To help students understand the life cycle of a praying mantis and to reflect on a unique way of telling a story.
This lesson uses a book called My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, written by Paul Meisel. This book is one of the finalists of the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. SB&F, Science Books & Films, is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The book describes the life cycle of a praying mantis, narrated in first person by a praying mantis herself! Students follow the first-hand narration of P. Mantis’ life, and by doing so, learn about how praying mantises are born, how they grow, what they eat, and how they reproduce and continue the life cycle.
For this lesson, the class engages in a teacher-led reading and discussion before reading the book independently. They discuss concepts related to both the style of writing as well as the content itself. Students first discuss the nature of a hybrid text and its effectiveness in relaying information about a topic. They then go into the life cycle of the praying mantis and fill in the missing gaps by conducting research independently. They illustrate their findings in the form of a poster.
This lesson contains components of instruction related to both ELA and Science standards. Within English/Language Arts, students explore the concept of a hybrid text. Some students might hold the misconception that a book must either be fiction or nonfiction, and might struggle to grasp how this book contains qualities of both. If this is the case, break down these concepts, clearly define both fiction and nonfiction, and explain the author’s purpose for using both.
Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.2 Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.6 Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
If possible, have classroom copies of My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis on hand.
Students who struggle with reading and understanding nuance in writing might need additional guidance in understanding the purpose of this text. Prepare to work with some students one-on-one as they read the text on their own.
Students will create posters about the life cycle of a praying mantis. Have in class poster paper and supplies they can use to create their life cycle. You may want to have nature magazines they can use to cut out images.
To introduce students to the praying mantis insect, first ask the class if they have ever heard of them before. If they have, explore what they know about these fascinating bugs. If they have not, engage in a discussion on what they think of their name and what it might indicate about the insect.
To peak interest about praying mantises, show the class Nature's Perfect Predators-Praying Mantis. Ask them what questions they have about this predatory bug.
For the first part of this lesson, you will engage in a guided reading of the book My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, by Paul Meisel. Students should have access to individual copies for the purpose of completing the lesson later on, but for the initial read-through, take a picture walk with students. This is a guided reading of the book where students will learn to analyze both the images and the text to understand the purpose of the book. This guided reading will likely take up the time you allot for the first day for this lesson. You can use the My Awesome Summer with P. Mantis Picture Walk teacher sheet to help you do the picture walk with your students.
Begin by showing the front and back cover of the book. Ask students what they think the book might be about. Use these questions to guide discussion:
- What does the title and the cover image tell us about how the story will be told?
- Who do you think the main character of this book will be?
- Who do you think the narrator of the book will be?
- Will this story be fiction or nonfiction?
- What kind of information do you think will be shared in this book? Make predictions and discuss if predictions were correct following the reading.
(Answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.)
Explain to students that this book is an example of a hybrid text, meaning that it encompasses elements of both fiction and nonfiction literature. If needed, review the definitions of a fiction and nonfiction text. Explain that a fiction text is invented and not based on fact, while nonfiction is writing based on fact.
Students should now conduct a second reading of the book independently. You can provide time in class for students to do this or assign as homework and allow plenty of time for students to read the book and complete the reading reflection.
This time, they will be able to get a sense of how the hybrid text model works for them and share their reflections. Students should complete the My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis Reading Reflection student sheet following their reading. Review the answers to their reflections as a class. You can use the My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis Reading Reflection Teacher Companion to help guide this discussion.
Once students have read and discussed the book, they should complete a project where they use information from the book as well as information gathered from their own research to create a poster presentation on the life cycle of a praying mantis. Their poster should illustrate the different phases of a praying mantis. Encourage them to create the poster in either a linear timeline or in a circular cycle. You may need to draw examples of each on the board and point out the different parts that should be included in each. Students should use the My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis Poster Worksheet to help them prepare their posters.
You should develop a rubric to help you assess students' work and that you can give to students to help them know what they should include in their posters. There are several resources on the Internet that describe the use of rubrics in the K-12 classroom, a few of which are highlighted here.
To learn more about rubrics in general, see Make Room for Rubrics on the Scholastic site.
For specific examples of rubrics, more information, and links to other resources, check out the following sites:
- Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Assessment and Rubrics
- Assessment: Creating Rubrics
- Rubrics for Web Lessons
Finally, you can go to Teacher Rubric Makers on the Teach-nology.com website to create your own rubrics. At this site you can fill out forms to create rubrics suitable for your particular students, and then print them instantly from your computer.
For this part of the lesson, allow your students plenty of time to complete their research and make their poster. This activity may be ongoing for up to one week.
Conclude the lesson by having students present their posters to the class. Instead of each student presenting the posters individually, pin up the posters around the classroom. Have students walk around the class and observe their classmates' work. Then, engage students in a class discussion about how the hybrid text book, the linear timeline life cycle, and the circular life cycle compared. Begin by using these questions to guide your discussion:
- Was there any information that one of the types of presentations did not tell?
- What were the pros of each method of learning about praying mantises? What were the cons of each?
- In what setting would you want to use each method of learning about praying mantises?
To conclude, students will complete the My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis Presentation Venn Diagram to compare the different ways information was conveyed. Students should compare the linear life cycle, the circular life cycle, and the hybrid text. This should help them consider the pros and cons of different means of sharing information. If you are working with younger students, it may make sense to work on this sheet together as a class using the board to label the circles and discussing which facts students want to include in which sections. You can use the My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis Venn Diagram teacher sheet to help students work through the Venn Diagram.
Creating a hybrid text: As an extension to this lesson, students could create a similar life-cycle story using a different insect or animal. They may be instructed to develop a first-person narrative of the life cycle of a creature. They might choose a more familiar animal such as a dog, or a similarly obscure creature such as a seahorse. Students can create a small book out of stapled paper, and illustrate the story as they choose. They should include elements of both fiction and nonfiction in their hybrid text and be sure to include pertinent information about the life cycle of their creature.
Butterfly 1: Observing the Life Cycle of a Butterfly could be used to help extend on the concepts in this lesson.