Tag Archives: teaching nonfiction k-2

Value of Conversation Before Students Write in Response to Prompt

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Love this short video clip on the Teaching Channel of a 5th grade teacher helping students make meaning of informational text through conversation. The students sit in a circle for a 20 minute discussion; they signal to the teacher with two fingers when they have a thought to add to the previous student’s comment or a thumbs up when they want to introduce a new thought (including questions they have about the text). Stacy Brewer, the teacher, facilitates the conversation, trying to make sure that all students are provided with an opportunity to contribute and trying to help students listen carefully and build or develop understanding through conversation. Prior to this – the students have met in small groups to talk about the text and Stacy coaches the groups! (To figure this out, I watched a video that is an overview of her structure–see below.) During the small group and large group discussion, the “text” is fully present as the students are asked to let the group know what part of the text they are talking about, as the students are asked to return to the text to help another answer a question, etc. In this clip, the text they have been reading is in a “textbook” and it is on the journey of Lewis and Clark. (Evidently, they have read this text and made some notes–this might include shared reading for some, partner reading, or independent reading.)

After discussing notes, questions, etc. Stacy poses a question for Turn and Talk conversation. She’s written this question on a sentence strip (card stock) for all students to view – “How does the author feel about Lewis and Clark?” Then they regroup and discuss the possible answers – referring to the text to support their answers.

Stacy poses another question – “What is the author’s viewpoint of exploration?” and this time she provides a sentence frame written on a strip – “The author thinks exploring is____.” After more discussion, the students are asked to return to their desks and write in response to the two questions.

There is an additional video (5 minutes) from this lesson that shows what happens just after “Text Talk Time” – with Stacy meeting with a small group of  students who need additional support – to engage in more conversation and help them plan for writing. “When we talk about things it gets our brain ready for writing” – Stacy.

Beautiful structure with lots of access points for a group of diverse learners. There is a lot of potential for this to happen with the structure she has created.

Two short, easy, free videos – that provide a lot of content for us to consider in our practice.

First video – Analyzing Texts: “Text Talk Time” https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/analyzing-text-as-a-group

Second video – Analyzing Texts: Putting Thoughts on Paper https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/analyzing-text-writing

Video that is an overview of the whole process – from small group student-led “brainstorm” to whole group to small group support lesson – https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/analyzing-text-lesson.


k-1 Moving Towards Close Reading

Recently I met a frustrated kinder teacher who told me her students are being asked to count paragraphs and identify key words and phrases. Seriously? She said that all she hears about is close reading, close reading, close reading. My response – no way…not for kindergartners. Yes, close reading is an anchor standard in the Common Core for reading, but a “close reading” of the ELA CCSS for kindergarten reveals that students are being asked to move towards close reading of running text by answering and asking questions about a text, by identifying topics and retelling key details of a text, etc – with prompting and support. The authors of the CCSS are respectful of the developmental levels of young readers and would not expect emergent and early readers who are striving to decode and make meaning to grapple with a text they cannot begin to even read.

My definition of close reading of a text is rereading an excerpt of text for a particular purpose that leads to deeper understanding and analyzing the author’s language at the paragraph and sentence, phrase and word levels in pursuit of that purpose. Rich learning experiences with high quality informational “texts” can build our primary grade students’ capacity for this type of engagement with text.

One suggestion I have is providing opportunities for students to “look closely” at informative photographs. Below is a photo of a poster I got from a National Geographic Explorer magazine (one of my “go to” resources). A group of kindergarteners and I spent about 15 minutes looking at and thinking aloud about this photo. (Note – I covered the captions and labels with yellow sticky notes purposefully – so we’d just focus on the photo.)

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My questions for the students were “What do you notice?” and “How do you know?” (in other words – “What’s your textual evidence?”) These questions require the students to depend on the text to answer – not to just draw from what they saw on the Nature channel or at a museum. As they shared, I wrote their responses on a piece of chart paper. The students began to realize they could not make statements like “A polar bear is huge” or a “A polar bear is fast” based on this photo (which served as the “text” for this conversation). This doesn’t mean these statements aren’t true, but we would have to consult another text to find evidence of this truth. In the shared writing below, the tiny print is quotes from the students sharing evidence from the photo to support their statements. The checks recognize that we can say these statements based on evidence in the photo. The question marks reveal our recognition that we would have to do more research to confirm these statements.

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Learning experiences like this prepare students to slow down and “reread” a text, to read a text closely, to answer and answer questions with textual evidence – independently. My belief is that this will get them a lot further in the long run than counting paragraphs in texts they can’t even read yet :-/