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Rapu Nui – Easter Island

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By Richard Rice

This geographical text, originally published in Literacy Time Years 3 and 4, No 5, provides information about a tiny but well-known island in the Pacific. Information is presented in the text, the labelled illustration, the photograph and the data box. The text raises questions that children can investigate further.

easter-island-poster.jpg

Sharing the text

  • Read the poster with the children and give them time to look at the data box, the diagrams and the illustrations. Hide the poster and ask the children to recall:
    1. how the information is presented;
    2. what information is given in the data box;
    3. information about Easter Island.
  • Look at the poster, and list geographical terms and other unfamiliar words. Seek definitions of these words from the children.
  • Ask the children to summarise what the poster is about, using just one or two sentences. Scribe some of the answers and ask the children to select the most effective.
  • Consider the paragraphs and sections that form the body of the text. Look at the structure of each one – eg, Paragraph one provides the setting and details of the location, etc.
  • Ask the children to suggest further topics for paragraphs that might be included in a longer article – eg, climate, food and water, archaeology.

Reading level

Some of the vocabulary will extend both Y3 and Y4 children to create opportunities to read the poster more than once. Check that the children understand geographical terms and phrases: inhabited, continent, population, islanders, volcanic rock. Other words that might be unfamiliar include: toppled, unsolved, primitive.

Preparation

Children will need access to atlases and encyclopaedias, ideally including CD-ROMs. Supervised access to the internet will give access to web sites that might provide answers to the questions raised or to more detailed data, including maps, photographs and text. Clay models of the moai and ahu can be made, using photographs and illustrations.

Word and sentence level activities

  • Ask the children to identify any words in the passage that have been extended or altered by adding parts or endings:

Develop this idea as independent activities in groups (see below). Discuss how the meanings of the words change and how the type of word changes – eg, rock (noun) becomes rocky (adjective).

  • Focus on the spelling of words from the text. Include some of the common words that might frequently be misspelt, and a number of the geographical terms:

Y3: next, known, high, much, people, some, about, island, rocky Y4: weigh, huge, people, heavy, island, cylinders, inhabited, continent, population.

Discuss the different strategies the children will use to learn these words.

  • Focus on the use of punctuation, including use of full stops for abbreviated words, commas, and the colon at the start of the list of questions.

Using the text

Teaching objectives (Year 3)

Word level: To use independent spelling strategies ; to practise new spellings regularly by look, say, cover, write, check strategy. Sentence level: To use awareness of grammar to decipher new and unfamiliar words. Text level: To summarise orally, in one sentence, the content of a passage or text and the main point that it is making; to revise and extend work on note-making; to summarise, in writing, the content of a passage or text and emphasise the main point that it is making.

Teaching objectives (Year 4)

Word level: To practise extending and compounding words through adding parts; to use independent spelling strategies; to practise new spellings regularly by look, say, cover, write, check strategy. Sentence level: To identify the common punctuation marks, including commas, semi-colons, colons, dashes, hyphens and speech marks, and to respond to them appropriately when reading; to understand how the grammar of a sentence alters when the sentence type is altered. Text level: To summarise a sentence or paragraph by identifying the most important elements and rewording them in a limited number of words; to summarise in writing the key ideas from, for example, a paragraph or chapter.

Group and independent activities

  • Ask the children to write a summary of the poster information, using just one sentence for each of the main paragraphs.
  • Provide pages of information about other places. Ask the children to summarise, in a few words, the key points from the page.
  • Ask the children to rewrite the information about the Easter Island statues in note form or in the form of a data box.
  • Work with a group of children to support them in laying out a page of information, either about a place they know or a place that they are studying in another area of the curriculum. They should present the information in a variety of formats, including text set out in paragraphs, diagrams, notes, maps and lists of basic data.
  • Using a CD-ROM encyclopaedia, ask the children to find out more about Easter Island. Provide specific tasks and areas of investigation – eg, the investigations carried out on Easter Island by a man called Thor Heyerdahl in 1955-56.
  • Provide supervised access to the internet so that groups can search for web sites to find out more about the island – eg, How was the stone quarried? How were the statues arranged? Who lives on the island now? Collect copies of photographs of Easter Island from the Internet.
  • Why is Easter Island described as a lonely and mysterious place in the opening sentence? Look at the small map on the poster. Use atlases to discover the names of the countries shown as closest to the island, including New Zealand, Australia and North and South America.
    • How far is the island from the continental land masses of South America and Antarctica?
    • How far is it from the nearest large countries – Chile, New Zealand and Australia?
    • How far is the island from other nearby islands? Compare the remoteness of Easter Island with distances to remote places in the United Kingdom and Europe.
  • Ask the children to write sentences of their own, using words from the poster that can be changed by the use of endings or prefixes:
  • Build up lists of further words that can be extended or changed in this way.
  • Discuss the questions posed at the end of the poster text. Ask the children to think of the kind of questions to which they would seek answers if they were archaeologists on a visit to the island.

Plenary

  • Discuss how to write a summary of a passage of text. Invite the children who have summarised the poster paragraphs to read out to the class some of their writing. Appraise the results.
  • Ask those children who have used IT or the internet to present their findings to the class. Discuss how effective their use of IT was in finding out further information and answering questions.
  • Check the children’s knowledge of the spellings on which you focused in your whole-class work at word level. Use look, say, cover, write, check with the whole class to reinforce the spelling of the more difficult words or new vocabulary. Allow several seconds so that the children can look at the word, before you cover it up and ask for the spelling to be written or spoken out. Encourage the children to break the words up into syllables as an aid to spelling

Focus for assessment

Children can summarise the contents of a passage or text orally, in one sentence, and explain the main point that it is making; can summarise, in writing, the key ideas from a chapter or paragraph; can extend words, through adding parts, and then use these words in their writing.

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