LIFE.jpgUnit 3: Life Lessons

In this third six-week unit of first grade, students read literature and informational texts related to life lessons.


Building on the retelling of stories with details, students focus on the categorizing of those story details into the following groupings: characters, key events, and settings. Students read and listen to fables with morals. They also learn about rules for life in a book of manners. Reading the life story of George Washington Carver, students learn about a man who had to overcome obstacles in life to make important contributions to science and agriculture. Students also learn about Thomas Edison’s work with electricity and the rules for its safe use. Descriptive words are the focus of a lesson centered on the artwork of Georgia O’Keeffe. Finally, the children write narratives focused on life lessons and create informative posters focused on electrical safety.
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How can reading teach us about writing?

Focus Standards

LAFS.1.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of the central message or lesson
LAFS.1.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
LAFS.1.RI.2.6 Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
LAFS.1.L.1.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
LAFS.1.L.1.2(b) Use end punctuation for sentences.
LAFS.1.W.1.3 Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.
LAFS.1.RF.2.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension
LAFS.1.RF.4.4(b) Read on-level ext orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

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Suggested Objectives:

    • Describe characters, key events, and the setting in a story.
    • Identify who is speaking in a story or fable.
    • Distinguish between the information provided by the pictures or illustrations in a text and the information provided by the words.
    • Using time cue words, providing some details, and ending with a sense of closure, write narratives that include at least two sequenced events.
    • With the help of an adult, revise narratives.
    • Produce complete sentences with correct past, present, or future verb tenses.
    • Use end punctuation for sentences: periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
    • Relate the use of punctuation to the way a text should be read expressively.
    • Compare and contrast two versions of an Indian fable.
    • Create informative/explanatory posters using both text and illustrations (e.g., to teach about electrical safety).

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • This unit teaches:

    Art: Georgia O’Keeffe, Vincent van Gogh
    Science: Scientists (e.g., George Washington Carver, Thomas Edison); Electricity (e.g., basic principles, safety rules)

    This unit could be extended to teach:

    Science: Sun (i.e., as a source of energy, light, and heat)

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    • Adjectives
    • Affixes
    • Characters
    • Complete sentences
    • Declarative
    • End punctuation
    • Exclamatory
    • Fable
    • Imperative
    • Interrogative
    • Key events
    • Lesson
    • Message
    • Moral
    • Narratives
    • Period
    • Revision
    • Setting
    • Verbs

Sample Activities:
Informative Writing, Language Usage, Speaking and Listening
One of the life lessons focused on in this unit is manners. With the students, create a list of “lunchroom manners” using a book such as Manners (Aliki). Students should dictate the sentences while you write them on sentence strips. In this writing lesson, focus on writing complete sentences with subject-verb agreement. To practice handwriting and correct sentence construction, have the students copy some of the sentences. Sentences such as these can be illustrated and compiled in a book titled Lunchroom Manners. A follow-up to this lesson would be a humorous list of lunchroom manners inspired by Prelutsky and Silverstein and written in poetic form. (SL.1.6, L.1.1c, L.1.1e, L.1.1j)
Reading Informational Text, Reading Comprehension, Speaking and Listening
Introduce the book A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver. Explain that illustrations and text are both very important in a book. Guide students as they read by asking them first to think about what you can learn from the illustrations. Create a two-column chart with “illustrations” on one side and “text” on the other side. When students learn something from studying the illustration, they will write it on a sticky note and put it in the book. When students learn something from the written words of the text, they will also note it on a sticky note. When the students are finished reading the book, use sticky notes to guide the discussion focusing on learning from illustrations and learning from the text. (RI.1.6)
Reading Literature, Informative Writing, Speaking and Listening
Tell the students that the Indian fable “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is the original telling of a fable more commonly known in the United States as “Seven Blind Mice.” Read the original story first and then read “Seven Blind Mice.” (Read aloud to students, or they may read on their own if they are able.) As the two fables are added to the fable story chart (found elsewhere in this Unit 3 Activities and Assessments Section), ask the students to explain how these two stories are the same and how they are different. Use a digital camera to take photographs of the process of creating the artwork. Use these photographs to guide the writing of the shared explanatory paper. (RL.1.9, RL.1.2)
Reading Literature, Language Mechanics
To introduce the relationship between punctuation and reading expression, use the book Yo! Yes? Show the students the cover of the book with its very simple title: Yo! Yes? Ask how someone would say those words. As you read the book with the students, have the boys read one page, and the girls the opposite page. As they focus on the illustrations and the way the author ends each sentence, they will know how to read the words, and a story will be created in their minds. Follow this reading with other books so that the children learn how important it is to read with the end punctuation in mind. Extension: Reading (reciting) poetry with punctuated lines such as “Sharing,” would be a way to extend this knowledge of punctuation and dramatic expression into other literary forms. Follow this activity with practice using different kinds of end punctuation. (RL.1.6, RF.1.4b, L.1.2b, RL.1.7)
Narrative Writing, Language Usage
Assign this narrative prompt: “Think of a time when you learned a lesson. Be sure to include at least two sequenced events, use time cue words, provide some details, and include a sense of closure.” Encourage the students to think about the lessons learned in the fables as they write their own story. Be sure the students focus on the beginning, middle, and end (where they tell about the lesson learned). Edit to be sure that nouns (singular and plural) match verbs and that verb tenses are correct and consistent. (W.1.3, W.1.5, RL.1.2, L.1.1c, L.1.1e, L.1.1j)
Informative Writing, Speaking and Listening, Oral Presentation
After reading several books about electricity, create a list of rules for safety (e.g., avoiding electrical outlets with wet hands). Divide the rules evenly among the students and assign the task of creating a safety poster for each one. Each student will write a rule neatly and show additional information (i.e., the application of the rule) in his or her illustration. Create sets of posters and allow students to present their rules to another classroom or grade level. (W.1.2, RI.1.6, SL.1.5, SL.1.6)
Reading Literature, Reading Comprehension
Tell the students that fables are stories that teach us a lesson. The characters in the story are usually animals and have one main characteristic. Read the familiar fable “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Ask students what they can tell you about the tortoise. (He’s slow, but steady.) What can they tell about the hare? (He’s fast, but undependable.) Create a chart with cells for the title, characters (with one characteristic each), setting, key events (i.e., from the beginning, middle, and end), and the lesson learned (i.e., the moral of the story). As you read each fable in this unit, continue to fill in the chart. Give students more and more responsibility for filling in the characters, setting, and key events of a fable. Assess understanding at the end of the unit by reading a fable and then have each child write or dictate the entries on his or her own chart. (RL.1.3, RL.1.2)
Art, Speaking and Listening
Show students images of van Gogh’s works in comparison to O’Keeffe’s, and discuss the following as a class: Both of these artists painted flowers. What is similar and different about their paintings? Why do you think each painter chose to paint the flowers they did? Was it because of their color or shape? Do the flowers remind you of anything—like faces or groups of people? (SL.1.3)
Art, Informative Writing
Consider showing both O’Keeffe and van Gogh works without titles. Have students write a short description of what they see. Which flower can you see actually growing and changing? Which painter chose to make his or her works more abstract? Who painted flowers realistically? (W.1.7, W.1.8)

Online Resources:

Sight Words
The expectation for first grade is for students to learn the first 200 words by the end of the year.