Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reading for Meaning Success!

How true.  
Have you ever said this to your students?  I know I have!
Never did work.
The real question though is this: Should we really want and need our students to be quiet? 
Sure. there is a time and place for silence and for talk.
 But talk can be purposeful. In fact, this is what I have discovered:  
kids + meaningful conversation =  tons of learning

So now I am back to share more about the reading for meaning lesson plan format and if you are a teacher who loves and needs a quiet classroom then this plan is NOT for you.  
It relies heavily on "kid talk". 

What I love most about this plan is its simplicity.  No kit, no cards, no bells and whistles. This is just a well crafted lesson plan that focuses on student engagement and student thinking.
It takes the National Reading Council's recommended strategies for teaching text comprehension and works them into a five step approach.

I ran these five steps for three different lessons with three different pieces of text last week.  I was happy with the result each time.  Kids were reading and thinking thorughout! 

This plan is for geared toward nonfiction reading and is done in a whole group situation.  For the first week they suggest that the teacher do the reading with the whole group. The teacher also serves as the scribe for the students during the writing of the main idea chart and summary during the first week.  From there they suggest having the students work in partners and then for the third week move toward independence. My students sat with a "discussion partner".  This allowed them to discuss points along the way with someone.  I always listen in to these conversations and then we share some thinking with the whole group.  My readers sat close to this partner during the lesson each with their own book.
You do need to set yourself up to be successful with this plan.  That means you can't just "wing it".  Take the time to provision for it and you will be happier with your result.  You first need a piece of appropriately leveled nonfiction text.  We read pages  from our social studies and science text books since that was I needed to teach anyway. Read through the lesson plan steps to see what else needs to be looked at ahead of time. 
So here are the five steps to this lesson plan:

This is my favorite part of the process to prepare.  You need to come up with a way to "hook" students into the reading.  The intervention teacher from the study suggests using jokes, riddles, pictures or photographs.  Since trying this lesson format I have used objects too with great success.  
I used this photograph for one of my hooks.  We were getting ready to read a page in our social studies book about the people of Ancient Mali and how they were salt miners.
Here was my procedure:  I displayed this photograph on my smartboard and told my students that the big blocks shown here were actually slabs of salt. I told them that although this was a photograph taken in present day,  salt was very important to the people of ancient Mali as well and  that today they were going to read to find out more. 

The question step is super important because it is the way we activate our students' background knowledge and how students develop a purpose for reading. It is important to note that we are not building background for the students in this lesson prior to the reading.  The idea is that they will build background for themselves through the reading and understanding of the text. So you are not telling them anything here.  You are asking.
We use question leads A LOT when we read and also write.  We have question words posted on our wall and refer them them often. We formed some questions prior to our reading using these leads. 

Some of the questions I asked prior to reading and wrote on the board were:
Why do you think salt was important?
Where did they get the salt from?
How do you think they used the salt? 

I think asking three questions prior to reading was sufficient.  Students shared their answers with their discussion partners and I listened in.  We then had several groups report their answers with the whole group and I wrote responses down on the board beside the questions. 

The study suggests teaching two new words per text reading.  You should pick tier two words. I always look for one multiple meaning word (if possible) and then one other word that I think students will see again or can use when they write or speak. 

In the Mali text, the students came across the word "spring" as in the place where the people would find water in the desert.  I thought this was a PERFECT choice because of all its meanings.  
Before giving them the dictionary definition, I asked them to think of how they have heard the word spring used and we mapped out all the meanings on a web. The meanings in black represent what they already knew.

Then I displayed the following dictionary entry and we discovered two other definitions of "spring" and I added them to the web in red. The use of the web and the graphic organizers seem to be KEY to helping students with metacognition.

 I showed them the way it would be used in the text we were reading.  We figured out which meaning it was.  
Next, I told them they were going to find the word "preserve" in the text.  I quickly gave them the defintion and we filled out the five parts of this word box together on the board.

Before we started reading, I introduced these thinking codes.  I told students that readers are good thinkers and so to prove their thinking along the way, they were to whisper: YOW!  Yes, if they read a detail that they already knew, Oops, if they came across a detail that corrected their thinking and Wow, if they came across something they didn't know yet.  Students got this printed on small cards to remind themselves.
I must say I was a bit skeptical and I honestly didn't know if kids were going to buy into using these codes  and if they were going to use it correctly. I was thrilled to find out that they DID get how to use these and it really does increase their engagement with the text..  Now, this was week one so I led them through this.  I read aloud with them reading in their heads and then I would stop after a paragraph or two and we would share our "YOWs". Be sure to let your great thinkers share for the benefit of all.  I praised like crazy when they could find examples of YES, OOPS, and WOW and told them they were reading like "big kids".   We will have to wait to see how they handle this on a more independent level.  I imagine I will have to still scaffold this and work with small groups of students who may still need my guidance in reading the text and thinking about it. 

After the reading and thinking, we fill out this graphic organizer that identifies the main idea and details of the text.  I helped lead them through this and wrote it on a chart paper for the first day. After that they wrote it alongside me on their own graphic organizer.

After that, we numbered the main idea as number one, the first detail as 2 and the supporting details under that as 3 and 4.  The second detail was 5 with the supporting details under that as 6 and 7.  You continue numbering this way.  From here it is then easy to construct your summary.  Start with the main idea sentence and go through the numbered details.  You end up with the perfect summary.  I loved teaching summary writing this way!

So all in all, it was successful and I will definitely continue to utilize this plan on a consistent basis.  The intervention group in the study only spent thirty minutes of time on this each day.  I will warn you that it  took me double that for this introduction week.  I used my writing time since I was teaching and demonstrating "summary writing".  It is important not to let the hook, vocabulary or discussion times get off topic or take over.  I would keep an eye to the clock to make sure one step is not taking too long.  Also be careful of the passage you start don't want it to be too long or too involved when you first start.
Would love to hear from anyone who tries it!  Let me know if you have any questions!