I think it is really important to give Kindergartners lots of experience with information books. Whether this is part of your Reader’s Workshop – or however you fit it into your schedule, it needs to be engaging and fun for the children. I love using puppets as teaching tools, and I have one that I used specifically with information books. Her name is Roxie Heart.
There are lots of things about Roxie that make her very fun to use. It is very easy to put your hand into this puppet, and her mouth works really well. I found little tennis shoes at Michael’s that just fit her. My favorite part of Roxie is that it is really easy to sew little dresses for her, so I use fabric that goes with the information book and make a little dress that helps her introduce the subject of the book. She also has a little purse and always carries something that helps her teach.
Please don’t think that you cannot use a puppet if you can’t or don’t want to make new outfits for different subjects. It does make it fun, but it is optional. However I would strongly encourage you to try using puppets if you don’t already – the children really love them. I saw a presenter use a nondescript monster type puppet and made very simple clothing for it by coloring on paper lunch bags that fit over his head – it was every bit as effective!
In the photo Roxie is wearing her ocean dress, but she has a turkey dress too. Roxie comes to visit the class BEFORE they see the information book. Each of my teaching puppets has a definite personality. Roxie thinks that she is the smartest kindergartner in the world and that she knows more than anyone about the subject. She comes out of the castle and talks to me, and the children. She asks if they like her new dress and then tells the children that she is an expert about turkeys (or whatever the subject.)
I use the book All About Turkeys by Jim Arnosky.
My primary objective was to teach how to read and learn from informational books, you can use any subject. Please take a look at how I begin teaching about information books under the section Text Features.
I read the book and chose about 6 facts from the book that I thought would be interesting and new to the children. I typed out each fact on a card and drew a very simple illustration. I have given away so many of my materials that I don’t have those cards, but the facts I remember were – A turkey has no feathers on his head. Some turkeys sleep in trees. A turkey has a caruncle on his beak that hangs down when he gets excited. A turkey’s head changes color when he gets mad. Mother turkeys lay between 8-18 eggs at a time (not positive I remember the right number!). A turkey can fly up to 50 mph. You would choose any facts that you were interested in or the facts you need to teach.
Roxie would have something in her pocket that she would use to talk about one of the facts. For example she might have a comb that a turkey gave her because his head is bald and he doesn’t need it – he doesn’t even have any feathers on his head. Or a crayon to color the turkey’s head a different color so he won’t look mad, etc. I just loved having fun with her. She would tell all the facts to the kids just conversationally. Then I would show them the picture cards and Roxie would be amazed when they remembered the facts she told them. She would always tell them they were the smartest kindergartners, next to her.
Then I would ask Roxie how she learned so much about turkeys, and she would tell us she read about them in a book. I put Roxie back into the castle before I read to the kids. By the time I read the information book the children had heard the facts 2-3 times – first Roxie talked about the facts, then they would match the facts to the picture cards, then often I would turn the cards over to see if they still remembered them. That means that before they hear the book they are already familiar with the important points – it focuses their listening. I think of it a little like the skill older children use when they read the questions at the end of the chapter before reading a text book.
I ask the children to wave to me if they hear one of Roxie’s facts when I am reading the book. As they point out the facts I put the picture card of that fact up in a pocket chart. The kids often pointed out that the fact was in bold print, or as a caption under a picture, etc. because they knew about how information books work.
After reading we would go over the facts one more time. Then I would send the children to their tables to draw and write 3 of the facts that they remember. I made a point of saying that they couldn’t just draw and write any fact, it had to be one we read about in the book.
Please click on the link below to see the paper we used – it was the same type we used for Writer’s Workshop.
I would run these pages back to back and fold it so the title was on the front. At Thanksgiving when I did Turkey Facts, not all children were ready for phonetic spelling. I might use fewer lines and larger boxes for drawing. This is the same format I used for retelling information books through the year. I love tying reading and writing into the subjects we are learning!