Have you seen our latest project, My Family’s Beef Farm? It’s a non-fiction book by children’s author, Katie Olthoff that tells the story of raising cattle on a modern beef farm.
The story follows Cecelia, a 10-year-old farm girl in Iowa. She lives with her family on a beef cattle farm. Cecelia takes the readers on a tour of the family farm and discusses how farmers care for livestock and raise safe, nutritious beef.
My Family’s Beef Farm was mailed to every 3rd grade classroom in the state, and available to other teachers on request. It has been fun to hear how teachers are using the book in classrooms. While the content of the book ties to science standards, the book is a great tool to use for language arts lessons too.
Below are just a few ideas to “beef” up students’ reading and writing skills using My Family’s Beef Farm.
- Build-a-Sentence. Turn demonstrating understanding into a fun group activity by creating word cards for students to put together to create sentences, similar to Magnetic Poetry. Either create pre-printed words on strips, or have students write 100 words from the book on small strips of paper. Then ask students to use the words to answer questions such as: What is the main idea of the story? Describe the main character. What do farmers do to take care of animals? Students can also use their word cards to create their own story! Add another level of engagement and a STEM connection by attaching the words to blocks, so students can literally “build” sentences.
- TIP Method (Term, Information, Picture). Ask students to select a word from the book that is new to them. Then have them write the word (term), write the definition or information they know about the word, and draw a picture that represents the word. If they are stumped, encourage them to refer back to the book and use context clues in the text and pictures to determine the definition. As a class, share and discuss the definitions and drawings. This method of understanding new vocabulary appeals to both visual and auditory learners.
- Echo Reading. Read a paragraph of the text aloud, following the words with a pointer for students to see. After the text is read aloud, the students imitate, or echo you while reading from their individual copies or the digital version projected on a screen. Echo reading allows children to practice proper phrasing and expression and develop sight word
- See-Saw Reading. In pairs, ask students to read the book aloud to each other alternating who reads each paragraph or page. This strategy helps build confidence and reading fluency.
- Say Something. Play relaxing music as students read the book quietly to themselves. When the music stops, ask the students to make a comment to a partner about what they just read. Repeat every few minutes until all students are done reading their book. Check out this teacher’s Say Something conversation starters.
- Connecting Text to Text. Select another non-fiction book about livestock farming, such as Amazing Grazing by Cris Peterson. After reading the second book, list and discuss connections between the two texts. Did one book provide background information that helped them better understand the other book? Connections enable readers to use what they already know to develop meaning about something that is new.
- Point-of-View letter. After reading My Family’s Beef Farm and Click Clack Moo Cows that Type, ask students to write letters from a cow on Cecilia’s farm to her family. Ask the students to focus the letter on a particular opinion (of the cow) and provide evidence to support that opinion. This assignment will be extra fun if you can get your hands on old type-writers!
Do you have other ideas for using My Family’s Beef Farm with students? We’d love to hear them!
Iowa elementary teachers can request classroom sets of My Family’s Beef Farm by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or access the digital version and supplemental lessons here. Amazing Grazing, Click Clack Moo, and other great books are available for teachers to borrow from the IALF Lending Library.
My Family’s Beef Farm is a special project of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation with financial support from the Iowa Beef Industry Council.