So I had a great time teaching a lesson on making text-dependent with a class of second grade students a few weeks ago. In my last blog entry, I wrote about teaching objectives that surfaced during reading conferences with three of these students. The students revealed to me they were not previewing nonfiction texts strategically and their predictions were not text-dependent. Making predictions based solely on interpretations of pictures or prior knowledge can lead students astray in determining a focus/purpose for reading and in determining what’s important as they read.
I’ve attached the detailed Lesson – Making Informed Predictions I wrote. This lesson was actually observed by 24 educators who jumped in and taught part of the lesson with small groups of students after observing me model. This was part of a lab date in an actual school building. A Professional Learning Community (PLC) meets for a whole day to reflect on practice, analyze data, and plan for instruction; the PLC consists of teams that include a district-level instructional support leader, a teacher leader (coach at the building level) and 1-3 classroom teachers. In the morning, I share my data analysis with them and the first part of the lesson plan; they plan the second part (with some guidance) and then we go to a class to work with students. In the afternoon the teams engage in their own data analysis and plan for instruction. For this particular PLC – I am modeling for the instructional leaders how they can lead similar lab experiences in the schools they support.
Okay…back to the lesson. Picking the text was an important step. The students had been studying adaptations so an article on how night flowers attract pollinators – through smells, colors, etc. was a great match. Also the article was pretty well written and lent itself to teaching this objective. In general, the National Geographic Explorer Magazine is a go-to source for me – the articles are consistently well-written and the layout, design, photographs are aesthetically appealing to all ages. Oh – another note – I model with two-pages at a time. Guided practice is with two pages. Independent practice is with two-pages. This is enough to start – otherwise, students might become overwhelmed.
In the lesson plan, you’ll notice I introduce the objective, the anchor chart (see image above), and then think aloud for students. I also call on students to come up and be my “think partners.” Next the students to try being strategic in previewing and predicting with a partner and then independently with nonfiction texts from their independent reading book bags. Gradual release, right? Where did I veer off the lesson a bit or just add some bits to enrich what we were doing? During the first part of the lesson, I found myself trying to engage the students in thinking about the information on the anchor chart – through some shared reading, through some call and respond, through some hand signals (pointing to my head when I say “think”). The students responded positively to this and during their conferences with the educators present, you heard them quickly picking up the language of the anchor chart. Also, something I hadn’t thought about intentionally but found myself saying over and over again – “What do you think the author is going to teach you in this article?” and the students started saying that when they were prompting their partners and in their responses – “I think the author is going to teach me…” Again and again students reveal to me the power of our language.
The lesson ended with me doing the “big prediction” about the article – because of time and cognitive load…we’d work towards the students doing this in partners and on their own in future lessons.
Reflecting on the lesson –
- I might divide this lesson into one on subheadings and first sentences and then another lesson on photographs and captions.
- I might go through their independent reading books and put a sticky note on a two-page layout I want them to use specifically.
- There need to be discussions during future lessons about what we learned from the anchor chart that can help us with previewing other features – like diagrams – to make informed predictions. I don’t think you have to change the chart – you could add to the chart. The chart is just an “anchor” to propel the students forward in being strategic – so as they become proficient – it serves just as a reminder. Also, my goodness – if 2nd graders just preview the subheadings, first sentences, photographs and captions (and forget to think about the other features) to make informed predictions – and they do this well – they will be leaps and bounds ahead when they start reading.
- Based on my observations, there are students I might ask to stay on the carpet to work with me (more shared think alouds) in a small group while more capable students work in partners.
- I’d definitely continue this focus with small groups during guided reading as appropriate.
- During whole group reading workshop, I’d like to do lesson “modeling” and more just coaching for mastery – so another lesson with more time for students to make informed predictions and then read, read, read (with their predictions in mind).
I have to say that the biggest “a ha” for many of the PLC participants during this lesson was how much teachers talk. They struggled in releasing the students and afterwards we talked about how common this is in classrooms. Students rarely get to the independent part of our lessons because we guide and guide and guide without ever releasing! At one point, I actually stopped everyone and told the educators that I should only hear second grade student voices. The educators were allowed to point (to the anchor chart, to the text) and gesture only. Most of the students flew at this point – to the educators’ amazement. A few students appeared to need continued support – but they still revealed beginning to grasp being strategic in previewing and predicting. I think, too, students rely on us to talk and fill in the silence when they hesitate. I wait them out – trying to break this habit- counting slowly in my head – to 20.
Now – these students were in two’s and three’s with two adults to model for them – after they’d worked with me. It’s hard to pull off this kind of teaching in a classroom with one adult, I know. But it’s something to think about – are we being strategic in our teaching – stepping in and stepping back just enough and hosting a space for students to learn to fly on their own?
I’ve diverged a bit here…let me know what you think about the lesson moving students towards text-dependent predictions. It’s written specifically for this article – but is applicable to any similarly, well-written nonfiction article. And where would I head next? With students reading at, let’s say, a late first grade level and above – I’d teach students to use those predictions to set a purpose for reading, to determine what’s important while reading, to summarize and synthesize…with plenty of time for them to read, read, read.