Blending Narrative and Expository Text with “Alaska’s Three Bears” - MindWing Concepts, Inc.

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Blending Narrative and Expository Text with “Alaska’s Three Bears”

by Sheila Zagula August 31, 2018 6 min read

Love book cover The Say Blue book cover Alaska's Three Bears book cover Last month, we shared two book selections published this year, Love by Matt De La Pena and They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (Two Summer Books [and More] with Feelings!). This week, I wanted to share a book published in 1990, Alaska’s Three Bears, written by Shelly Gill and illustrated by Shannon Cartwright.

Maryellen recommended this book at a workshop I attended many years ago, and I found so many uses for it when our second, third, fourth, and fifth graders began to explore narrative and expository text structures. Pictured below is a page from the book.

Page from Alaska's Three Bears

As you can see, there is both a story and expository information presented. The book is one that can be used with a variety of goals/objectives in mind, during whole-group and/or small-group instruction, and with a wide span of grade levels.

Before I begin to share some ideas for the book, I am often asked if I review the SGM® components and text structures before beginning my daily whole group lessons. YES! I always began each lesson reviewing narrative and expository structures depending on the grade level and expectations. Pictured is a third-grade review.

Icon Map Review boardAs an example, I would ask: “Who can tell me the two types of texts we have been talking about? “ (Write Narrative (Story) and Expository (Information) on whiteboard). I would then elicit responses to the following: “Who can name all the parts of the narrative?” “Who can name the types of expository text we have been reviewing?” (This, of course, will vary depending on your groups). As a student(s) responds, I would add magnetic pieces to the board. I used many variations, including:

  • If you are just working on the narrative, then just use the icons. If you are discussing only two or three types of expository texts, just use those.
  • Invite students to orally share the components of the SGM® as a group. Hold up the marker and recite the components and then add the magnetic pieces to the board, as shown above, as students label aloud.
  • Pass out all the magnetic pieces, have students come up and put under the correct category, Narrative or Expository.
  • Have the words Narrative and Expository written on the whiteboard. Invite a volunteer (or with a partner) to come up and draw/write /or put magnetic pieces on board and recite the components/text types. (Students themselves make the best teachers!)
  • Have Narrative and Expository written on the whiteboard along with some of the components/types present, leaving out several… ask students to decide what is missing. Add to the board.
  • Have the board ready to go, review aloud with the students, then ask them to close their eyes (second, third graders) and remove several from the board and ask, “Which ones are missing and which category do they belong in… narrative or expository?” (Ex. The plan is missing and should go under Narrative; Sequence is missing in the Expository section, etc.)

From simple to complex, this type of review takes but a few moments and establishes a routine before stating the lesson objective to students.

Below are a few ideas for Alaska’s Three Bears from some of the various lessons I presented. Many of these lessons were completed over a series of days. You may expand upon/change to suit your student needs.

Map of Alaska1. Introducing the book…Show a map of Alaska and point out the geography of the state. There are videos available online that would give students facts about Alaska, as well as so many beautiful books, including Alaska by Shelly Gill.

OR introduce the book by showing a short video on bears…this one may interest you.

Explain that Alaska’s Three Bears contains both a story and information on three types of bears that are found in Alaska. Show a sample page. Read the story. Share the informational pieces with the students.

2. Map out the story with the students using the pictures to guide the outline; a sample of a possible map is below.

  • Setting: Alaska delta, end of spring (great time to begin to keep a list of vocabulary words related to the story… delta)
  • Kick-Off: Change in seasons…time to head home
  • Thought Bubble (Knows):: End of spring Arrow icon Time for home
  • Feeling: determined
  • Plan: To travel together and head home
  • Action 1: arrives to where land meets frozen sea… the polar bear says, “This place is just right” and stays
  • Action 2: heads south to a big river… brown bear, “This place is just right” and stays there
  • Action 3: wanders to edge of forest… black bear, “This place is just right!” and he stays there
  • Direct Consequence: All arrived home…at different places
  • Resolution: Relieved, peaceful, “home”
  • Invite students to retell the story using the above scaffold.

3. Retell the story using the SGM® and then explain that we can expand on the Planned Actions as follows:

  • Work with students to create the following notes/dialogue directly from the story.

    Map 1 pic
    Map 2 pic
    Map 3 pic
  • So, for example:bead1 iconNow, instead of just saying, “The polar bear said: ‘This place is just right,’“ students may add details based upon what the characters said in the story. Ex. “The bears arrive at a place where the land meets the frozen sea. The brown bear said it was too lonely and the black bear said it was too cold but the polar bear said, “This place is just right.’” Notice we have added “and” and “but” and so have expanded our retelling based upon what the bears said.

4. Review the story using the visual above and point out that we learned some information about the three bears through what they each said and about the differences in what they thought was home, and that this added to our retelling of the story. We tuned into what the bears said and thought but we can also use other parts of the story presented to add more details.

Map 4 image
Example:bead1 iconThe bears arrived at a place where the land meets the frozen sea. The brown bear thought it was too lonely there and the black bear said it was too cold, but the white, polar bear, with his short, sharp claws, saw seals. He said, “This place is just right.”

  • Model using this information for the students. Pair students, and using the SGM® Student Markers, have them retell the story to their partners adding some of the details.

5. This is a great selection to discuss the changes in settings. Display the Star iconSetting icon and setting locations.

Map 5 image
Map 6 image

  • Divide the students into three groups (based on the bears and the settings they choose according to the story) and have them draw and then describe the setting. Display the completed projects.

6. Using the chart (#4) again, add to the chart/lists as you read the expository section of the book. You could use a different color marker to emphasize the two different types of texts.

Map 7 image

7. Use the Descriptive Map you have available and ask students to use the list of information (#6) and organize the information into 5 categories: Physical Appearance, Habitat, Food/Eating, Young, Special Characteristics. You may also give students other resources to use (books, videos, etc) and do the same process. Notice we are going from notes (#6) to organizing notes (#7). The follow-up activity, of course, could involve a writing activity to describe the animal or orally sharing the information found. Check out this previous blog for a concrete example: Writing Expository Informational Descriptive Map to Paragraphs.

8. Display the expository text structures on the whiteboard. Share a sentence from the story…read it to the students and then write it on the whiteboard. Have students look for keywords that help identify the text structure in the sentence (Circle the words). Ask for someone to identify the text type.

This activity was modeled after one presented in The “Core” of the Core manual, pages 87-97.  This book is full of practical activities you can implement immediately in your classroom.

Map 8 image
Map 8 image
Map 9 image

9. Have another board handy to talk about how bears are alike using the information presented in the expository section of the book.

Final Board image

10. Finally, place this book in the library corner in your classroom. I can tell you from personal experience that it will be enjoyed many more times!

The above activities show the flexibility of the SGM® for both narrative and expository texts. I especially enjoyed using Alaska’s Three Bears as I traveled from class to class in grades K-5 and appreciated the fact that this book could be used with a variety of grade levels (2-5) as it helped to support a number of my objectives as a Language Arts Teacher.

Check out other books by Shelly Gill and books illustrated by Shannon Cartwright.

Sheila Zagula
Sheila Zagula

Sheila Zagula works with MindWing Concepts in product development, drawing on her expertise and talents as well as many years of implementing the Story Grammar Marker® and related materials. Her teaching career spans thirty-eight years, most recently as literacy coach in the Westfield Massachusetts Public School System. Sheila has experience as an early childhood educator, a teacher of children with special needs, and a collaborative instructor within an inclusion framework serving children in grades K-5.

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