Hello! Certainly a long, overdue post, but here is a great way to organize student independent reading selections. A tote bag stored in a cubby with the student picks allow for a great "grab and go" solution!
Remember taking vocabulary tests and doing a great job memorizing, but have no idea what those words mean now? Research yields much better strategies for today's instruction. It's about engaging students to make sense of words on their own. Teaching them the skills to put to use as independent readers. This article talks about EFFECTIVE vocabulary building for students and the importance of vocabulary exploration versus vocabulary memorization - for all subject areas.
Literature circles are a great way to allow for differentiation, autonomy, and the opportunity for students to take responsibility for their learning. This article gives some great tips for using literature circles, ideas for student roles, and ways to use learning management systems or collaborative tools such as One Note or Google Classroom for the students' collaborative communication. One important tip that was mentioned was to be sure to model for students how to use the weeks' student posts as conversation starters and not as the actual conversation.
Here is a great list of steps from Achieve the Core for creating all levels of text-dependent questions to support close reading strategies.
Below is my poster for integrating close reading in your classroom - any classroom.
Close reading of informational texts and non-fiction articles is not - and should not be - reserved for language arts classes. Every content area would be immensely enhanced if science teachers, social studies teachers, physical education teachers, welding teachers, woodworking teachers (in other words, "all technical subjects," as Common Core states) would not push aside the textbook, but instead embrace it, along with content area and trade articles. Students would then simultaneously learn how to dissect the readings while gaining knowledge in these content areas. What often happens is that teachers feel that students can't handle the text books or can't read the articles independently - and often that is true. However, when teachers instead go into a survival mode, of sorts, and read aloud the whole chapter or article or summarize it with a slideshow, it ends up doing a disservice to students - students are not learning HOW to read these complex texts. They are not learning how to acquire the information on their own. They are not being given the skills to read the sometimes intricate information within a particular content area or even within their possible future trade. They are not being given the opportunity to read, understand, articulate, and discuss or even debate topics within their area of study. Teachers sometimes feel that they can’t do these things with students because they are not language arts teachers, or because they don’t have time, or simply because they don’t know how. Alternatively, a simple solution is to let go of the control and let students do…..with the guidance called close reading.
Close reading is a guided reading approach. It is guided because 1) the close reading strategy is reserved for complex texts that are often too high for students to be left with independently and 2) students don’t use close reading strategies instinctively – students have to be trained how to be critical readers and thinkers. Teachers take on the role of facilitator and guide students with the close reading steps that alternate students reading and annotating independently and answering then discussing text dependent questions, with the teacher modeling the process. It is a process that is not done every day, but is to be implemented to foster skills in students that will carry with them in their education and careers. After all…..do you remember highlighting texts with no purpose in mind? I do. I remember the struggle. This process ensures that all students avoid that struggle and truly learn HOW to read, understand, and articulate.
So how can it be seamlessly and meaningfully integrated into content areas?
Experts debate on food-related controversial, real-world, current topics in these Wall Street Journal articles. Teachers of science, social studies, culinary arts, food sciences, health, nutrition, etc. can take these articles and create a classroom of critical readers and writers who can debate with the best of them following a few suggestions:
Extension – Next time, allow students to choose their own topic, now that scaffolding has taken place.
Variation – Try the concept in any content area.
This lesson idea provides an authentic arena for honing critical reading, writing and communication skills – in all content areas.
Do we need to share the load of language arts literacy? Yes.
Do we need to teach students to be independent readers and writers, within all content areas? Yes.
Otherwise….where will they learn to acquire and articulate knowledge in all content areas? Otherwise….where will they learn to apply these strategies in life?
Independent reading levels allow students to apply comprehension strategies in books at their reach. Teachers confer with students on their independent books to progress monitor and formatively assess.
Guided, or instructional, reading levels allow students to read a level above their independent level - with guidance from the teacher, typically in small groups.
Frustration levels are above a student's grasp and are not appropriate for students to read independently. They do not allow students to apply comprehension strategies. They are appropriate for interactive read alouds, during a small percentage of a literacy block or at another time during the school day, since students can listen at a higher reading level than they can read.
Socratic questioning is a technique that focuses on questions with increasing complexity rather than answers to promote deeper understanding rather than memorization of facts. While it is excellent for literary discussions, it is also very beneficial in all subject areas!
In order for students to effectively think about text and talk about text, a common language needs to be in place....
Here are some literary themes posters to help get that thinking and conversation going.....
As students learn how to think about, interact, and talk about text, differentiated, leveled literature circles can then be integrated. This is a great resource packet of tips for running online literature circles, for role sheets, student organization tools, and for tools for monitoring both process and content. Some additional literature circle resources can be found here....free resources are lower on the page.
Here is a great collection of before, during, and after activity ideas to spice up your guided reading groups.
Jamie Meola Saponaro,