Earthworms & Literacy?

What do EARTHWORMS have to do with literacy? 
That's not a question that usually crosses your mind, I bet! I recently spent a day at a STEM conference and in one of the sessions, we took a look at just that.

Our presenter gave each pair of us an earthworm to observe. On each table, he'd also placed a couple non-fiction books about worms and woodland creatures, but we were instructed not to touch those yet. So, after observing the worm for a bit, he asked us to draw and label our worm.

Sketching was easy enough a little challenging because our worm seemed to become a little hyper! haha! (Have you ever tried to sketch a worm that's wiggling and wriggling? bahahaha!). Labeling was even more difficult! I don't know about you....but if I ever knew anything about worm parts, I've forgotten!The only labels I could add to my sketch were end, end, and dirt (the specks that clung to our worm...haha!).

THEN, he suggested we look at the Table of Contents of one of the books and decide where we might find information to help us with the labeling. Everyone flipped to the page number of the chapter that seemed like it would have the information we would need to fine tune our labels (seems like no one else had extensive existing knowledge about worms, either....go figure, huh"). We found headings, captions, and labels that gave us the information we needed. We also explored the index and glossary to get more information.
Talk about motivation and engagement! Can you picture your kiddos doing this activity? If adults were motivated to explore text features.....just imagine how motivated students will be! We didn't go any further with this, but in the classroom, I'd also move to creating an anchor chart listing all of the text features we used, what they look like,  and the types of information each can give the reader.

My brain is whirling with other topics that this strategy would work well with. Like what about different types of soil? One of our science standards is telling the difference between different types of
soil: silt, clay, etc. Or how about rocks? Why not give the kiddos a couple types of rocks and do the same strategy as we did with the worms? I'm so excited about this practical application of using non-fiction text features, and I think this method will really help them understand how to use them!

I'd love to hear more ideas! What other topics could you use this strategy with?