Walk down by Allen Thomas’ second grade classroom and you’ll see a giant paper cutout of a man and an equally large footprint, a large, muscular arm drawing and a Mohawk “measurer.” What do all these have in common? They are all part of Mr. Thomas’ English Language Arts unit on the Guinness Book of World records.
The second grade students have been reading a variety of nonfiction texts such as biographies, newspaper articles, Guinness Book of Worlds articles, and other primary source documents to identify main idea and details as well as author’s purpose with a special focus on the U.S.’s tallest man, Igor Vovkovinskiy. These skills have been identified as literacy focus skills that needed to be integrated throughout the second curriculum for the 2012-2013 academic school year.
However, non-fictional text is not always the most interesting reading for children and can often be above many students reading abilities. For that reason lessons were created replicating various successful models in the field that used nonfiction text as its core instructional tools such as those created by Greenberg & Carey (1985) and Johnston & Stanley (1986). Similar to Greenberg & Carey (1985), the lessons contained pieces of literature that were intended to aid student comprehension and interest, include photographs, recordings, movies, period songs or music, news articles, as well as, time lines and maps. Furthermore, resembling Johnston & Stanley (1986), lessons were created to connect district and state curriculum to improve students’ literacy skills through reading, writing, and speaking activities.
In Mr. Thomas’ class, students engaged in hands-on activities after reading about Mr. Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in the United States (7’ 8”), who received free custom made sneakers from Reebok because he didn’t have any suitable shoes to fit his size 24, 10E feet, and for that reason, kept injuring his feet. As part of the lesson, the students read a news article about Igor, identified the main idea of the article, watched a CNN news clip about the event, recorded two to three details or interesting facts about the clip, and gave an oral report to the class. Students compared their own foot size and height to a life size cut out of Igor’s foot and height in order to truly comprehend the massive size of Igor. Students also learned about the World’s Strongest Man and the Biggest Mohawk.
“To actually see how big Igor is by comparing ourselves to his cut-out body and foot really shows us instead of just telling us,” said Ring Elementary School second grader Trey Drake. “When we read we had to find out the main idea and pull out interesting facts about all the Guinness World Record holders. It’s easier if you read about it, see a video and actually get to compare yourself to remember what you are learning.”