Out With the Old…

“Animals Trapped on Pages: A Study on Fiction and Non Fiction Texts”

Janine Cervi, Valerie Browne with Patsy Grisar, Josefina DeVedia, Punta Chica 1A and 1B students

During our July Summer Institute with Carol Ann Tomlinson at the University of Virgina we experienced plenary sessions and breakout group sessions. In one of those,  the session started with an example of “how some teachers used to plan years ago…” where the focus was very much on the product and the presentation of activities that children completed in classrooms. “Teachers presented encyclopedic units called Apples, or Penguins  where children had no true buy-in to the learning process”. The presenter´s non-example rang too close to home… our final unit for the last couple of years has been a unit called BEARS . Though the unit did include elements of differentiation, we now clearly saw they were just add-ons, details, extras that didnt go to te heart of the unit. Prompted by this realization we left the conference that evening knowing that we HAD to make a change. #Outwiththeoldinwiththenew

We brainstormed and wrote and reconsidered and took most part of the second term trying to replace that (in)famous BEARS Unit. Our overiding curricular goal with it was to teach the characteristics of informative texts and learning to communicate to the group. We rethought the whole thing tackling it now throught the lens of what we learnt at SIAD. We changed the name and what it implies and we reestructured the unit using the KUD framewrok starting with what we wanted the children to understand by the end of the unit. We tossed activities and slideshows and Jigsaw structures and thorough planning sessions. The old unit is now called “Animals Trapped on Pages: A study on Fiction and Non Fiction Texts” and we feel it wraps up our Change Project that started in November 2013. We are proud of how the children did in this new framework. They accepted our challenges , difficult as they appeared at first, and proved the idea of “teaching-up” that Tomlinson encouraged so admantly at SIAD.


We ended up with a unit where children

  • chose which animal to research ensuring engagement,
  • shared their findings proudly with our communiyt by presenting to the 6th graders,
  • worked at home with their families and in class in teams,
  • were challeneged to try their hand at new and apparently “very difficult” tasks,

and a unit that satisfied our requirements as teachers of

  • presenting significant and exciting tasks respectful to our students abilities
  • planning with the KUD framework
  • incorporating instances of Metacognition to promote self reflection
  • going deeper into differentiating in our daily practice.

Our new unit can be read at this link


Samples of the 2015 First Graders work and process can be seen at this link



Categories: Literacy, Primary School, Professional Development Contest 2015

Tags: , , ,

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