Digging deep into a book, theme, or topic
An activity for exploring books, topics and themes –
Digging deep into a story theme or topic
Finding books about topics and themes your child is ‘into’ will help with promoting a love of learning and reading from early on in their lives. You can use either a fictional story book, or a non-fiction information book for this reading activity.
Use a theme or topic which interests your child and lights them up so that they will love getting involved in the book, the learning, and the activities.
Choosing a book, theme or topic for this activity
I found an interesting fiction story about Earth Day and a non-fiction book on the same theme for this example.
The main K.W.L. Grid activity in this article, is started before reading the book. It will bring clarity, comprehension, and vocabulary extension, if you are planning to read a fiction story like mine. This activity will also be continued after the story.
It can be adapted for non-fiction Earth day themed books too and almost any book in fact!
The Earth Day Fiction Story Summary
This Earth Day story I have chosen was about a little girl who shares her birthday each year with Earth Day on April the 22nd.
When she was on holiday in Mexico, she found a turtle on the beach who had died. She could see that he tried to eat a plastic bag, and unfortunately, he swallowed some of it which sadly killed him.
She was so upset by what she had found that day, that she began to be interested in finding out what can be done to avoid these sad things happening to ocean life. She was then inspired to help in any way she could to protect our planet and the people and animals in it.
I thought this story was a lovely way to introduce Earth Day themes as the children can connect and possibly relate to the young character in the story.
Every day should be Earth day in my opinion! We are the guardians of this Earth while we are here, and therefore we are responsible for its care. We should be recycling and reusing and repurposing as much as we can to be kind to the environment. I think it’s important to be passing that responsibility and awareness onto our children as they grow up.
They should be seeing us modelling the behaviours associated with considering our carbon footprint. Our children are inheriting this Earth from us for their children at the end of our days. After we are gone, they are the future, and they are the ones that need to help to take care of it from today.
Prior Knowledge and Research
I would suggest that before you read a fiction story or look at a non-fiction text (book), you and your child could do simple research about the topic or theme. The story about the girl with the birthday on Earth Day is a fiction book, but you could choose a relevant topic covered in the plot (the main idea and events) in this story (or any story) you are reading and discuss it.
After reading the blurb (short statement on the back of the book explaining what it is about) you can choose something from there to research, or do further digging into the book by doing a quick picture walk.
A picture walk is when your child looks through the book first before reading it to see what it might be about from the illustrations and any key words they noticed. They will get a feel for the story, and they can then attempt to tell the story in their own words from the images as they turn each page. This will help with comprehension.
In this example the topic or theme is Earth Day, or looking after our planet. Looking after Earth’s inhabitants, including all the animals and us who live there, and making it a better place for everyone.
• Do they already know anything about this topic already?
• Do they have any questions that they want to find out?
For example, they might want to find out when Earth Day began, which country first started it, and the ideas behind celebrating Earth Day.
• You could ask them what they would like to know and then research it on the internet or at the library.
If they can’t think of many questions or things they want to find out, you could make suggestions like these following examples.
• You might suggest that together you look on the internet to find out more about a material that can be repurposed or reused.
• Another idea would be to find as many different natural and man-made materials, and research what they are used for.
• There are many renewable materials now in use to help protect the environment. Can you find out some of these?
• You could find out about one particular renewable material, like bamboo, and see why it is a better choice. Find out why using it to make something is helping to save our planet.
Your child could record their research findings in a simple folded paper book, and keep this new information they have found in order to share it with others like family and friends.
Main Activity :K.W.L. Grid (KNOW, WANT
TO KNOW, LEARNT)
Start the main activity with introducing K.W.L. Grid. You may have heard of this grid or chart when working with a theme or topic, as they are used widely in schools. You might’ve even had it given as a homework activity coming from school.
It is a type of mind map to record what you already know about something, what you want to learn about something, followed by what you have now learnt about something. The K is for KNOW, the W is for what you WANT to learn and the L is for what you’ve LEARNT.
It’s a three-step process, and you can start a grid before any topic, theme or book. You can use it for almost anything really. Anything where you’re going to learn about something, and when you may or may not have prior knowledge of it.
First talk about their previous knowledge. Next what they WANT to know and all of the questions that they are asking about the topic, theme or story. Hopefully you’ll get answers to most of those questions when you read the book or explore the topic.
Finally, the LEARNT section is at the end of the activity. Once you have answered all the questions you would then look at all the things that you’ve now LEARNT.
You would look back at the first column of the K.W.L. Grid, and any knowledge that they now have, that isn’t written there, has been LEARNT. It therefore needs to go in the final column. The children can easily see just how much they have LEARNT by the end of the activity.
Next you can go back to the middle section of the K.W.L. Grid and check for any questions you have not answered and see if there is any way you can plan to find these out another time by using the internet or the library.
Earth day example questions to fill in the
In our example topic of looking after the Earth, you might ask your child:
“What do you already KNOW about pollution?” (using pollution as the part of the topic of Earth to focus in on).
“What do you WANT to KNOW about pollution?”
Your child might respond with a limited answer like “It hurts the animals” or may even say they don’t know. Try to stretch their thoughts out through questioning – “Well, how does it hurt the animals?”
They might not know the answer to this or be unsure, and therefore you already have something to put into the second column that they WANT to find out or KNOW.
That could be that first question: “I’d like to know, how does it harm the environment, and how does it harm the things that live in the sea?”
This is therefore an exercise that can be done by any age and ability. The results will be according to your individual child’s ability and understanding. If they have very limited understanding or ideas to share, it is still very valuable to have the discussion and you can use it as a teaching moment to broaden their knowledge and vocabulary.
K.W.L. Grid Summary
• In the first section, labelled K, they will record all of their previous/prior knowledge.
• In the middle section, labelled W, they will record everything they want to find out about or any questions which need answering.
• In the last section, labelled L, they will record everything new that they have learnt at the very end of the whole reading and learning activity.
• If it is a fiction story, they can write what they KNOW after reading the short ‘blurb’ written about the book on the back cover. Then write what they WANT to KNOW.
• They can also write anything that they already KNOW that comes to their mind when doing the picture walk.
• They can choose to write or draw to record in the grid.
• If they draw, they might label the drawings with a word or attempt to write the words to match the picture using marks or emergent writing.
• Alternatively, they can just talk about it with you, and you can write for them by scribing the words that they tell you.
Have Fun Learning Together
The Number one rule when using a pre-reading/ pre-topic and post reading/post topic activity is to enjoy the process together with your child, and have fun!
Make activities and reading as entertaining and as exciting as possible! Nobody wants their child to be reluctant to read or say it is boring. If your child is saying these things and showing a dislike of reading, then please know that it is not too late to turn it around and flip that upside down!
Just start today to make changes and if you are consistent then over time you will notice a positive change.
Today you’ve learnt a strategy to help you to make the difference. Give reading and research a true important meaning for your child as well as improving their comprehension. By diving deeper into a story or topic, including a theme from a story, together you add an element of fun and interest, which is what makes all the difference!
It’s going to take some energy, effort, determination and consistency from you, but at the end of the day, the results you will see will have made it all worth it.
You will enjoy and cherish these moments with your child, because they’re fun, and you’ll be making great family memories along the way. Why not include all the family who live in your home? Throw the challenge out to your Aunt and cousins to do at the same time maybe, then meet over zoom or in person to discuss the findings at the end.
It’s all about finding a way to engage your child in their learning, but in a fun way, and not letting it feel like work. This is what helps promote a real love of learning.
I hope this idea has been useful for you. I have a FREE pdf of a K.W.L. Grid which I’d love to send to you. Just leave your name and email address in the box below and it will be making its way to your inbox shortly.
If you try this activity, please let me know in the comments and perhaps take a photo of it to share with us. If you have any questions about this activity, please write these in the comments and I am happy to answer these for you.
I’m here to help you with anything you need to become the very best possible educator for your child!
Just reach out to me by email: Lisa@XquizitLearners.co.uk.