Do you have high-reading kinders you need to challenge?

Some our of kindergarten students read above grade level. How do we keep them challenged? A colleague of mine, Lisa, engaged a small group in close reading of an informational text about energy with great success. Here are some photos and tips she shared with me.

Just some background. These nine students were reading at a late first grade level or higher in the spring of their kindergarten year. Lisa met with all nine of them at once. The text they read closely was A to Z’s Where We Get Energy – a level K text. You might just pick some key paragraphs from the text you choose. There’s no need to closely read a whole book.


  1. Take notes together and then gradually release responsibility. The students might read the whole text on their own to start so they can get some sense of the big picture.  Together closely read a sentence at a time. Discuss the meaning and then pick important words to write in their notes. Release responsibility – maybe they just tackle a sentence at a time and then you regroup. The photo below is a little fuzzy but it gives you an idea of what a student at this level can do as far as note-taking with support. img_0513
  2. Give it a couple of weeks or more. Lisa said it took several weeks – a few lessons each week. She had a wide variety of readers in her room and many other lower groups to meet with more often.
  3. Provide lots of opportunities for them to summarize their notes ORALLY with a partner. This builds bridges to writing and to speaking fluently on a topic. You might prompt them by saying, “Turn and talk to your partner. What did you just learn in this paragraph? Use your notes to help you.” Some groups will need to orally rehearse with you before they talk with a partner.
  4. Discuss how they can present their information and then let groups of three work together to tackle this task by creating some type of visual.  img_0509-1img_0511
    These photos are fuzzy BUT you can still tell there’s so much thinking that must have happened in this group – they have arrows and visuals as well as text boxes! They are clearly organizing their thinking into categories as well.
  5. Provide time for them to present! I saw pictures of these kids with their posters – oh, the proud smiles!!!!!

BTW – All kindergarten students can do some level of research. Tony Stead proved that to us in Is That a Fact?  After I read this, I was a convert to the idea that even our Pre-A and emergent readers can engage in deep thinking and learning about nonfiction topics – with their peers and on their own. 21353134

Hope this helps.


“I underlined all the words! They’re all important!”

When annotating, do your students underline most of what they’ve read because they think “it’s all important”? Maybe they’ve underlined that much because they don’t know how to determine what is important? Below are a few tips and photos from a demo lesson I gave to tackle this issue. And, yes, I used the pasta analogy😉

The article for this lesson was about a village in Costa Rica that has chosen to raise and sell butterflies instead of clear cutting the rain forest. This movement started at a school with students taking the lead on the project before their parents and other community members became involved.


  1. I started by describing the reading strategy we would be using and introducing the pasta analogy. We are going to be reading an article very carefully and underlining key words and phrases that help us answer a particular question. You can read more about the pasta analogy in a previous blog. I use this analogy to help students understand that key words and phrases or “key details” are like pasta which we want to eat and the other words are like the water you boil the pasta in – which you don’t want to eat.Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 7.11.41 AM
  2. Then I moved to activating (for some) and building (for others) prior knowledge by briefly discussing three photos related to the content of the article. I shared a map of the western hemisphere and pointed out where Costa Rica is in relation to the United States and then a photo of the rain forest in Costa Rica and a contrasting photo of what a rain forest looks like when clear cutting happens. There were no photos to support this in the article (I found all three online) and I felt like it was very important for students to understand where this takes place and this concept and how it influenced the village’s decision.img_7374
  3. Then I shared the purpose for reading which was posted on the front board and said something like: We are going to read an article about a village in Costa Rica that decides to NOT clear cut the rain forest. Butterflies help this community in some way. I engaged the students in reading the purpose posted on the front board. img_7369
  4. In the ideal world the students would read the article in advance of this lesson to get a basic idea of the content. This was not the case for this demo lesson. Instead I asked the students to spend a moment using the THIEVES strategy to preview and make informed predictions about what the text would be about.
  5. With the text projected, I modeled reading the first paragraph, then rereading to think aloud for them about key words and phrases – including thinking aloud about why these were important words or phrases. img_7372
  6. The students had pieces of blank paper folded into quarters and I drew four quadrants on the dry erase board. (When we don’t have copies of the text to mark on, this is an alternative.) I wrote the key words and phrases for the first paragraph as I thought aloud. The students caught on and started contributing words to the list. They also copied these words onto their papers. img_7373
  7. I stopped and modeled using my key word list to summarize aloud what I’d learned–I did this with a student partner who brought her notes to the front.
  8. The class and I did a shared think aloud for the 2nd paragraph and listed words together. We stopped and thought aloud about what we’d learned in both paragraphs – with a partner – using the key words we’d written. student-pasta-2
  9. I released responsibility to pairs for the 3rd and 4th paragraphs. They listed key words and stopped to summarize aloud with each other. Eventually, THESE NOTES CAN BE USED TO WRITE SUMMARIES OR HIGHER LEVEL THINKING RESPONSES TO THE TEXT.
  10. We wrapped up by discussing what we’d learned as well as the strategy of determining what is important.

The classroom teacher finished the next day by coaching the students in determining what was important for two more paragraphs. The text was an eight page article. That’s TOO LONG for this kind of reading and note taking. If you’re working with a text this long, I’d suggest jigsawing the following sections (after you’ve done one section together like we did)  – assigning small groups to read a section of a text (from one subtitle to the next) and determining key words. Then when they jigsaw, they have to share what they learned with their new group. Another option is to choose a shorter text OR because they’ve read carefully the first section, ask them to finish reading without listing key words. That careful reading of the first section should launch them towards better understanding.

Hope this helps.


Are your students’ minds wandering while they read?

Gave a demo lesson with students on how to use CODING to think about their thinking. When I asked these students if they ever think about lunch or something else while they are reading, most gave me a thumbs up! When I asked them if they finish reading and sometimes have no clue what they read because their minds were wandering, many gave me another thumbs up! Some students’ jaws dropped. How did I know?🙂

Here are some photos from the lesson with 4th grade students. The text was an article about Rudy Tolson-Garcia, a para-Olympic athlete. I’ve included a few reminders for teaching students to self-monitor using Linda Hoyt’s coding strategy. (See a previous blog of mine for more info on this strategy.)

  1. State the objectives for the lesson–the reading strategy and the focus on content in the informational text. img_7364
  2. Zoom in on one vocabulary word that will really help the students understand the text better. I define the word, make a connection to myself, make a brief connection to the text, then ask students to turn and talk with a partner about their own connection. For this lesson, we talked about “ability” and then “disability.” img_7367
  3. Introduce the strategy – stopping to think about our thinking and then categorizing that thinking with a code. img_7368
  4. Model reading a chunk of text and rereading and then thinking by using the strategy. Write aloud in front of the students. img_7365On the sticky note in the photo, I wrote my thinking, “Wow! Rudy is an amazing athlete who has no legs!”
  5. Engage the students in reading, rereading, and then thinking aloud with you. In the photo above, the question at the bottom of the sticky “How can he swim with no legs?” was generated by a student in a shared think aloud with me.
  6. Begin to release responsibility. Ask students to read, reread, think aloud with a partner, and then write. img_7366
  7. Lean in and confer. Take the pen if it’s helpful. Below are a few of the sticky notes students wrote. Notice my handwriting in a few of the sticky notes below. When a student is stumped or frustrated, I help them compose orally and then I launch them by doing some of the writing. img_7381 img_7380 img_7382
  8. Close. Engage small groups in discussing what they learned as well as how they coded their thinking. In this lesson, they talked about what they’d learned regarding our focus question, “How does a person with a physical disability become a world champion athlete?”

VARIATIONS – We didn’t finish the article during this lesson. The article was four pages. We needed at least two lessons to do this. Another thought would be to ask students to read the whole article and then just code a particular section. The second part of the article about Rudy was more technical. The teachers and I agreed that the students would need to read a section and then go back in and code for each sentence.

The students and also agreed that one thought may need more than one code. It might be a “Wow!” and a “new information” thought. TOTALLY! We want them to run with this, making it their own in a way that helps them think about their thinking!

Hope this helps.


New nonfiction you’ll want 3rd-5th grade to read

Some new extremely insightful picture book biographies that will appeal to grades 3-5. (BTW – I value this type of picture book as much as I do children in these grades reading chapter books. There’s so much critical thinking that can be done with these texts.) Book talk these books and then display in the classroom library. I think if we are excited enough–students will grab them off the shelf! These would also make for great reading aloud with student-led discussions and many could be used as part of a Next Generation Science Standards unit of study. If students read them independently, there’s lots of room for written response to higher level thinking questions especially related to perseverance in the face of obstacles.

I’ve linked the reviews I’ve written on Goodreads which include suggestions for instruction and higher level thinking questions.

Notice too – lots of titles about STRONG WOMEN!

MY FAVORITE of all of these is Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh.  tharp

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Lang


Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks – The story of Vivien Thomas – an African American who made significant strides in medical technique but was not recognized for this because of racism.


Mountain Chef by Annette Bay Pimental about a Chinese American trail chef who played a major role in persuading key players to fund the National Park Service. Humorous and poignant.


Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy about another woman immersed in a male dominated field who persists and has a real impact.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy. LOVED the vocabulary in this book.


Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand about Ira Aldridge, an African American, who became a leading actor in Shakespeare plays in the 19th century. Very interesting!


Hope this helps. If your students write responses to any of these books, I’d love to read their writing!!!!



Photos from THIEVES lessons with some reminders

Just a few photos from THIEVES lessons as reminders of what we need to think about when introducing this strategy to students. I taught two demo lessons with third and fourth grade students. This was the first time they’d used the strategy and it seemed to take longer than I expected, but when I thought about it – it took the amount of time it should. The students just need more opportunities to work with and think about the use of this activity in helping them make informed predictions. The good thing was that I got a boisterous thumbs up at the end of each lesson when I asked students, “Do you feel like you can make a strong, informed prediction about what you will be learning from this text?”

Here are a few tips:

  1. I introduced Tier Two vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson – key tier two vocabulary that could be used to discuss what we were learning while previewing the text. img_7284
  2. I asked the students to quickly sketch their connection to the word “thief” and then I introduced the mnemonic THIEVES on an anchor chart. I explained by saying, “Thieves want to get ahead. They feel like they need something that they don’t have. That’s what we can do when we preview a text. We can get ahead of the author by thinking carefully about text features like the titles, the headings…” img_2374img_2375
  3. I modeled thinking aloud & writing notes about the title of the article the students were reading. img_2380Looking back, I wish I had hammered more heavily “There has to be proof in the text feature that you are looking at to support your prediction about what you will be learning.”  I also modeled making connections between text features. You can see the arrow I drew from the title to my notes about the photo in the image below. scan-10
  4. I gradually released responsibility to students to use THIEVES and take notes. This was a very gradual release. As a group, they decided what text feature to look at next, I got them started on thinking about the feature, then they continued by thinking and jotting notes. img_2391
  5. I conferred with individual students. You’ll notice in the notes above, there is a misconception about who was being interviewed by the kid reporters. I prompted the students with, “Show me the evidence in the photo that the kid is interviewing a parent?”
  6. Using our notes, I modeled with a student partner (at the front of the classroom) how to talk about what they learned from previewing the text and what they were predicting the text would be about. I also referred to the vocabulary I’d introduced and used this in my discussion with the partner.  Then I asked partners to turn and talk with each other–referring to their notes. I did this multiple times during the lesson.
  7. I provided sentence frames to support their conversations. img_2393The sentence stems were written on the dry erase board at the front of the classroom. I predict that this text will be about… I also think that… I want to add that…

BTW – we only got to about three features during the lesson. I’m letting go of previewing a ton of features before reading. I think students can make pretty good predictions if they at least look thoughtfully at the title, headings, photos and captions.

During the next lesson, I would ask the students to review their predictions OR we’d write a strong prediction together and then I’d ask them to read the whole article. I’d follow by asking them to reread the article and mark details in the text that support their prediction. (At some point we would need to get into how sometimes we have to adjust our predictions once we start reading and learning more.) Over time, they would not need to take heavy notes when they preview a text–this could happen easily for a few minutes before we read with a different purpose or different objective in mind.

Hope this helps.


Are we reading aloud enough nonfiction in PreK-1st?

Beginning in the primary grades, our students need to hear us read aloud A LOT of nonfiction. This helps them develop an ear for what it should sound like when they read independently and when they write nonfiction as well. Below are some new titles students will enjoy hearing read aloud – again and again. I’ve included reviews, suggestions for classroom use and Next Generation Science Standard connections. If you visit my Goodreads page, I have a shelf of nonfiction read alouds for PreK-2nd!


Good Trick, Walking Stick by Bestor

Engaging introduction to the walking stick with a rhyming, reoccurring phrase, “Good trick, walking stick!” The main text could easily be read aloud to preK-1st grade students and then an additional read might include information provided in the captions. Onomatopoeia (“drop, plop, drop,” “wiggle wiggle wiggle Pop!”) in different color, larger fonts beg children to engage in acting out or contributing sound during an interactive read aloud. Well written with clear illustrations to support the text. Might go well with NGSS  K-ESS3 Earth & Human Activity and 1-LS1- From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.


At the Marsh in the Meadow by Mebane

LOVED THIS!!!! Written in a rhythmic cumulative style like “The House that Jack Built.” The author starts with the marsh and the mucky mud, the reeds and the algae and then begins to build the food chain – mayflies eat the algae, water spiders eat the mayflies and so forth. The repetitive, rhythmic verse lends itself to young children jumping in to repeat phrases and act out some of the verbs – nibble, grasp, slurp, etc. The illustrations are vibrant, clearly support the text and worthy of looking at carefully before, during, and after reading aloud. Great for PreK-Kinder studying animals and food chains. Might go really well with the NGSS K-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.


Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways by Genhart

Not just any book about bullying. The author targets “microagressions”—defined in the author’s note as “brief exchanges where an indignity, insult, or slight is expressed.” Well written. The content is clear, to the point with a kind (not patronizing) voice. Concrete examples of what children say when they are being microaggressive – “he’s so gay,” “reading is for nerds,” “he throws like a girl” and concrete kid-manageable suggestions for what to do in response. More importantly, the author addresses the idea that it’s hard to stand up to microaggressions and that “doing the right thing takes courage and it takes practice.” This would make a great read aloud as well as an opportunity for young students to turn and talk in small groups. This might be used at the beginning of the school year to launch problem-solving discussions, etc. At the end of the book, there is a helpful essay by Kevin Nadal, a psychology and professor, with more detailed information about what microaggressions are and what we can do if our child is the target or if our child is the enactor.


Every Breath We Take: A Book About Air by Ajmera & Browning

Lots of potential for use in the classroom as part of a rigorous unit of study. Read aloud to PreK-1st grade students and pose questions for small groups to discuss. Let a small group of second grade students read to each other and then discuss, “Why is clean air important? What in the text makes you think so? What is your response to that?” Read aloud to 3rd-4th grade students to launch an inquiry—use information on specific pages in the book (including the last two that have more details) to help students generate their own questions. Use as a mentor for writing, for thinking about author’s point of view and how to convey that in their own writing. Lots, lots, lots of ways to use. Would go well with NGSS K-ESS2 Earth’s Systems-in particular ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems.


Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Jenkins & Page

Great for PreK-1 interactive read aloud that expands students’ vocabulary. Animals that “walk” also tiptoe, waddle, stroll, and march. Animals that “jump” also pounce, spring, rocket, bound straight up, vault, flutter, burst. And more. So much potential fun and learning. The kind of book kids will want to hear read again and again. For older students, this book might launch further research or serve as a mentor text for layout and design as well as focused content. Would work well as part of an integrated unit for NGSS 1-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes, specifically LS1.A Structure and Function.

Hope this helps.


Start the year with HIP, TELL, THIEVES or…

A student glancing at a text and predicting “It is about dolphins” is just not good enough. This surface level prediction will not help them as much as an informed prediction. This is what I would want students to say in a prediction: “I think this book is going to be about the dolphins that live in Shark Bay which is off the coast of Australia. I know that because I thought about the title and the map that was on one of the first pages. I also think it’s going to tell me about families of dolphins and different types of dolphins because the captions and photographs I previewed included details about…” This is the kind of prediction that will move students forward in comprehending the text.

How do we help students do this?

Model using a mnemonic like HIP, TELL, or THIEVES and “think aloud” about what your predictions are because of what you learned while previewing. As I do this, I post the text I’m previewing – using a document camera or a Smart board. As I think aloud, I point to the features I’m examining as a visual scaffold for students. I’ve also modeled taking notes about what I’m learning during the preview – just to reinforce thinking carefully about what I’m learning during the preview.

Below are sample anchor charts.




For more information about THIEVES see two previous blog entries I’ve written. Links are below. The information in these blog entries is relevant to what you might do with HIP and TELL as well.

Hope this helps.


Dear Accelerated Reader, It’s not fair.

Dear Accelerated Reader,

It’s not fair that you assign fewer points to nonfiction than fiction. For example, students who read The Hunger Games (GL 5.3) get a whopping 15 points, but students who read Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Hopkinson (GL 7.4) receive a measly 7 points. Yes, Titanic is only 289 pages compared to The Hunger Games at 384 pages, BUT Titanic is a multi-layered, cognitively demanding text with intertwined narratives about multiple passengers, the sinking of the ship and the rescue as well as many many non-narrative sidebars including explanations of the engineering of the ship, comparisons to other ships, descriptions of the lifeboats, etc. and, on top of all of that, dozens of primary sources to interpret. It is also written at a higher Lexile level probably due to a lot of domain specific, challening vocabulary. And yet – you award Titanic LESS THAN HALF the points that students get for reading The Hunger Games.


titanicScreen Shot 2016-08-22 at 11.24.11 AMhunger games

More examples? Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Partridge (GL 6.6), winner of numerous awards, tells the story of the children who marched for voting rights in the 1960’s in Selma, Alabama. It has 62 pages of text, but it has a large format so each page of text equals about two pages in a typical fiction chapter book format. It’s a complex text in that the reader has to follow multiple narratives and grapple with complex issues like racism, social activism, and perseverance. The reader also has to understand the motives and work of organizations like the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). And yet – you award it only 3 points!

marching for freedom


On the science end of the reading spectrum, check out The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (GL 7.5). Only 59 pages but again with a large page format with twice the text on each page of what is in a typical chapter book. The author chronicles, describes, and explains colony collapse disorder. This is not a book for spring chicken readers. It’s difficult and demanding and yet amazingly rewarding as the reader walks away with knowledge critical to understanding an important issue in our world. Again-at a higher Lexile than The Hunger Games. And yet – you award it only 2 points!!!

UGH!!! Do you hear me moaning???

AR, I will give you a small, very small, bit of credit. Picture books geared towards the primary grades typically get .5 AR points regardless of whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. Just a little bit of credit.

Back to my point. I don’t know how you, Accelerated Reader, are assigning points, but I’m begging you to rejudge books like these and GIVE MORE POINTS!!! After all, we do want our students to read more nonfiction, correct? And IF we have to assign points (which I’m not a big fan of anyway), then let’s use this as an incentive to read more nonfiction, too? RIGHT?????

Teachers. AR may continue to fail us. In that case, would you double the points offered for a nonfiction book? Or maybe require so many books read in a particular genre versus assigning points? And if you already do, HOORAY!!! Thank you!!!!

Hope this helps.


Sample Lesson – Close reading with NewsELA article

Do your students need help with clearly stating a main idea? And with organization when they elaborate on that main idea? Last month I had the honor of teaching close reading of an informational article to a small group of fifth grade students for a demonstration lesson in front of 40 educators in the North Kansas City School District. With a quick assessment prior to the demo lesson, the teachers and I realized the students needed help clearly stating a main idea, elaborating further, and organizing that elaboration. Below are a few notes about the lesson I gave.

I used a NewsELA article entitled “Tortoises battle it out with Marines for the right to stay put” and I lifted this main idea from the questions for students at the end of the article: In the article, one of the author’s main ideas is that the environmentalists and the Marine Corps disagree about whether a soldier training will harm the tortoises.

Before we met, the students read the whole article.

At the beginning of the 20 minute lesson, I beefed up background knowledge by sharing two photos. On my smart phone, I showed them a map of the U.S. southwest and the location in the article – TwentyNine Palms and a photo of the Marine base. Then I asked, “What did you learn?” so I could quickly assess what they understood.

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Next I posted the main idea for all students to view and quickly defined key words – writing the definitions on the chart as we discussed their initial thoughts about this main idea. See below.

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I introduced close reading with the pasta analogy and a photograph of pasta that I’d pulled up on my smart phone.

Then we did a close reading of a three-paragraph excerpt from this article and listed key details on sticky notes. I modeled for a few sentences and then coached the students in independently reading and taking notes. I chose this excerpt (see below) because it reveals lots of details related to the main idea. During this 20 minute lesson we only read, discussed, took notes on the first two paragraphs–which detail the Marine side of the issue. The students’  teacher planned to follow up with another lesson to delve into the environmentalist side of the issue.

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Note: Because I was leading a demonstration lesson, I moved to writing – just for the purposes of teachers watching. Otherwise I would have coached the students in close reading the third paragraph and saved the writing for the Day 2 lesson.

We closed with shared writing and independent writing referring to the notes they’d taken. See the chart below. Just a note – I’d written the main idea statement prior to the lesson. Together we came up with a piece of evidence/a detail and elaborated and composed the following sentences:

The marines are trying not to harm the tortoises. They are moving the tortoises far enough away from the training that they won’t come back. This means they are trying to protect the tortoises.

And then each student chose an additional detail, turned and talked with a peer about what they were thinking about writing, and wrote a short response. (See sticky notes posted at the bottom of the chart). I leaned in and conferred with each student as they wrote.

2016-07-22 13.39.58

The students clearly needed this lesson and, if they were in my classroom, I’d follow up with a series of lessons like this with multiple articles. The 40 educators present  in this demonstration teaching lab followed up by planning in teams and teaching a very similar lesson to one student (while I observed and coached) with the NewsELA article “Tough Times for Polar Bears.” Thank you to North Kansas City Schools for supporting this kind of professional learning!

How do we know? Easy beginning of the year assessment

Here’s a quick and easy assessment for the beginning of the year–read aloud a text or provide short texts for students to read, then provide a prompt and ask them to sketch (k-1st) or write a response (2nd-8th).

You know your objectives for teaching as far as curriculum, but you also need to know what your students know how to do in relation to those objectives. If you are teaching for identifying main ideas and explaining textual evidence–what can your students already do to identify main idea and explain supporting details? If you are teaching for comparing/contrasting the overall structure of a text, what do your students already know about this? Etc.

For kindergarten-first grade – read aloud an engaging informational book like Grandma Elephant’s in Charge and then ask them to sketch and write about what they learned. See my blog analyzing kindergarten students’ written responses to this book.

grandma elephant

kindergarten response 1

For 2nd-5th grade students – provide an article and prompt for writing in response. Recently I visited the North Kansas City schools and gave a demonstration lesson related to identifying and explaining main ideas. Before I arrived, the fifth grade teacher asked the students to read and respond to a NewsELA article entitled “8-year-old who is blind prepares for reading competition in L.A.” The prompt for the written response was “What is one main idea in this article? What in the article makes you think so?” You can phrase this in multiple ways – as additional support for students. Ideally, for 5-8th grade students, I’d prompt with “What are two or more main ideas in the text? Explain how these main ideas are supported by key details in the text.” (Note – This would not be appropriate for students reading multiple years below grade level.) If you have some inkling of the students’ reading levels, you can print this article at different Lexile levels. (Please beware when using NewsELA – see my last blog entry.)

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 6.15.30 AM

This article has multiple main ideas that students might notice and explain further –

  • Amare, who is blind, loves reading. (VERY SIMPLE)
  • Amare’s hard work learning to read and reading has paid off; he is going on an amazing adventure with the Braille Challenge competition.
  • The Braille Challenge inspires blind students to read and compete.
  • Children with visual impairments like Amare can excel at reading Braille.
  • Teachers of Braille are important to children with visual impairments like Amare. Without them, these children might not learn how to read or even learn.
  • Reading Braille is one way for blind children to experience the world – by reading and by traveling to competitions like the Braille Challenge.
  • Children with visual impairments experience life differently and similarly to children without visual impairments.

We used the students’ responses to help us determine what I should teach during the demonstration lesson. In the response below, notice that this student has identified multiple main ideas (“how Amare loves reading” and “how his life turned amazing” and even “he overcomes blindness”) and offered some textual evidence to support these main ideas. When I think about teaching this student, I’m planning for helping her with organization and elaboration. When I lean in to confer with her, I might even offer her more global main ideas to grapple with like how the author reveals that children with visual impairments experience life differently and similarly to children with visual impairments.

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In contrast, the student who wrote the response below has attempted to state a main idea and use quotes from the text to support this idea (strengths). The main idea is unclear, though, as is the relationship between the main idea and the quotes from the text. For this student, I might provide a clear main idea (from the list above) for him to grapple with or coach him in developing a clearer idea orally before he begins writing. In addition, I’d engage him in conversations explaining why a particular quote is relevant before he writes.

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Just looking at these two students’ responses helped me deepen my thinking about what I needed to teach as far as identifying and explaining main ideas.

Next week I’ll write about the lesson I taught after we analyzed these responses.

Hope this helps.