Welcome to a series of ten lessons on planet research! This set of lessons is part of a larger unit my district is implementing all about the topics of space and books with great word choice. My grade level completes a research report or project for each of our six thematic units. This happens to be the fifth research project my students are completing this year.
I loved completing these lessons because none of my students' reports came out the same - even those who researched the same planet! The design of this unit was inquiry-based, so students chose the direction of their report. Some were interested in the history of their planet - how it got its name, who discovered it, etc. Others wanted to know if there were features similar to Earth, or why their planet had so many moons.
I've included the Planet Research Packet in this section of my lesson on each day. I refer to page numbers as I walk you through each day of this series of lessons, however I left page numbers off, in case there were pages you didn't want to use. You may notice that my student samples vary slightly from the packet I've provided for you. I made changes to the packet as I noticed things that could be made better. I hope you and your astronomers find these resources helpful as you research planets! Thank you! (See Resource File: Planet Research Packet)
*Clipart in my lesson picture purchased from ScribbleGarden on Etsy
Introduce Skills: We begin by reading through page six in our Planet Research Packet, outlining the objective of this activity. Keeping our standards front and center, we identify that we are to find interesting words and figurative language to make our reports amazing! I chose to use four different types of resources for modeling and examples today, posters, word lists, thesaurus, and mentor texts.
Warm-up: I ask the students to close their eyes and think about their planet, and it's features. Then I model my thinking aloud about Venus, "Venus is really hot, dry, and has an atmosphere that traps heat. I want to be on the lookout for interesting words and phrases that mean hot." (See Resource File: Planet Research Packet - Page 6)
Definitions and Examples: We have posters and word lists we have used before to help us understand and use parts of speech and figurative language. I review the idiom, metaphor, simile, and onomatopoeia posters with students, asking if they think any of the examples on the posters would apply to their planet. I also have students turn, pair and share after each poster to generate and share ideas. During independent research time, students will view the word lists. (See Resource Files: Idioms, Metaphors, Similes, and Onomatopoeia Posters and Word Lists)
*If your students are new to figurative language, you may want to choose just one to teach about and add to your research report.
Thesaurus: Today, I'm choosing to use a thesaurus to model good word choice, or "awesome adjectives". We always keep dictionaries and thesaurus' out on our counter, near our writing center. I model for students how to look up the word "hot", and show all of the examples, before I choose sizzling and torrid. I told students that I thought those would be great words to use in my report. I like the way "sizzling" sounds, and "torrid" is a new word for my schema bank, so I'm building new learning. I add these two words to my teacher sample packet.
Mentor Texts: We've read, and have lots of great books with examples of awesome word choice, including figurative language. I put these books on the ledge of my white board and remind students about them, and invite them to come up and browse for some interesting words from our mentor authors. Here are some books I have in my collection: Skin Like Milk, Hair Like Silk by Brian Cleary, Hairy, Scary, Ordinary by Brian Cleary, If You Were Onomatopoeia by Tricia Shasken, Why the Banana Split by Rick Walton, More Parts by Ted Arnold, Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood.
The students work on completing the Comically Cool Words page in their Planet Research Packet, page six. They are welcome to come up to the SMART Board and view our posters, view the lists of figurative language located at our writing center, thesaurus', and mentor texts. I walk around the room and help as needed. My astronomers really enjoyed this activity. Word choice is so fun! This is a great lesson to do again when completing our next writing project. It doesn't have to be an informational project, it can work with narrative projects, too. (See Students Samples One and Two)
Some of my students need additional time and will work a few minutes into our literacy centers time. It's always important to me that students finish up the task of the day, so we can all move on tomorrow.
Review: We review the purpose of choosing cosmically cool words in our reports, and turn and pair and share our favorites with a neighbor.
Peek at Tomorrow's Mission: I let the students know that we'll begin drafting their report-paragraphs tomorrow. They'll get to put all of their ideas together.
Here are some additional resources you may find helpful if you're working on a space-themed unit.
Do We Wish Upon a Shooting Star, or Falling Rock?: This document is an informational passage that includes multiple choice questions. My students need practice with these types of questions, including those with multiple answers, questions with Part A and Part B, and fill in the blank. I teach in Illinois, and our students will be taking the PARCC Assessment beginning next year. I hope these types of tasks will help prepare my students for these tests, as well as our end-of-unit assessments, and overall mastery of the standards. The focus of this assignment are standards RI3.1, RI3.4, and RI3.7. (See Resource File: Shooting Star, or Falling Rock MC Practice)