Category Archives: 6-8th grade close reading

“Why do we have to annotate?”

“Why can’t I just highlight?” Ever heard that from a student? A few weeks ago I had the honor of teaching a class of 5th grade students with the objective of convincing them that annotating is a powerful way to make sense of a source–I did this by helping them realize the value of annotating AND by teaching them what they might include in an annotation.

Why do we annotate? I don’t have to convince you of the value of annotating, but we do need to remind students that annotating a source can help us make sense of the details and remember what we read. AND if we can understand and remember what we read, then we are more likely to be able to engage in critical thinking.

What types of notes should we jot when we annotate? This is the bigger (or real) question for students. Many (maybe most) do not know what to write in an annotation. They do not realize they can sketch a concept that is being described, write notes about what they don’t understand, note the type of detail the author has used (e.g., comparison, cause-effect, process, etc.), highlight or draw a box around important terms of the topic of a paragraph or section, and so forth.

Notes about the lessonThese students were studying the conservation of matter in science so I located a NEWSELA article that described condensation, boiling, and evaporation. Below are images and notes from the first two parts of a three phase lesson.

During Phase 1, I introduced the vocabulary word “process” –which is in the first sentence of the source. Understanding this word helps a reader understand many parts of this source better. I wrote the definition on the board and then we discussed briefly (see my notes from my lesson plan). We briefly previewed and made predictions and then I gave them a purpose for reading, “You have been studying condensation and evaporation in science. As you’re reading, I want you to think about new information you are reading that you can add to what you already know.” I encouraged them to put a + sign by new info, but to not spend energy on annotating yet.

As the students read the article, I leaned in to confer with several. I noticed that while they were able to name the topic they’d read about and give a few general details, they were not describing, in detail, what they’d learned. One student stuck out to me – he seemed very confident. He’d pushed the article away and was on to other things. When I leaned in, he informed me that he’d read the article twice and, basically, understood it all. I asked him to describe to me the process of evaporation and noticed he was probably drawing from his background knowledge to respond. Then I asked him to describe to me how the author explained evaporation. (The author uses a real life example of a puddle of water that appears to be shrinking but in reality…) The student had nothing to say, could not recall how the author did this. Together we went back and reread and discussed.

I closed by asking them to turn and talk with a partner about a new piece of information they’d learned from the article.

During Phase 2, I started by asking one students to come up and be the teacher while I pretended to be a student. I handed him a sticky note with a prompt a teacher might use to check for understanding – “Describe the process of condensation that you learned about in this article.” I asked him to ask me this question. When he did, I paused and looked out at the group with a bewildered look. I said, “Well, I think it’s about how water goes up in the air.” I looked at the students and said, “Is that about what you can say???? There was a lot of information in this article and that’s all I can really recall.” Most of the students agreed enthusiastically – “YES!!!” While we were laughing at me for not remembering more, we were also making it okay to say, “Hey, I need to go back and read and think through important parts closely to make sure I understand what I read and remember what I learned.”

They were with me!!! So then I introduced an anchor chart with the question “What are types of annotations we can use to help us make sense of details (in a source) and remember what we learned?” (See below.) 

I modeled thinking through a sentence in the source (with the article on a doc camera) and annotating and then we collaborated on deciding what to underline and jot down in the margins. As we annotated, we stopped and thought about what kind of annotation we’d made and began to list these types of annotations on the anchor chart. The students gave annotating with a partner a go. I quickly realized, that for many, they would need lots of additional opportunities with the teacher as a guide. Still there was good conversation about what they might jot down to help them make sense of the source. In the end, we only closely read and annotated two short paragraphs and that was plenty!!!

I closed by asking the student who’d played the teacher earlier in the lesson to come back up and ask me the same question. I modeled using my annotations to explain what I’d learned:

I learned that evaporation happens when a liquid is heated in some way.  The water molecules at the surface of the water start moving more quickly and they break away from the other molecules and move into the air as a gas. Evaporation is the effect and the liquid being heated in the cause. The author used a real life example–a puddle of water and what happens to the water to help me understand how this happens every day.

I looked out at the students and said, “How did I do?” There was a resounding cheer! They recognized the difference in what I could say – but more importantly in what they could say as a result of thoughtful annotations. Then I asked them to turn to a partner and use their annotations to explain what they’d learned. I probably could have asked them to put away their annotated text and talk about what they’d learned and observed positive results as well. They just understood and remembered the details better.

Woohoo!!!! So much fun!!!

Hope this helps.

 

Sample text set for teaching authors’ purposes

If students are reading multiple sources on a topic, thinking about the purpose of each source can help students remember the content in the source AND notice the similarities and differences between sources.
What follows is a sample set of sources (on recycling) for students to explore a set of sources (each with a different purpose) and an idea for a three-phase lesson with these sources. (I’m imagining these or similar sources could be used with grades 3-8.) If you haven’t seen the blog entry on using the mnemonic PRIDE as a way to introduce the different authors’ purposes, I’d start there.
AUTHORS’ PURPOSE TEXT SET on RECYCLING
1) In these two articles, the authors try to persuade the reader that recycling is worth the effort or it is not. With younger students, I’d just use the “CON” article; the “PRO” article is pretty sophisticated. Also, when I used this with students, I removed the words “opinion” and “pro” and “con” because I wanted students to notice this for themselves.
(Joining newsela is free!)
2) The majority of this NPR story recounts or tells the story of one group of that uses recycled materials to make  instruments: https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/09/14/493794763/from-trash-to-triumph-the-recycled-orchestra
OR if you are working with 3-5th grade students, you might find the book Ada’s ViolinThe Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and read this aloud to students. This text also recounts or tells the story of this orchestra.
3) This author at this site instructs or gives steps for an individual to make paper from recycled newspaper –

4) This author’s purpose seems to be to describe products that are made of recycled material.

5) The author’s purpose in both of these sources seems to be to explain how paper is recycled.
NOTE: For these last two sources, there might be some conversation around whether these authors’ purposes are to explain or to instruct; I lean towards explain because these are not steps the individual can take on their own BUT it’s a worthy discussion to have (if an issue emerges) with students because they are engaged in critical thinking!
THREE-PHASE LESSON IDEA (in brief ;))
Phase 1 Meet the Sources
  • Briefly introduce the set of sources. (You might include links in a Google doc or print out hard copies.)
  • Encourage students to explore (read-view-listen to) each source in the set–with a partner, in a small group, or independently. Pose this question: What are you learning about recycling? You can ask small groups to stop and discuss this as they engage with each source or you can ask this when you lean in to confer with students.
  • Close by asking questions like the following: What did you learn about recycling today that you thought was helpful? Fascinating? Hopeful? Why read-view-listen to more than one source on a topic?

Phase 2 Meet the Strategies

  • Introduce or review the different types of author’s purposes. (If you are just starting, look for how in this blog entry.)
  • Ask students (independently or with a partner) to reread-view-listen to each of the sources and jot down notes about the authors’ purpose. You might do one together.  As the review each source, encourage them to think about the content of the source–what are they learning as far as content–and how it’s easier to remember that if they think about the author’s purpose. If they come up with author’s purposes that are different than what you had in mind, ask them to explain their thinking–that requires critical thinking. Be open to what they come up with if they can justify their thinking (with background knowledge, text evidence, etc.)         
  • Close with a question for conversation like “How are these sources similar and different? How does thinking about the author’s purpose help you explain the similarities and differences?”
Phase 3 Meet the Response 
  • You might provide a writing prompt like one of the following:
    • What have you learned about recycling that is important for other people to know? What are two sources you might recommend to others? Describe what you learned in the sources and why someone should read-view-listen to both.
    • How has reading more than one source on this topic changed your thinking about this topic? Describe important ideas you are walking away with, citing the sources.
  • Help students plan. See my notes for phase 3 in the lesson on introducing author’s purpose.

BTW – If you give this text set & lesson a try, please let me know how it goes! Or feel free to touch base with me before teaching. I’d be glad to be a think partner!

If you need more ideas on how to teach with multiple sources (including putting together text sets), see my new book Nurturing Informed Thinking (with Heinemann).

Hope this helps.

S

Less is More – Identifying key words from just a few sentences

Have you ever asked a reader to tell you about what they learned in a short nonfiction book or article and they do one of the following?

  • Give you a few miscellaneous (not related to each other) facts?
  • Talk about the last fact they read?
  • Share facts you discussed during the preview of the source?
  • Talk about a main idea (lions are amazing jumpers) but not about key details that support that idea (mountain lions have slim bodies and powerful legs that help them jump)?

Or does the student do one of the following:

  • Talk knowledgeably about one part of the source?
  • With thoughts that reveal thinking beyond the text (making inferences or helpful connections or interpreting the text in some way)?
  • And even about the text (e.g., analyzing the author’s use of a particular type of detail like a statistic or analogy)?

If you experience the former more than the latter, it may be worth your time to engage the students in close reading and identifying of key details with just a short excerpt of text.

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of working with a group of students reading a book called Animal Champions (Pigdon, Okapi Educational Publishing, 2012). This book is written at about a Fountas and Pinnell level L. I used the THREE PHASE LESSON PLAN FOR LEARNING.

During Phase One, I introduced the book with a short discussion of the word “champion” (the students were given a chance to consider the definition and use the word in a conversation with a partner about a “champion runner in your class.” Then we did a preview and predict (where I asked, “What do you notice?” and “What do you think you’ll be learning about animal champions?”). Next the students read and I conferred with them and then we closed with a discussion and teaching point.

During Phase Two, we did a close reading (to make meaning) of just THREE SENTENCES. During Phase 1, I’d noticed that students were recalling general facts (e.g., “pronghorns are fast runners”) and were not able to share key details and explain those details. The Phase 2 lesson was designed to support this then.

Check out the text excerpt in the image below. There’s A LOT of information in these three sentences.

Depending on the student’s background knowledge, they might do the following learning-thinking as they closely read, talk and write about this SHORT excerpt:

  • a pronghorn is a kind of antelope
  • a pronghorn is a fast runner
  • a pronghorn can run at about 37 miles per hour–which is a little faster than when my family drives to school in the morning
  • a pronghorn can run this fast for 5500 yards–which is about 55 football fields in length
  • a pronghorn’s long legs must help it run faster–it can take bigger strides
  • a pronghorn’s big heart must help it run faster, too–a big heart can pump more oxygen rich blood to your muscles which you need to run fast
  • a pronghorn’s large lungs take in a lot of air while it’s running – because they need more oxygen for their muscles

My point is there’s a lot to think through (within the text and beyond the text thinking) in just these three sentences! I haven’t even touched the surface of how they might think “about the text” (e.g., how the author makes the case that the pronghorn’s physical features help it run fast, how the author could make a stronger case that the pronghorn is the champion runner by making comparisons to other animals).

During the close reading, with the small reading group of students, I did not go for understanding all of the points listed above. We spent about twelve minutes thinking together about what we’d learned (that we could share with someone that night at home) and listed the key words (green sticky notes) below.

I started by introducing the pasta analogy and that led into a discussion about our purpose for (this particular) close reading–to identify facts about the pronghorn that we can go home and share with someone. The key words or details are triggers for remembering what we learned in more detail–so we do not write down all of the details we may include when we share with someone (or write about what we learned). For a description of how to do this with your students, I’ve attached a one-page guide (excerpted from the new edition of my book Close Reading of Informational Sources due out next spring).

4Identifying Key Details Using the Pasta Analogy

During Phase 3 (a third 20-minute lesson), we thought about how we’d share what we’d learned with someone at home (“Hey, Mom! Guided Writing”) and added the words “learned” and “fascinating” to our key words (orange sticky notes). We orally rehearsed what we’d say (students practiced with a partner and I coached) and then they wrote.

These students were definitely PUMPED ABOUT THE LEARNING THEY’D DONE and ready to go home and talk with someone about it!

Soooo….consider asking the students to read a source, but then to really dig in and learn about one aspect of the source’s topic in detail. These reading habits-skills may transfer to other texts students read–really slowing down and thinking about what they are learning, identifying (& making sense of) key details to support their understanding, retaining information, AND expanding their understanding of the world around them.

I RECOMMEND CLOSE READING OF SHORT EXCERPTS AT ALL LEVELS OF reading-viewing-listening to informational sources. I’ve done this with 2nd-8th grade students who are not recalling key details or not thinking beyond the text (inferential, interpretive thinking) or even readers who are not slowing down to evaluate the text (about the text thinking). LESS IS MORE.

Hope this helps.

Sunday

 

It’s about NOTICING when they need to compare/contrast

Lesson plan + set of follow-up sources.

It’s not just about teaching students how to compare and contrast. We also need to teach them to notice when they need to ask comparison questions. Below is a description of a series of lessons I had the honor of teaching last week exploring this idea. I’ve also included a completed lesson plan using the three phase learning plan. I’ve also included a set of follow-up sources with which you could continue exploring this strategy.

Phase One – Meet the Source

  • Introduced the source (NEWSELA article “A Day in Space” Lexile 840) with a simple gist statement: We are going to read an article about the lives of astronauts on the International Space Station. (You could ask students to read this on-line for Phase One.) (I know this is the same source I used in the last blog post. Could you have kids read it again with this different purpose? Or use one of the additional sources listed below?)
  • Explored vocabulary “daily routine” with the following three steps:
    • Kid-friendly definition (written on paper for all to see) – “tasks or chores that are done regularly (everyday)”
    • Shared a personal connection – One of my daily routines is to make coffee when I get up. 
    • Asked partners to turn and share a daily routine; provided the stem “One of my daily routines is_____.”                                                  
  • Previewed & predicted – Asked questions like “What do you think you’ll be learning about the astronauts’ daily routines?” and “What do you notice (in the photographs, subheadings, etc.)?”
  • STUDENTS READ AND I CONFERRED WITH INDIVIDUALS.
  • Regrouped  – After a teaching point, I posed this question for discussion – “What did you learn about the astronauts’ daily routines?”

Meet the Strategy – Noticing and then Asking “Similar?” and “Different?”                       (Note: This may take two 20 minute lessons.)

  • Taught the word “contaminate” with three steps.
  • Introduced the strategy – When I began to read this article the first time, I noticed right away that the author was comparing life on the International Space Station with life on Earth. Let’s look back at the first paragraph and I’ll show you where I started to think that. (Shared reading of first paragraph in article.) When the author wrote, “Astronauts who live on the ISS follow daily routines just like those of us on Earth,” I started thinking, “Oh, the author might be comparing these two things and that means I need to be asking important questions as I read like: How are ______ and ________similar?” and “How are _______ and _________ different?” Asking these two questions can help me determine what’s important in the source and help me remember what I read. Placed these two questions out for students to notice.
  • Shared close reading – We engaged in reading the paragraph about the astronaut’s food that begins “Condiments like ketchup…” and goes on to explain how the astronauts’ salt and pepper is liquid and why. As we read each sentence, we underlined details that explained how this is the same or different and wrote annotations in the margines. (I cut and paste the article into a word document for the Phase Two lesson.) A Day in Space 2_22_18
  • Guided close reading – Students read and annotated paragraph that begins “They also use a different type of toilet…”  (I picked this paragraph because there are a couple of sentences that go into depth.)
  • Independent close reading – Students read and annotated paragraph that begins “After a long day in space, nothing’s better than a good night’s sleep…” that explains how astronauts attach themselves to the wall to sleep.
  • Closing (discuss content and strategy) – What did we learn about how astronauts’ daily routines are different than ours? How did keeping these two questions in mind help us as readers?

Meet the Response

  • Helped the students plan using their annotations. Below is an example of one student’s plan; her group ended up writing about all three sections they had close read.

With a second group that needed more support, I wrote the key words they generated and they only wrote about that one section.

(I will write about both of these experiences more in the next blog entry 😉

  • Leaned in to confer while they wrote.
  • Briefly shared to close.

DRAFT OF THE PLAN. Three Phase Plan Day in Space Compare

ADDITIONAL SOURCES – You could do this lesson with additional sources, nudging the students to notice if they are good sources to ask compare and contrast questions and then close reading sections and asking these questions. You could also begin to compare/contrast ACROSS these sources 🙂

NEWSELA.com articles –

European Space Agency site about daily lives of astronauts

NASA.gov site – The NEWSELA article “A Day in Space” was adapted from text at this site. You might set students up to explore this site further as they continue to ask comparison questions.

Hope this helps.

S

 

 

When kids ‘mumble read’ a word they don’t know…

A few weeks ago I was in a conference with a student reading a book about the sea lizard. When he came to a word he didn’t know, he mumbled the word and kept going. Do you have students that do this? These students are self-monitoring but they lack fix-up strategies. They know when they don’t know a word, but they do not know how to figure out that word.

When he finished the sentence, I asked him, “What was the tricky part?”  After he recovered from the shock of my question – because he’d been secretly hoping I wouldn’t notice his miscue–he pointed to the word burrow.

Then I said, “What can you do?” He was at a loss.

I could have started this conference differently, but these first two questions are super important. By asking him “What was the tricky part?” I am messaging that productive readers self-monitor for problems, for when meaning is breaking down. If the student says there was no tricky part, I ask him to read it again and usually he notices a tricky part or he may fix his error. (If he doesn’t…well, I have more to say about this in the next blog entry.) By then asking him, “What can you do?” I’m messaging that when we notice meaning breaking down, we need to do something.

When he didn’t know how to figure out the word, I prompted him, “Can you use your finger to cover up the ending? And think about the first part of that word?” He did this and read the chunk “fur.” Notice my finger has not been in his book yet. It’s better that I get him to do the work instead of me.

When I asked him about the second part of the word – row, he said he didn’t know that part. I realized he probably didn’t know what sound “ow” makes in that word. I also knew that he probably did know other words with “ow” so I wrote the word snow on a scratch piece of paper. (I did not write how 😉

“Do you know this word?” He responded by reading snow.

Then I asked, “Can you use this word to help you read the second part of that tricky word?” 

His eyes lit up. “ROW!”

“Now read those two parts together.”

“BURROW!”

I could have stopped there, but I believe after we help a student decode a word, we MUST ask them to reread the sentence it’s in and think about the meaning. So I said, “Let’s go back and reread the sentence with burrow and think about what it means.”  Then we reread and used context clues to figure out the meaning of the word.

I have never blogged on how to help students with decoding while reading informational texts, but this type of experience has been popping up in my practice a lot lately. Just thought I’d share.

Hope this helps.

 

 

 

Discourage students from taking notes like this. Here’s why.

If students are reading multiple texts on a topic and taking notes on each of those sources, I require that (or strongly suggest) they write notes in phrases–just enough words to help them remember what they learned or what the author was saying or the student’s response to information. In most cases, I strongly encourage them to NOT write their notes in sentences.

Here’s why –

  1. If they write notes in sentences, the student may be easily tempted to just copy the sentences they are reading in a source and not do a lot of thinking. (How many of your students do this??????) Instead, we want them to think about what the author is trying to say or what they are learning from the source and then determine what is really important to remember. Then they can jot down a few of the author’s words or their own paraphrasing of the text.
  2. If they’ve already written sentences in their notes, they frequently just want to lift those sentences and insert them into their writing or presentation or whatever. Then they have missed an opportunity to combine details from multiple sources. When students are done taking notes from multiple sources, we want them to look across their notes and combine ideas from multiple sources. They have to be able to look at their notes and categorize details. Oh, all of these details are about what the raccoon eats! Or Yes! I see several details on how the Cherokee used their environment to create art. They may want to draw arrows between notes or circle details they want to combine with the same color of pencil. Conceptually, this is harder to do if they are looking across “sentences” versus words and phrases.

Here’s an example of what I mean by notes written in phrases (versus complete sentences)–

OKAY…I’M LEAVING OUT A LOT HERE like the fact that taking notes is a complex task. The students need to know their purpose for researching, reading, taking notes. They need clear questions they are trying to answer or grapple with as they read and take notes like How did this Native American tribe use resources in their environment to survive? or How did the members of the Jewish resistance exhibit courage during the Holocaust? or How can we be prepared for severe weather? They need a way to organize their notes like using an inquiry chart (Hoffman, 1992). See example below. (If you need more info on teaching with inquiry charts, see Chapter 8 in my book Close Reading of Informational Texts). AND they need examples of good texts to use as sources or access to a vetted set of sources before they go off to find their own. And, and, and…

Example of an inquiry chart…

Below is an example of a student’s inquiry chart. This fifth grade student was researching the Apache. Notice the questions across the top that drive her decisions about what to write in her notes. Her sources are listed on the left hand side. She’s circled details she wants to combine with a colored pencil.

Many, many students will struggle when they go to synthesize and write or plan for presenting if they  have to look across a bunch of “sentences.” Many, many students will be tempted to just copy the sentences from their sources! Encourage your students to take bulleted notes, short phrases or just enough information that they can look at it and remember what they learned.

For more information on how I use inquiry charts, read an article I wrote for ASCD’s EL entitled The Case for Multiple Texts.

My new book with Heinemann Nurturing Informed Thinking also has a chapter focused on inquiry charts.

Hope this helps.

S

 

 

 

Do our students understand “definition” and “example”?

Yesterday I was giving a demo lesson closely reading a science text when I realized the students did not understand the terms–definition and example. Many nonfiction authors use definitions and examples and other types of details like cause and effect when they describe concepts like forces, magnets, weather and so forth. Readers need to recognize these types of details to understand these concepts.

The 4th grade students and I were engaged in carefully reading an excerpt from Using Force and Motion (National Geographic Reading Expeditions, Phelan, 2003)–an easy introduction to the concepts of force, gravity, friction, etc.

img_7682

scan-38

Notice in the excerpt below that the author introduces the topic in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph, towards the end, he introduces the topic of force and defines it – “a force can be a push or it can be a pull.” Then he gives an example of a force – “The paddle gets a big pull from the person’s arms to push the kayak through the water” and a second example – “The kayak also gets a push from the water that is rushing behind it.” In the last paragraph, he offers details about the effect of forces like the wind  – “make all objects move” and “make objects slow down, speed up, change direction, or stop.”

scan-37

After students read this text, we want them to be able to say, “Oh! The author just defined what a force is when he wrote, ‘A force can be a push or it can be a pull’ and then he gave me an example of that which is when a person kayaks and they pull on the paddle, it pushes the kayak through the water. That’s like when I…”

During the lesson, I started an anchor chart entitled “What types of details does the author use to teach us?” and listed details like definition, example, effect. When I began to ask students to determine whether a new detail (after I’d modeled) was a definition or an example, they couldn’t do it. I realized that the students were not clear about what I meant by “definition” and “example.” I added definitions of the details to the chart, but there was still some confusion.

img_7685

So I stopped and led a short discussion with an easier concept. We defined “fruit” and listed examples. (When I asked for examples of fruits, one of the students said, “Squishy!” so I knew I was right in his ZPD 😉 This seemed to help as we moved to carefully reading the last paragraph of the excerpt!!!!!

img_7686

The more I do this, the more I’ve learned not to take for granted what students understand in grades 2-8. Even for words like definition and example, they (even middle school students 😉 may have a superficial understanding.

Below are common types of details used by nonfiction authors use. BTW – I WOULD NOT COPY THIS LIST AND HAND TO STUDENTS. Instead – I’d introduce a few at a time during close reading of excerpts of text.

  • Name of topic
    • Name of subtopic
    • Location
    • Function, purpose, or behavior
    • Duration, or when something takes place
    • Physical attributes (movement or action, color, size, shape, number, texture, composition, etc.)
    • Construction or organization
    • Explanation of how something works (may include causal relationships, sequence of details, and variables)
    • Real-life examples (see additional blog entry on teaching “examples”)
    • Comparisons (including similes and metaphors)
    • Other types of figurative language (alliteration, onomatopoeia, and personification)
    • Quotes from experts (for the purpose of sharing relevant knowledge or just sharing an opinion)
    • Attempts by author to connect with reader

Imagine if our students can understand and identify and explain these types of details while reading to learn.

Hope this helps.

S

 

 

“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.

Tips

  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.

S

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.

S

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.

2016-07-22 12.38.162016-07-22 12.40.58

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.

2016-07-22 13.40.14

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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 6.46.24 AM

2016-07-22 13.41.05

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!