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning"(page 7)
What to Do:
- Ask students if they've ever watched a TV show or movie that they knew they would or wouldn't like within the first couple of minutes. What happens in TV shows and movies that gets their attention right away? Their answers might include:
- Something surprising happens, like a robbery or a plane crash
- A really friendly or really mean character is introduced
- The scene is set in an interesting way, whether it's in a city, a foreign country, or inside a house
- There's music-maybe a favorite song
- There are graphics that give information: "In a galaxy
- Display the overhead "Key Qualities of the Organization Trait" and explain that authors do the same thing when they begin a book: They need to get the reader's attention right away so the reader will be excited and want to keep reading.
- Tell students that you are going to read a book to them. Ask them to think about the beginning as you read.
- Read Red-Eyed Tree Frog to students, showing the pictures as you go.
- Reread the book's introduction, "Evening comes to the rain forest," and show the photograph. Ask students if they think this is a good way to begin a book and why. For instance, they might say yes, because starting a story in the evening isn'tall that common; authors usually begin stories in the morning. The beginning also shows the setting-the rain forest-and, again, the time of day. Students may notice that it is dusk, the sun is setting, the sky is a fiery orange, and the trees are dark, providing a sense of mystery about what is out there.
- Tell students that identifying a specific time of day and a setting is one way to write an introduction. Tell them that today they're going to work with four times of the day and four settings that they might want to use in introductions of their own. Write their ideas on chart paper:
- Times of the Day:
- early morning
- a big city
- the mountains
- the beach
- a country garden
- Times of the Day:
- Model for students how you might "mix and match" times and settings to create a bold beginning. Examples:
- It was a warm, hot evening in New York City.
- At the stroke of midnight, I heard an eerie howl that seemed to come from way up in the nearby mountains.
- A country garden is most enjoyable in the early morning.
- Afternoons at the beach are my favorite summertime fun.
- Distribute the "Mix and Match Bold Beginnings" printable, and ask students to try this on their own and to illustrate their introductions, capturing the mood of the time of day and the setting as Nic Bishop does so well in Red-Eyed Tree Frog.
- Display the overhead "Think About: Starting With a Bold Beginning" and discuss with students the joys and challenges of starting their pieces with bold beginnings.
- Ask students to share their four illustrated introductions with a partner and choose the one they like best.
- Put their "Mix and Match Bold Beginnings" on display for all to see. Remind students that their pieces' introductions should always excite the reader and make him or her want to read the rest of their piece. Students may wish to keep theirpapers in a writing folder so they can continue working on them later.
- For students just beginning to write: Ask students to draw all four bold beginnings, but write only the time of day and the setting at the top of each box. In other words, don't require students to write a formal introduction.
- For students who are writing independently: Encourage students to expand on their favorite introduction by adding a detail-rich middle and a satisfying ending, and illustrating their finished pieces.