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Report Writing in Primary Grades
Grade Level(s): K, 1-2
By: Michele Marta, Kindergarten & Reading Recovery Tea

This lesson plan describes a highly guided group technique for report writing.

Objectives:

By the end of this lesson students will be able to:
  • listen to the reading of expository text
  • restate, in sentence format, one fact learned from that text
  • assist in selecting subcategories for the report topic
  • assist in organizing factual information
  • produce a report on a topic from information gathered by the class

    Materials:

    • an assortment of age-appropriate books on the topic to be studied
    • one or two videos
    • magazines or other source materials
    • if possible, bring in real examples of the topic. For example, in the study of frogs have an aquarium with frog eggs to observe the changes and development of frogs through all the stages of their lives
    • sentence strips and markers
    • magnets or push pins to post the sentence strips
    • paper and supplies to make individual reports from the information gathered by the class. Include art supplies for illustrations and report covers.
    • For fun, and to compare fact and fiction, have an assortment of fiction books which have something to do with the topic. For example, have the children read Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel, or read the story The Frog Prince.
    • Tie in any songs or finger plays which relate to the topic. For example, Five Green and Speckled Frogs or Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky

    Plan:

    It is a challenge to teach young children how to access information and put it into their own words. This lesson plan describes a highly guided group technique for report writing. It is possible to wean the students from teacher support with each successive report. By the end of the year with second graders it is possible to have them read a short section and prepare a sentence to share with the group. This gives them purpose in reading expository text. I have used this technique successfully with second graders and kindergartners. I have tried to provide some clarity to this lesson plan by giving examples using the topic of frogs.

    Note: The activities described here occur over several days.

    1. Introduce the topic. For example, with frogs bring in eggs and let the children touch and explore the eggs. Let them make predictions about what the eggs might be. Be sure to have a batch of eggs that hasn't been touch so that the eggs will actually develop into tadpoles and frogs. Explain that the class is going to gather information about the topic and write a report.
    2. Access prior knowledge. Ask the children what they already know about frogs. Record their responses on sentence strips. It's hard, but record even information that you know is incorrect. Be sure to find a book that provides correct information so the erroneous statements can be corrected later.
    3. Read factual information about the topic. Before reading, tell the students to listen carefully and to be ready to share one fact they learned from the reading. (I usually remind them that someone else may say their fact before they have a chance, so be sure to remember two or three facts.)
    4. Students state facts they learned. After the reading, everyone stands. Call on a student, help her state her fact in sentence format. It helps to tell students to start each sentence with the topic, Frogs are born as eggs. Frog eggs hatch into tadpoles , and so on. After she has made a contribution have her sit down. Continue until everyone has made a statement.
    5. Record each student's statement on a sentence strip. I also put their names on their facts. (I don't record names when accessing prior knowledge in case some statements are incorrect.)
    6. Repeat these steps for each new source of information. After each book, magazine, or video, repeat the stating and recording steps. Be sure everyone has a chance to contribute every time.
    7. Sort the sentence strips and post them under subcategories. Once there is a large body of information recorded on the strips, decide on categories. Post the categories on the wall with lots of space underneath. Read each strip out loud and let the students decide where it belongs. With frogs categories could include: Life Cycle: eggs, tadpoles, frogs; Food; Habitat; Predators, and Other Interesting Facts. This last category is an important one; it catches all the information that doesn't fit elsewhere.
    8. Sort information under each category. Have the students help you assemble the information under each category into an order that is sequential and makes sense. Get rid of redundant or incorrect information. Read the entire wall of categories and statements to see if it all makes sense and flows together.
    9. Prepare reports. Older students can copy information off of the posted strips into their reports. Type the information into book format for younger children. Leave space for children to illustrate each category. Make beautiful covers. With older children, model or prepare a bibliography. Have them read their reports to younger children.
    Assessment

    The report is the cumulative assessment of this project; however, process assessment occurs as teachers observe the levels of participation by students. If the teacher chooses to do this activity several times through the year, the assessment over time is how successfully each student is able to internalize and independently use the components of fact finding in expository text, and writing an original sentence to express that fact.

    Reflections and adaptations of this activity

    I enjoyed doing this project with second graders. The last time I taught second grade we prepare three reports throughout the year using this process. The first time I followed the steps in the attached lesson plan. With each successive report I relinquished more of my control over the process. The students became increasingly independent.

    By the second report, students were able to sort sentence strips into categories without my help. I read the categories and we discussed them briefly. Then students came up to the stack of sentence strips, took one off the top, read it, and posted it under a category. For the most part, they decided which category themselves. Sometimes they needed help reading some of the words. Sometimes they asked for my help in choosing a category, but they also asked each other. There was a lot of excitement and discussion in sorting the strips. Everyone was doing this at the same time- I have a high tolerance for pandemonium. After all the strips were sorted I read the strips under each category to the class and they checked for accuracy. Most strips were correctly located, but the group would discuss and relocate strips that were not under the correct category. Actually, the reason I decided to let them do the sort themselves was that they seemed to have tired of sorting each strip as a group process, which is quite time consuming.

    By the third time I tried this strategy I was able to give the students short passages to read and write a sentence which I would then write on a strip (or type - see below). Some students still needed a lot of guidance, but many were able to do it alone. However, most of the information was gathered in the group manner described in the lesson plan.

    I modified the strategy to speed up the process. During the second report I recorded their statements on a transparency on the overhead. I can write more quickly on the transparency than I can on a strip and it helped the information gathering process proceed rapidly. Each night I would transfer the information on to the strips. With the third report I just typed their sentences using a large font. I would print the pages and cut apart the sentences. The children would sort those pages the same way they sorted the strips. By the end of the information gathering for the third report I no longer used the transparency; they would dictate a sentence and I typed it as they spoke. Then I would print it immediately, which they liked a lot.

    So much information is gathered that writing it all down becomes an arduous task. On the second and third reports I set the number of sentences to write per category. They were to chose the sentences they thought were most important and write those down in their report. For example, I might tell them that there must be at least three sentences under the heading of Habitat, but they must write seven or more sentences under Life Cycle. They were supposed to reread their work and check it for sequence and logic. This was accomplished to varying degrees : )

    In kindergarten I read short selections to small groups because I didn't want the children to become restless while waiting for their turns. I limited the amount of information gathered by keeping the selections short and few in number. Also, some factual books were read without gathering information. We sorted strips under categories as a whole group activity, as described in the lesson plan. I organized the information under each category into a logical sequence when I typed it. I did this part myself because the kinders seemed to be losing interest in the process. I typed the reports, copied the pages , and stapled the booklets. The children made the covers and illustrated their reports. I look forward to doing this strategy again in kindergarten.


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