Garbage Eaters - The Worm Superheroes! March 29 2010

Like I've mentioned before, I love worms. Garbage Eaters is a story that grew out of my appreciation for what worms do and how they help us take care of the Earth.

It would be great to use Garbage Eaters as a teacher read aloud, but there are many ways to use this story to teach and reinforce valuable reading skills as well as learn about worms!

Teaching Context Clues

Garbage Eaters - The New Superheroes! is full of higher-level vocabulary. This is a great opportunity to lead a choral reading with your students. Read through it one time and do nothing. The second time through, write down on chart paper or the overhead all of the words that may be difficult for your kids.

Using this list of vocabulary, incorporate the Predict, Define, and Sketch chart with your students. First, have them predict the meaning of the words, working in groups or partners, NO DICTIONARIES ALLOWED (I like to set a timer to encourage them to finish in a reasonable amount of time). They need to write down the words and their best guesses in the "Predictions" column. When the timer goes off, choose different groups or partners to share their predictions, and provide work time for them to finish filling in the rest of the chart - for the "Define" column, they now need to use dictionaries.

Building Comprehension Skills

The Garbage Eaters - The New Superheroes! Comprehension Page focuses on story elements, including identifying main characters, the setting, 3 main events, the main problem and its resolution, and the lesson learned from the story. Before they get started on the page, review each element with your kids. I've found that even when I do this, kids struggle with a couple or all of the story elements, because the information they need to provide is inferential. Providing the answer to the setting is a great example of a trouble spot because the time and place isn't specified in the story.

Another consistently difficult spot is the "lesson learned," also known as the Theme of the story. When most students get to this place on the sheet and the questions begin, I usually stop everyone and review a well-known story, like a fairy tale or Harry Potter, depending on the age level of my kids. I go over the facts of the story and then ask them what lesson they think the main character learned, writing their ideas on a piece of chart paper or on the  white board. I encourage them to come up with many lessons that make sense, showing them that there are usually a few themes in a story, not just one.

Fact Finding

This story, although fiction, does incorporate facts about worms. During choral or independent reading, have students pick out pieces of information that they believe to be facts about worms. Confirm their answers or provide time and resources for them to do research. Teach a Fact and Opinion mini-lesson using the facts your students identify, mixing them with opinions and reading them out loud to your class, having them vote Fact or Opinion!

If you want a couple of easy resources to delve further into the lives of worms, check out Making a Simple Classroom Worm Bin as well as Managing a Classroom Worm Bin. It's easier than you might think!