Tuesday, 6 October 2015

More Reading Strategies That Work for Secondary Students

Yesterday I shared a pre-reading strategy that I shared with a group of new teachers at a conference this past weekend.  Today I will tell you about the during reading strategy that I shared.

At this point, I handed out a short non-fiction article to all participants.  This would act as the text that we would be delving into together.  I chose an article from Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week site, which is my go-to website when I need to hunt down a brief, interesting text.  The first strategy that I shared is something that I call "Key Details."  The teacher gives the students a specific task or "thing" to look for in the text.  The article that I shared this past weekend was about high school football players getting concussions, so I asked the teachers to underline or highlight any word or phrase that related to consequences (positive or negative) of a concussion.  With another group, I gave an article about teenagers and sports drinks.  With that group, I asked them to underline or highlight words and phrases that related to imagery.  As the teacher, you simply need to think about why you are teaching this particular text in order to determine what you want students to pay particular attention to.  Some ideas might include:

  • character details/characterization
  • plot
  • mood
  • conflict
  • figures of speech
  • give an essay prompt (this could also be done with prompts from standardized exams such as the PAT or Diploma exam)
The teachers completed this activity either on their own or with a partner.  Once everyone had read the article, I asked them to come to the front of the room and write down one or two words or phrases that they had noticed.  I had chart paper in the room, but you could use the chalkboard or whiteboard in your classroom.  This gets kids up and moving, at least a little bit, and I always find that kids love writing on the board.  It also means that every student will have his or her ideas recognized by the teacher and classmates.  There are no right or wrong answers here, and there is no judgement or personalization of the ideas on the board because students are simply choosing text details.

Once everyone has added to the board, I read the words and phrases out loud.  Then I ask the group if they can see any categories forming.  I use different coloured markers to put the words and phrases into different groups and write the names of the groups somewhere on the board.  Once we have a few categories, we talk about how this information can help students to have a better understanding of text.  In addition to aiding reading comprehension, this sets students up for success with any activity that involves supporting evidence - an idea that many of our students struggle with.

Some of the ideas that are emphasized with "Key Details" are:
  • It's okay for kids to have different passages highlighted - there are no right and wrong answers.  This is a safe way for students to have a voice in the classroom.
  • Students have a focused reading task that keeps them on track and motivated.  This encourages close reading.
  • Students start to understand how writers write.  Every word is chosen for a reason.
  • Focusing on particular words and phrases, and revisiting those as a group, is a great vocabulary builder.
  • Fantastic preparation for writing an essay.  Students have a focus for a thesis statement, and the categories help students with supporting evidence.  The essay question could be: How does the author use ________________ to reveal __________________?
Food for Thought... what are your favourite during reading strategies?

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