Rational - As students progress into
the upper grades, they are required to read and comprehend
more expository texts. This poses a problem, commonly known as the "Fourth Grade Crisis."
Students have been inundated with strategies that help them with reading and comprehending
narrative texts, but are completely unaware as to how to sift through the information included in an
expository text. The students get bogged down by all of the trivial information. This lesson focuses
on helping students to learn to differentiate between the trivial information and the important
information and to question as they read. Students will be guided through the reading of "At Home
in the Old Oak Tree." This lesson is meant to be carried out in small reading groups. At the end of
this lesson it is my hope that students will be able to: 1comprehend an expository text, 2create
effective questions, and 3summarize an expository text.
Materials - "At Home in the Old Oak
Tree" Branching Out - Images magazine, Heath Literacy,
Vol. 3 Number 2; Individual Dry Erase Boards; Dry Erase Markers for each student; Encyclopedia
(Volume O); Post It Notes; Butcher Block paper; Notebook paper; and pen or pencils for each
1.Begin by assigning reading groups. It is often effective to do this according to reading ability.
2.After reading groups have been assigned, create activities for the other groups to be working
on while you are busy with the guided reading. Since this story is about oak trees, it might
help to build prior knowledge by having the students do an activity about oak trees. This
would also be a good time for students to go to their assigned centers (spelling, math, social
3.Sit with your reading group at a table. (There should be between 4 and 6 students in each reading group.)
Give each student his or her own magazine to read.
4.Have students turn to the Table of Contents. Why do you think we are turning to the Table
of Contents? What is the Table of Contents used for? After the students have had a chance
to respond, continue: We are going to read "At Home in the Old Oak Tree." Does anyone
know where we can find this article? As the children respond, have them put their finger on
the title of the article in the Table of Contents; this way you can be certain that all of the
students know how to use the Table of Contents.
5.Before you turn to the page of the article. Ask the children what do they think the article is
going to be about? After they respond "oak tree," ask them if they know anything about oak
trees. Tell that when you want to know something about a topic it is sometimes good to look
it up in the Encyclopedia. Look up oak tree in the Volume O encyclopedia. It would help if
you read this before the lesson and knew what parts were interesting and appropriate for this
lesson. Read the portions you selected to the children.
6.Now what do we know about Oak Trees? Discuss what was learned about oak trees from
reading the encyclopedia. Let's turn to page 2 and read this article.
7.Before beginning to read the article, call the children's attention to the pictures and the
captions. Let's look at the pictures; they help us to know what the article is going to be
about. Does anyone know what the words beside a picture are called? Wait for the correct
response. That's right they are called captions. Now assign a different picture and its caption
to each member of the group. I want you each to read your caption silently and look at the
picture. Do you have any questions about your picture and caption? If you do, write it on
your dry erase board.
8.After each child has had the opportunity to practice reading their caption and thinking about a
question, have them read their caption aloud to the group. It might be a good idea if you
took the first caption to model reading and questioning. If you have 5 or fewer students in
your group, you can model the first caption. Read the porcupine caption aloud. I have only
seen a porcupine in a zoo. I wonder if they feel as prickly as they look. What do you think?
Discuss porcupines and continue with the other captions and questions, student by student.
9.Now look at the title. After reading the captions and looking at the pictures, does anyone
know why the title is "At Home in the Old Oak Tree"? Discuss.
10.Tell the students that we are going to break the article up into different sections. We will stop
and discuss each section as we read. You will each be required to think of two things as you
read - a question and a summary of the part read. Does anyone know what a summary is?
Wait for the response. That's right a summary is when you take a large chunk of information,
weed out the unimportant information, and create a sentence that tells the main idea of the
passage. Let's practice.
11.As I read this paragraph, write on your dry-erase boards all of the things that you think are
important. Read the passage that you chose from the encyclopedia. Go around the table and
discuss what the students thought was important. After a consensus has been made about the
important points, continue with the summarizing. Now we need to take the important
information and turn it into one sentence that sums it all up. Do this as a group.
12.Now let's read the article. Take a post it and put it at the bottom of the first paragraph. This
is where we are going to stop reading. Make certain that the students have done this
correctly. Now draw a line down the middle of your dry-erase board. The top is for
questions, and the bottom is for important points. Give the students a minute to do this.
13.Read the first paragraph silently. As you read model on your own dry erase board the
questioning and summarizing. Do this activity with them.
14.When they have finished, ask them if they had any questions. If no one answers, it might help
to have one of your own. Ex. I wonder how many animals live in an oak tree, or how can an
animal call an oak tree a home when it doesn't have walls or a roof?
15.Now go through and ask for the students' important points. Come to a consensus about
what is important and create a sentence to summarize the paragraph. Write this sentence on
a piece of butcher block paper.
16.Now we are going to read the next paragraph. Move your post it notes to the bottom of this
paragraph. Remember as you read to look for important points and write down any
questions you might have. Read silently and write your own questions and points as they
read and write.
17.Discuss the questions the students had and then create your summary sentence. Write your
summary sentence on the butcher block paper.
18.Continue in this way for the rest of the article. Take it paragraph by paragraph.
19.After you have finished reading the article, look at the piece of butcher block paper and all of
the summary sentences. You should have 5 sentences. Read over these sentences as a
20.Assessment - Have students take the summary sentences from the article and create a
summary sentence that summarizes the five sentences. Tell the students to do this on a piece of notebook paper.
This will be for a grade.
21.After you have taken their summaries up, discuss what they wrote on their papers. Now we
have taken this whole article and broken it down to one sentence. Good job!
22.Enrichment - Have students research the animal that was featured in their captions. Instruct
them to write a page about this animal. Discussing habitat, food, life span, and so on.
Pressley, Michael, et al. "Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text." The Elementary School Journal. Volume 90,
Number 1. 1989. 2-32.
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