Reading is MAKING MEANING with Kevin Henkes Author Study

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At the beginning of each school year my goal is for my students to have fun and enjoy reading! My first reading lesson is to teach them that reading is MAKING MEANING. My students learn that they can read a story by reading the words AND/OR by reading the pictures. BUT… if they are reading the words and not making meaning… well, THAT’S NOT READING!! That’s just saying words!!

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Mrs. Griffith – (Holding an accounting text book that was once my husbands in college. But.. any book will work.) “Class, I’m going to read to you from this book. I would like you to listen and tell me how well I am doing.” I read some of the text and ask my class to tell me how I did.

Class – “You did great! You knew all of the words. You read quickly. You were fluent. You are a good reader.”

Mrs. Griffith – “I might sound like a really good reader. But… I wasn’t really reading. I was saying all of the words. But, I have no idea what I’m reading about.  This accounting information went right over my head. It is very important that you know that you are not really reading if you are not making meaning and understanding the text. You can read and make meaning from words and pictures.”

*Then, I like to read a story to my class. It can be any story… but I really like using a wordless picture book to remind my students that they can make meaning from pictures.

This lesson leads us to our first author study of the year!

I love using Kevin Henkes books to introduce reading strategies, and remind my students that reading is FUN! Also…. I love the mice characters, the adorable illustrations, and each story has a wonderful lesson that is perfect for the beginning of the school year!

Before beginning the unit I make an anchor chart that says… “What do good readers do?”  Each day that I read a new story and talk about a new strategy… I add to the anchor chart.

Our anchor chart looks something like this by the time we’re doing with the unit.

I usually start with Chrysanthemum because, well, I just do! And… my students can all relate to times in their lives that they “wilt” and “bloom”. It’s a great conversation to learn more about my students. Before reading this story my students learn that good readers STAY IN THE ZONE! In our classroom that means they are focused on what they are reading… THEY ARE IN THE ZONE. We compare it to playing baseball or softball. If you aren’t in the zone you will get hit in the head. If you’re not in the zone when reading you won’t know what’s going on in the story and you’ll have to read it AGAIN to make meaning.

With Chrysanthemum we complete a ton of fun activities and a cute craft. The activities give me a chance to pull individual students for a baseline assessment. I should say… I NEVER use all of the activities that I have included in the unit. I usually pick and choose each year.

We usually read Wemberly Worried next! This is the perfect book to learn about making connections because everyone can relate to being worried!

Sheila Rae the Brave is GREAT for introducing the importance of creating mental images. I read the book without showing any of the pictures. Then I stop reading at the point when Sheila Rae gets lost. I have my students use evidence from the text to draw their visual image. After they have shared with their group, I read the story from the beginning to end… showing the pictures!

Chester’s Way is perfect for introducing character traits… and this pea pod craft is so cute!!

When I taught second I introduced making inferences with Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, now that I teach first we talk about the parts of a story and focus on the sequence of events. Last year I put my students into groups of four… My students discussed the story and each child completed one section. When all of the sections were complete, they worked together to retell the story.

We continue to focus on plot with the story Owen. There’s also a fun sentence unscramble activity!

Last but not least, we end the unit with a fun directed drawing. We make the mouse together, and then my students select a character and add details.

And there you have it…. Kevin Henkes for the WIN! You can find the author study HERE! The following pictures show everything included…


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I’m a mom, wife, first grade teacher, and curriculum designer. I love teaching and I also enjoy creating resources that engage and inspire our little learners. My goal is to save you time while providing researched based, high quality, engaging lessons and activities that can be adapted to meet the needs of ALL students. I hope you’ll stay for a while. I’m so glad you’re here.