Language Arts Lesson Addressing Benchmark 5.B.ECb

Mrs. Silva’s classroom has just completed a project about community helpers in the neighborhood. Throughout the project, children have investigated a local post office, a library, and a fire station. The children have decided to host an open house as their culminating activity. They have created and delivered invitations to their parents, their relatives, and two other classrooms in their preschool building.

For the open house, the children have decided to hold a poster presentation. The children will work in topic groups—one group each for the post office, the library, and the fire station. Each child will create his or her own poster, but children will work together to ensure that the posters for each group cover a variety of information.

Before children create their posters, Mrs. Silva holds a meeting with each of the topic groups. She asks for volunteers to share the information or ideas that they will include on their poster and writes down the list of ideas on chart paper. If two children want to create a poster about the same topic, Mrs. Silva helps them think of ways to make each poster unique. Here is an example of a possible exchange between Mrs. Silva and the children:

Teacher discussing poster ideas with children

Mrs. Silva: Noah, tell us what you’d like to make a poster about.

Noah: Mine will be about the computers. I want to say that you can play PBS Kids on the computer.

Kate: I wanted to do a poster about the PBS Kids on the computers!

Mrs. Silva: Hmm. I wonder if there is other information about computers that one of you could share.

Noah: I thought of something else. You have to sign up for a computer at the library, and your turn can be 20 minutes.”

Mrs. Silva: That’s great! Noah will make a poster about signing up to use computers at the library, and Kate can make a poster about playing PBS Kids. I’ll write down your poster ideas on this chart paper.”

When it is time for children to create their posters, Mrs. Silva will again meet with the children from each group. Mrs. Silva will divide them into three groups, with each working on a poster that depicts something they have learned about the community worker.


Note:

Throughout the school year, the children have had experiences with project work. They have expressed their ideas through writing, drawing, and dictation. They also understand that the purpose of a project’s culminating activity is to share their expertise with others. This lesson will combine those two ideas; children will create relevant and informative texts to share with family and peers at their culminating event.

About the Classroom

Mrs. Silva and her teaching assistant (TA), Mr. Chung, are responsible for developing learning activities that meet the needs of diverse learners and address the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). Mrs. Silva knows that the majority of children in her class will meet the standards and benchmarks. However, she will have to make adaptations for those children who need more individualized instruction.

Mrs. Silva is the state-licensed head teacher in a monolingual classroom of 20 children (all 4 years old) with diverse learning needs. There are 17 typically developing children with age-appropriate skills and behaviors in the class. These children act as peer models for the remaining children in the class. Of the 20 children in the class, five children speak a language other than English at home. Languages represented in the classroom include Spanish, Arabic, and Polish. These children are all dual-language learners who started school with a varied understanding of English. Mrs. Silva recently obtained her English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement to teach young children who are learning English. Three children in the class have diagnosed special needs requiring an individual education program (IEP).

  • Aiden has a diagnosis of hearing impairment and has a moderate hearing loss both ears. He wears two hearing aids. His parents have elected for him to receive speech-only instruction, and he is not being instructed in American Sign Language.
  • Olivia has a diagnosis of developmental delay and has Down syndrome. Most of her needs are related to cognitive skills and self-help skills.
  • Reggie has a diagnosis of autism. He has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task for even brief periods of time. He is very directive in play situations with peers and is resistant to change in routine.

On occasion, some children exhibit challenging behavior during small group lessons. Mrs. Silva would like to implement strategies to address challenging behavior in the classroom.

In Mrs. Silva’s classroom, the children are working on project about community helpers in the neighborhood surrounding their school, which is in the downtown area of their community. Their project’s guiding question is, “Who are the community helpers in our neighborhood?” So far, the children have walked through the neighborhood and discovered a post office, a fire station, and a small public library. To prepare for the project, Mrs. Silva has gathered the materials needed to turn the dramatic play area into a post office, a fire station, and library. She plans to convert the dramatic play area into each of these places as the project evolves and children focus more intently on specific community helpers.

Mr. Chung has visited the school library and the local public library and gathered a variety of books about community helpers; these will be placed in the classroom’s book center. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung have also set aside planning time each week to brainstorm ways that project work can be incorporated into other classroom centers (e.g., to represent the post office, they will add packages to the math and science center to be measured and weighed; to represent the library, they will add library “check out” cards and a date stamp to the writing center).

Mrs. Silva’s district uses a state-approved developmentally appropriate curriculum. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung perform universal screenings three times per year (fall, winter, spring) for preschool children.

This lesson addresses a primary benchmark. A secondary benchmark is included to offer ideas for addressing an additional benchmark within one lesson. Teachers are encouraged to be creative in thinking of ways to address multiple benchmarks within one lesson.

Lesson Activity

In preparation for the culminating activity (a poster presentation) for the class project on community helpers in the neighborhood, Mrs. Silva, Mr. Chung, and a volunteer will assist children in using a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts (posters) in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic (post office, library, or fire station).

Materials

  • Chart paper with list of poster topics
  • Medium sized poster board (22” x 28” or similar size) for each child
  • Colored magic markers (for children to draw and write)
  • Permanent marker (for teacher to write dictations)
  • Scratch paper (for teacher to provide models of text for children to include on their posters)

Step 1

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
5.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

A small group of children (five or fewer) meet at the center. Mrs. Silva introduces the poster activity, referring to the chart paper with the list of poster topics:

Mrs. Silva: “Today we will make posters for our culminating activity. Each one of you has already chosen a topic for your poster. You will include three things on your poster.

“First, draw a picture to represent the information you want to share. For example, if I wanted to make a poster about the computer lab at the library, I could draw a room full of computers. Or I could draw a picture of one person using a computer in the computer lab. Your picture does not have to be a certain way; the important thing is to draw something that will help you share your ideas with our visitors.

“Second, write something about your picture. You can use what you know about letters and sounds. For my poster, I could write a sentence: ‘This is the computer lab’. Or I could write a few words: ‘computer lab.’ Or I could try to figure out a beginning letter. ‘Computer’ starts with the ‘c’ sound, like ‘cat’. That’s a ‘c’. I’ll write the letter ‘c’. You can ask me or a friend for help writing letters and words.”

“Last, I will write a dictation on your paper. You can tell me a few things about your poster, like what you have drawn and written, and any other information you’d like to share at the open house. I’ll write that at the bottom.”

Secondary Benchmark

English Language Learner Home Language Development
28.A.ECb: Use home language in family, community, and early childhood settings.

For a child with a home language other than English, Mrs. Silva takes responsibility for learning keys word about child’s ideas in home language (e.g., “la computadora” for computer, for a child who speaks Spanish at home.)

Step 2

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
5.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

Mrs. Silva distributes poster boards and magic markers to the children. The children are divided into three small groups to create posters that include information they have learned about one of the three community helpers. Mrs. Silva, Mr. Chung, and a volunteer each work with one of the small groups. The posters will be part of the project’s culminating event when family members and other classes are invited to view the project artifacts the children have created and listen to the children explain what they have learned about each worker.

From time to time, Mrs. Silva provides individual feedback to help children expand on their work. Here is an example of a possible exchange:

Mrs. Silva: Noah, you are making a drawing to share information about signing up for time on the library computers. Tell me about what you’ve drawn.
Noah: Here is the row of computers at the library. I drew chairs, too! Here is the sign-up sheet at the front. Look, there is the computer screen with the clock. It tells you when you are done.
Mrs. Silva: That is a lot of detail! What numbers go on your clock?
Noah: 20
Mrs. Siva: Would you like me to show you how to write “20”?
Noah: Yes.

Mrs. Silva writes the number 20 on a small piece of paper. Noah uses this as a model to write 20 on the clock on his computer drawing.

Secondary Benchmark

English Language Learner Home Language Development
28.A.ECb: Use home language in family, community, and early childhood settings.

If a child discusses his picture in his home language, Mrs. Silva listens for and repeats key words in the child’s home language, if possible.

Children creating posters

Step 3

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
5.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

As children begin to finish up their pictures, Mrs. Silva helps them write words to describe their drawings.

Children may work at a variety of skill levels. Mrs. Silva provides developmentally appropriate feedback for each child

As one example, a child may write multiple words or sentences, using knowledge of letters and sounds. Mrs. Silva could help this child by encouraging her to add an additional sentence or teach her about capitalization or punctuation (e.g. “You wrote a sentence. Let’s put a period at the end of it.”).

As another example, a child may have a very basic knowledge of letters and sounds. Mrs. Silva could help her identify and write the beginning letter of keys words on her poster. Here is an example of a possible exchange:

Mrs. Silva: You drew a picture of books on the shelf. Let’s see if we can write the first letter of the word “books.” It starts with that “b” sound, just like “ball.” Do you remember what that letter is?

Child: B

Mrs. Silva: Yes. You can write the letter “B” next to your books.

Child: I don’t remember how to make a “B.”

Mrs. Silva: Here, I’ll draw a “B” on this paper for you. You can copy it onto your paper.

Child uses the model to write a “B” on her drawing.

Secondary Benchmark

English Language Learner Home Language Development
28.A.ECb: Use home language in family, community, and early childhood settings.

Mrs. Silva encourages child to write and/or copy words on her poster using English or her home language. If possible, she can bring in a volunteer or staff member who speaks and writes the child’s home language so that words and phrases are accurate

Step 4

Primary Benchmark

Language Arts
5.B.ECb: With teacher assistance, use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

As children work together to draw the group poster, Mrs. Silva works with each child to write a dictation at the bottom of his or her drawing. Here is an example of a possible exchange:

Mrs. Silva: Kate, you have done so much work on your playing games at the library poster. What would you like me to write on the bottom? You can describe your poster. You can also share other information about your topic.

Kate: You should write this: You can play fun games on the computer at the library. There are two games that I like. One is about Curious George. One is about Daniel Tiger.

Mrs. Silva: Ok, I wrote that on your drawing. Our visitors will read about your ideas when they come to our presentation.”

Secondary Benchmark

English Language Learner Home Language Development
28.A.ECb: Use home language in family, community, and early childhood settings.

Mrs. Silva may also enlist the help of a volunteer or other staff member to translate the dictation into the child’s home language. This could be an especially welcoming gesture for the child’s parents and relatives who may attend the culminating event

Monitoring Progress

Mrs. Silva takes pictures of children as they are working as well as children’s completed posters. She places these photographs in children’s portfolios and uses them as evidence of children’s abilities in drawing, writing, and dictating information on a topic.

Ideas to Extend Children's Learning

Mrs. Silva continues to address this benchmark by assisting children in using a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic. Here are a few examples of how she might address this benchmark:

  • Children work cooperatively to create books about future project investigations. For example, during a project about food, the children invite a dietician to speak to their class. Following her visit, they dictate their knowledge to the teacher, who types their ideas onto individual sheets of paper. Children illustrate their dictations. The teacher compiles all of the information into a book for the classroom literacy center.
  • The teacher creates a large drawing/writing center on the classroom smart board or dry erase board. Children can go to this center and draw large pictures to show what they are learning about their topic of investigation (e.g., observational drawings, memory drawings). Children can describe these pictures by writing words or by inviting the teacher, teaching assistant, or a volunteer to record their dictations.

Individual Adaptations for Children in Your Classroom

This lesson was written in the context of Mrs. Silva’s preschool classroom. We now offer some general suggestions of adaptations you can use in your classroom.

Individual adaptations for a child with developmental delays

Child characteristics

Child is able to use simple vocabulary to express simple ideas and words about the library (e.g., lots of books) but does not yet use complete sentences and has trouble recalling complex ideas. Child has beginning level drawing skills but does not yet write letters.

Teacher action

In addition to writing the child’s dictation about the library on the chart paper (lots of books), the teacher provides a picture (photograph or line drawing) to represent that idea (e.g., a stack of books). The teacher encourages the child to illustrate his poster by using the picture as a model (e.g. “Here is a picture of books, just like you told me about. Let’s draw a stack of books like that.”).

The teacher also helps the child include words on his paper by providing hand over hand assistance or offering the child a cutout of the word “book” for him to trace the letters.

Model picture of books

Individual adaptations for an English-language learner

Child characteristics

Child has receptive understanding of directions (e.g., offers a topic for his poster and describes the picture on his poster) but uses a combination of English and his home language to express his answers.

Teacher action

Teacher validates and encourages child’s use of home language (e.g., “Thanks for telling us about your idea.”). She also models simple sentences for the child in English to help him describe his poster (e.g., “This is the librarian. She reads stories.”).

Individual adaptations for a child with autism

Child characteristics

Child has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task. During the activity, this child begins to draw an illustration for the poster he planned to create (e.g., a poster about puppets in the play area of the library) but quickly gets off task by adding additional items to his poster that do not relate to his topic (e.g., a fire engine).

Teacher action

Teacher uses a visual schedule to help this child plan what he will draw on his poster. They work together to decide on four details that the child will include in his poster (e.g., puppet stage, frog puppet, duck puppet, cow puppet). The teacher creates a drawing sheet for the child to follow while he is drawing, which ends with a stop sign icon to alert the child that he should stop drawing.


Note:

Before the small group, the teacher may talk individually with the child to discuss the child’s plan for his poster. This will serve two purposes: 1) it will give the teacher time to find simple icons representing each aspect of the poster and prepare the drawing sheet, and 2) it will give the child additional time to mentally prepare for creating a drawing that includes a finite set of details.

Individual adaptations for a child with a hearing impairment

Child characteristics

Child wears two hearing aids and is receiving speech therapy from a certified speech and language therapist in addition to consultation services from a teacher of the hearing impaired. The child reads lips as a receptive language skill.

Teacher action

Teacher faces the child whenever she gives instructions to the group or to this child. She encourages the child’s peers to do the same.

Individual adaptations for a child exhibiting challenging behavior

Child characteristics

Child is eager to create his poster about the library but has trouble creating the poster while working with his group of peers. He attempts to take all of the markers in the middle of the table. When another child reaches for a marker, he exclaims, “Mine!” Child also has trouble appropriately using drawing materials. When teacher does not attend to this child in discussion and talks with another child, the child uses negative attention-seeking behaviors (e.g., draws on the table, kicks a peer under the table).

Teacher action

Four Markers

Teacher provides child with a visual support to let him know that he can have four markers at his place at one time. She shows him the visual before the activity and points to it if child reaches for additional markers.

Teacher gives this child attention throughout the activity, leaving short spans of time between attending to him to work with other children. She provides encouragement to this child after lapse in interaction (e.g., “You have been busy drawing while I talked to your friend. You made your drawing all by yourself. I’d like you to tell me about your picture now.”).


Note:

To use this strategy, it may be helpful to include this child in a small group with fewer children (3–4) rather than a group with more children (5–6).

Acknowledgements

This lesson plan was supported, in part, by a leadership grant from the Office of Special Education Programs (Project BLEND, H325D110037) and a grant from the Illinois State Board of Education for the Illinois Early Learning Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (D6548). Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.