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Odd Bods: The World’s Unusual Animals

I don’t know what March means for you, but for me it means a mad dash to prepare my students for our state standardized testing… the MCAS.

We read text selection after text selection and write open response after open response.

To try and make it fun, I tell my students each response needs to be a triple-stuffed Oreo because what kid doesn’t like Oreos?

O-Opening sentence that restates the question

R-First reason

E-Explanation with textual evidence for first reason

R-Second reason

E-Explanation with textual evidence for second reason

R-Third reason

E-Explanation with textual evidence for third reason

O-Opinion stated in the conclusion

Well, maybe they don’t like Oreos after March!

Anyway, invariably students leave out the explanations with textual evidence.

This year thanks to MaryAnn Cappiello and Melissa Stewart, I have a fun way to show them the difference between a response with an explanation and a response without an explanation.

MaryAnn came up with the idea that five-paragraph essays are a genre of writing and Melissa came up with the idea that expository list books have the same structure as a five-paragraph essay. There’s an introduction, about ten spreads with a reason and an explanation, and a conclusion. She writes in depth about the subject here.

When I read the article and saw the title Odd Bods by Julie Murphy, my interest sparked. Here was a title that could serve multiple purposes in my classroom. Not only could students refer to it when studying animal adaptations, but maybe it could add some color and joy to our March literacy block.

And add color and joy it did.

On our red rug, I talked about how many students had been forgetting to add explanations to their triple-stuffed Oreos and how that created a slew of problems. I explained that instead of me detailing the problems, they’d tell me after I’d read only the main text in Odd Bods.

And so I began.

I read the introduction spread and the main text in the next five spreads. Then, I asked students to turn and talk about what was the problem with skipping over the secondary text during the read aloud.

Did they turn and talk? No they turned and shouted. Here’s what they yelled:

“You’re not telling us how!”

“You didn’t tell us why!”

“You didn’t tell us what!”

“Exactly,” I replied. “You’re not telling me how or why or what in your open responses and that’s a problem.”

Next, I read the whole book and included the secondary text as well as the main text. Everyone agreed it was a much more agreeable read aloud when I included the explanations.

And now I have a new nifty tool in my literary essay toolbox.

Instead of dismissing a mob of 23 students from the rug at once, I asked them to think about which one of the odd animals in the book they’d like to be… the thorn bug, the red-lipped batfish, the leafy seadragon, the aye-aye. The most popular choice… the narwhal.

One student remained sitting on the rug after I’d announced all eleven odd animals in the book, one of a few students of color in a sea of white.

“Mrs. Narita,” she said. “I don’t want to be an odd animal.” And then she left the rug. Needless to say the social emotional lessons about celebrating differences that could accompany this book would be a whole other post.

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