Classroom Activity

Martha’s True Stories: Sunflower Bone Biscuits


English language learners read the interactive, informational text “Sunflower Bone Biscuits,” which is a real recipe that can be made online (using the interactive text) or in an actual kitchen. Using the special features of the Martha’s True Stories texts, students discuss what a recipe is as they learn common words and phrases used in recipes. They then create their own recipe by listing ingredients and the steps that go into making a favorite, simple dish.



  • Key Ideas and Details:
    With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • Craft and Structure:
    With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
    With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).
  • Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
    Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 1 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.
    With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
    Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., note places at home that are cozy).
    Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using frequently occurring conjunctions to signal simple relationships (e.g., because).
  • Comprehension and Collaboration:
    Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

Lesson Objectives

  • To understand that informational texts include instructions such as recipes.
  • To understand that a recipe provides step-by-step instructions as well as a list of ingredients.
  • To use specific strategies to learn recipe-related vocabulary.
  • To create a simple recipe of a favorite dish.

Literature Suggestions

  • Dim Sum for Everyone
    by Grace Lin
  • Eating the Alphabet
    by Lois Ehlert
  • Feast for Ten
    by Cathryn Falwell
  • Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes
    by Mollie Katzen
  • Too Many Tamales
    by Gary Soto


Lesson Description

  1. If students are already familiar with the series MARTHA SPEAKS, ask volunteers to explain who Martha is, why she can talk, and who some of the other characters are. Be sure to introduce the main characters, including Skits (see). You can also use the handouts How Martha Became a Talking Dog and Meet Martha, Her Family, and Friends.
  2. Talk about the different kinds of texts: stories (fiction) and informational text (nonfiction). Explain that informational text also has different formats, including recipes. Discuss what a recipe is. Ask: When do you use a recipe? Have you ever used a recipe or watched a grown-up use a recipe? What did you (or the grown-up) make? How did it taste?
  3. If possible, show students a simple recipe from a children’s cookbook with pictures showing the ingredients and the steps. Have students name the ingredients and explain the instructions using the pictures as clues.
  4. “Walk” through the interactive text with students.
    • For students who are less familiar with computers, explain how to use features such as the forward and back arrows, how to click on highlighted words to get definitions, how to turn the narration on and off, and how to click on the word “Ingredients” on each page.
    • Include a “picture walk” as you go through the pages. Ask questions about the pictures. As students discuss what they see, take the opportunity to ask questions or repeat answers using the vocabulary in the story.
    • You can preview the information in the text or read the story aloud, depending on the needs of your students. Students will then have an opportunity to read or listen to the story themselves or with a partner.
    • Show students the animated features. These can act as visual aids to help support vocabulary learning and the concepts described in the text.
    • If the page includes action words, such as stir, pour, sprinkle, mush and squish, roll, pinch, act out those words with the students.
    • Be sure to point out the Word Bones glossary and the Quizmo game at the end so that students can use these features they have finished with the story.
  5. Explain that Martha, who is a talking dog, is the narrator. When she says on the last page, “They should be more like the color of my fur than the color of Skits’ fur,” she is referring to the fact that her fur is yellowish and Skits’ is brown.
  6. In addition to the featured vocabulary words (see Vocabulary Words, below), point out common words, homophones, idioms, and compound words that English language learners may find challenging or confusing, such as:
    • grown-up
    • cookie sheet
    • wooden spoon vs. tablespoon
    • cornmeal, whole-wheat flour
    • dough, flour
    • mitts, oven mitts
    • earlobe
    • squeeze
    • set the timer, timer goes off
    • golden brown
    • fur
    • four-legged friends
    • roll it into a log
    • pinch
  7. Have students read “Sunflower Bone Biscuits” on their own or in pairs. Depending on their reading level and English language proficiency, they can listen to the story with sound or take turns reading it aloud to each other (or both). They can have fun clicking on the animated features within the pictures.
  8. Remind students that they can reread or listen to each page as many times as they want. Be sure that students click on the highlighted words to hear or read the definitions.
  9. After they finish the story, have students play the “Quizmo” game or listen to the “Word Bones” glossary to increase their understanding of the vocabulary words. Encourage them to say the words aloud as they guess or listen to the answers.
  10. Discuss the meaning of the text to check students’ comprehension of the story and the vocabulary. Ask, What was this story about? Why do you think Martha and Skits like to eat biscuits shaped like bones? What else do dogs like to eat? Use as many words from the Vocabulary List (see below) as possible. As students reply, encourage them to also use words from the Vocabulary List. Ask: What were some of the ingredients needed to make the biscuits? What ingredients do you need to measure? What ingredients do you need to combine? Can you remember any of the steps in the recipe? What were they?
  11. Go through the text again. Talk about the instructions on each page. Refer back to the conversation you had earlier about using recipes. Ask: Was the recipe for “Sunflower Bone Biscuits” like the recipe you (or a grown-up) used? Why or why not?
  12. With class input, recreate the steps of the recipe and write them on the board. (You can shorten the explanation of each step.) You may want to download and print out the PDF of the story.
  13. As you go through the steps, focus on the highlighted vocabulary words and check for comprehension.
  14. Have students choose a simple recipe, such as a favorite sandwich, fruit salad, taco, or rice bowl. Encourage students to pick a favorite dish from their home culture. Ask, What are the ingredients for your recipe? What tools will you need to make it? Help students think through the steps of the recipe.
  15. Help students write out the recipe. They can draw a picture of some of the ingredients and/or the final product.
  16. Have students share their recipes with each other.

Vocabulary List

  • add: To add means to put things together.
  • amount: An amount of something is how much of it there is.
  • check: When you check something, it means you make sure it’s right.
  • combine: When you put two things together, you combine them.
  • degrees: You measure how hot or cold something is with degrees.
  • divide: To divide means to take apart into pieces.
  • ingredients: An ingredient is one of the things that goes into the mixture.
  • level: When something is level, that means it is flat like a straight line.
  • measure: When you measure, you find the size or amount of something.
  • mixture: When you put two or more things together, you make a mixture.
  • portions: A portion is a part of something.
  • temperature: The temperature of something is how hot or cold it is.

Teacher Tip

Be sure to give students plenty of time to play the Quizmo game at the end. Students can play individually, in teams, or in pairs.
You may want to create your written version of the recipe beforehand. You can download and print out a PDF of the “Sunflower Biscuit Bones” text.

Extension Ideas

Choose one or more recipes to make in class. You may also want to invite families to visit the class and talk about favorite foods at home. As always, be aware of food allergies and safe food preparation.

© 2015 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved. “Martha” and all characters and underlying materials (including artwork) from the “Martha” books are trademarks of and copyrights of Susan Meddaugh and used under license. All other characters and underlying materials are trademarks of and copyrights of WGBH. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

Corporate funding for MARTHA SPEAKS is provided by Chuck E. Cheese’s®. Additional series funding is provided by the WGBH Children’s Educational Media Fund including The Germeshausen Foundation and by public television viewers.