Writing to Show Our Learning: Toys Our Classmates Prefer | EL Education Curriculum

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Writing to Show Our Learning: Toys Our Classmates Prefer

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In Unit 3, students continue to build their understanding of perspective through the lens of toys and play. In the first part of the unit, students experience a series of close read-aloud sessions of the text Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Through this text, they learn about and discuss how people's perspectives about toys can change. Students also read informational texts, sing songs, and play games from "long ago" to support their emerging awareness of perspective.

In the second part of the unit, students demonstrate their growing confidence and competence as speakers and writers as they work on the module performance task. This task invites students to interview a classmate about a preferred classroom toy. The interview portion of the task serves as the Unit 3 Assessment (W.K.8, SL.K.3). Then, students write and draw to show the information gleaned from the peer interview (W.K.2, W.K.8). During a module culmination and celebration, students share their writing and drawing with the school principal and other guests.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What toys do others prefer? Why do they prefer them?
  • People prefer to play with different toys.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Toys our classmates prefer
  • Task: Interviewing and writing about a classmate's favorite toy
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): W.K.8, SL.K.3
  • Text: Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon; Playing with Friends


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the integrated literacy block of the school day. The module also intentionally incorporates social studies content that many teachers across the nation are expected to address in first grade. These intentional connections are described below. (Based on your state or district context, teachers may also choose to address additional specific social studies or science standards during other parts of the school day.)

C3 Framework for Social Studies:

  • D2.Civ.9.K-2: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions while responding attentively to others when addressing ideas and making decisions as a group.
  • D2.Civ.10.K-2: Compare their own point of view with others' perspectives.
  • D2.Civ.11.K-2: Explain how people can work together to make decisions in the classroom.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this module, students work to become ethical people by treating others well. Throughout Unit 3, students continue to practice respectful behavior as they engage in conversations and play experiences with peers and practice caring for one another and classroom materials.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across all three components of this primary curriculum: integrated module lessons, integrated Labs, and the Reading Foundations Skills block (see the module overview).

For Unit 3, during the independent reading in the Skills block, reinforce the comprehension skills and standards that students are practicing during the Integrated Literacy block:

  • RL.K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • Invite the students to point at a picture in a narrative text and then answer questions about the illustration.
    • Read aloud the first few pages of a narrative text and ask: "What questions do you have? What are you wondering?"
  • RL.K.3: With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to tell you the character, setting, and events of the story. Offer guidance and support as necessary.
  • RL.K.4: Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Encourage them to use pictures or other clues in the text to help them determine the meaning.
    • Help students make connections between a less familiar word and other words they might already know.
  • RL.K.7: Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to explain how the illustration or details in the text relate to the key ideas in the text.
    • Ask:

"How do these illustrations help you understand the text?"

Supporting English Language Learners

Whereas the Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are identified for ELLs in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lesson for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-6 on establishing and practicing discussion norms and completing the first full Language Dive. Students will benefit from additional practice with using oral language to ask and answer questions. This will prepare them for their performance tasks and it will also strengthen their participation during close read-alouds. If necessary, place less focus and condense instruction on reading informational texts during Lessons 2 and 3.
  • Language Dives: All kindergartners participate in their first whole-class Language Dive in Module 2. Kindergarten ELLs can participate in their first full Language Dive in Lesson 6 of this unit. Most lessons also offer optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. Language Dives are guided conversations about the meaning of a sentence from the central texts, models, or learning targets. The conversation invites students to unpack complex syntax, or "academic phrases," as a necessary component of building both literacy and habits of mind. Students then apply their understanding of language structure as they work toward the assessments and performance task. All Language Dives follow a Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, in which students discuss and play with the meaning and purpose of the sentence and each chunk of the sentence; put the chunks back together into the original order and any possible variations; and practice using the chunks in their own speaking and writing. To maximize language practice and accommodate time, consider dividing or reviewing each Language Dive over multiple lessons. A consistent Language Dive routine is critical in helping all students learn how to decipher complex sentences and write their own. In addition, Language Dive conversations can hasten overall English language development for ELLs. Avoid using the Language Dive Guide to lecture about grammar; the Guide is designed to prompt students as they grapple with the meaning and purpose of the chunks and the sentence. Consider providing students with a Language Dive log inside a folder to track Language Dive sentences and structures and collate Language Dive note-catchers. Assure students that this log will not be graded; however, consider inviting students to use their log and note-catchers to gauge the progress of their speaking and writing skills. For more information on Language Dives, refer to the Supporting English Language Learners Guidance (see the Tools page).
  • Goal 2 Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Conversation Cues, which are questions teachers can ask students to help achieve four goals: (Goal 1) encourage all students to talk and be understood; (Goal 2) listen carefully to one another and seek to understand; (Goal 3) deepen thinking; and (Goal 4) think with others to expand the conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). See the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 2 Conversation Cues are introduced in Lesson 1. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore informational texts taking place across different cultures and countries. During this unit, students will discuss toys from now and toys from long ago. Be aware that they will have varying experiences with toys and be aware of toys that may be culturally specific. Be inclusive of all experiences and refer to toys introduced in the classroom and in texts whenever possible. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Strategic grouping: As students are invited to pair up for various tasks and protocols, seriously consider matching ELLs to a partner who has greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic grouping will greatly serve the language development of both partners.
  • Language processing time: Give ELLs sufficient time to think about what they want to say before they share with other students or write.
  • Peer interviews and writing: Students will receive explicit instruction in interviewing peers and creating a piece of writing based on the interview. It may be challenging for some to express themselves verbally. It may be necessary to model highly structured interactions to scaffold speaking and listening tasks.
  • Close reading and identifying characters and events: Students will participate in a series of close reading sessions during which they will hone their comprehension and interpretive skills, by determining key characters and events within the text. Use illustrations and visual information as much as possible to support student comprehension.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual skills that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Playing with Friends
by Rebecca Rissman
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781432990275
Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon
by Patty Lovell
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780399254062

Preparation and Materials

For basic lesson preparation, refer to the materials list and Teaching Notes in each lesson. The following are unusual materials that may take more time or effort to organize or prepare.

  • Lesson 1: Word Wall word: imagination
  • Lesson 2: Word Wall words: N/A
  • Lesson 3: Words Wall words: N/A
  • Lesson 4: Word Wall words: N/A
  • Lesson 5: Recycled materials for handmade toys
  • Lesson 6: Recycled materials for handmade toys
  • Lesson 7: N/A
  • Lesson 8: Llama Llama puppet
  • Lesson 9: Toy baskets
  • Lesson 10: Toy baskets
  • Lesson 11: N/A
  • Lesson 12: N/A
  • Lesson 13: name tags for students and visitors; toy baskets

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Drawings - Students draw online: Students can draw their responses online rather than on paper to share on classroom blogs or websites with families.
  • Seesaw - Create student learning portfolios to share with other students, families: Video/audio record students at play to share with families and other students.
  • The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures - Additional Research: Students view pictures of old toys for additional research (whole group, small group or independent)
    • "Collections."The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. N.d. Web.Accessed on 1 June 2017.
  • National Toy Hall of Fame - Additional reading and research: Students read about and view pictures of old toys for additional reading and research (whole group, small group or independent).
    • 'National Toy Hall of Fame.' The Strong: National Museum of Play. Accessed on Jun 3, 2016.
  • Canada at Play - Additional reading and research: Students explore the rooms of the play house to read about and view pictures of old toys played with in Canada for additional reading and research (whole group, small group or independent).
    • 'Canada at Play." Canadian Museum of History. Web. Accessed on Jun 3, 2016.
  • Victorian Britain: Toys and Games - Additional reading and research: Students read about and view pictures of toys played with in Victorian Britain for additional reading and research (whole group, small group or independent).
    • 'Victorian Britain: Toys and Games.' BBC. Web. Accessed on Jun 3, 2016.


Labs are 1 hour of instruction per day. They are designed to promote student proficiency and growth.

There are 5 distinct Labs: Explore, Engineer, Create, Imagine, and Research. Each of the Labs unfolds across an entire module and takes place in four stages: Launch, Practice, Extend, and Choice and Challenge.

During their Lab time, students break up into smaller Lab groups and go to separate workstations (tables or other work spaces around the classroom). This structure creates a small collaborative atmosphere in which students will work throughout their Labs experience. It also supports the management of materials (since each workstation has its own materials).

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


If you have a number of English language learners speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with ELLs in their native language about playing with toys.


  • Invite the principal to deliver the Letter from the Principal and introduce himself or herself to the class.
  • Invite students from the upper grades to come and talk about how they liked to play when they were in kindergarten and how they learned to share.
  • Invite an employee from a local toy store to explain how they sort and organize the different types of toys they sell.
  • Invite a member of the historical society to come and talk and share pictures of toys from long ago. Invite families or school community members in to speak about favorite toys from their childhoods.


  • Take small groups of students to visit the principal's office or other classrooms in the school and ask individuals why they think playing is important.
  • Take the class to a school or local playground or other outdoor play area and generate ideas for how to play in ways that are safe and fun in that location.
  • Take small groups of students to visit classrooms around the school and conduct a survey of the different types of toys found at various grade levels.
  • Contact the local historical society to see if they have toys that students can come to see or that can be brought to the school.


  • Share ideas for having fun and being safe while playing on the playground (or outdoor play areas) with other classrooms in the school.
  • Share students' Commitments for Playing Together that they created in this unit with other classes in the school.
  • Visit a local retirement home and have students practice their interviewing skills by asking residents about the toys they liked to play with when they were young.


  • Invite school community members or families in to read a story or tell their own story about playing and sharing.
  • Have students create signs or labels with pictures and words for the toys around the classroom. These labels will support students during cleanup and when they write about toys.
  • Have students write letters sharing their favorite toys with retirement home residents after their visit.

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