Summary and Context
When teaching new standards, we have new terms to understand. Take for example the term text complexity. What does this mean? To me, it means various things. One thing I interpret it to mean is that I need to keep in mind whether the texts I am presenting students with are too hard, too easy, or just right for our students. However, deciding what level a book is at can get complex itself when we think about the different purposes we might use a text for.
For example, The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carl is at a first grade reading level when you are looking at the simple language and easy words used in the book. Thus, for most of my students, the decoding part of the reading would be too easy to use this book for many second grade purposes. However, the author uses elements within the story that make it a complex text for my students when we are looking at it through the lens of author's purpose. He integrates fiction and nonfiction information to tell the story. The author also shows the life cycle of a sunflower, how the seed travels over different geographical landscapes, and integrates information about the seasons of the year. All of these content elements led me to ask, "How does the author tell the story while also imparting information?" I want my students to know how these elements overlap to tell the story. Because it is a long story, I am teaching this concept over three days. This is the first part of second read of the book and with the above question, I am helping my students analyze the author’s purpose.
As we read, I am having the students practice the vocabulary strategy of context clues to help them figure out the meaning of certain words. I am asking them to think about whether the author gives us enough clues to know the meaning of the word. In this way, they are analyzing the author's structure. This is a a challenge for them.
Then, we move into Socratic Seminar to discuss the text and the author's choices as a group. I am spending much time with this routine because we are in the second half of second grade and they need the practice.
Finally, the students write about what they are learning and share with the group.
I start with students on the rug and share the student friendly objective: "I can ask and answer questions to analyze the structure of the story."
When I share the objective, one question I ask my students is, "What do you understand about the objective? What do you not understand?"
In asking, I invite them into the learning. I explain what the word "structure" is. I let them know that each author writes in a certain way about certain topics. I ask them, "Do you remember when we read the story Stirring Up Memories? I follow up with, "How did that author write the story?" (This is an autobiography and thus provides a good contrast.)
I continue with, "Well sometimes the structure is very obvious, we can see it right away, other times, we need to look closer to understand how a story is being told."
With this, I send off to their tables.
I spend a half hour reading the story out loud and letting students ask questions/explore concepts in the story because I want to make sure students walk away with a clear and deep understanding of what is happening in the story. Here is a general outline of how we proceed in this close reading of the text:
One of the shifts with the CCSS is teaching the students how to critique what they are reading.
There is much going on during this section. I am asking a few text dependent questions with this second read, as well as analyzing a few vocabulary words, and having them illustrate the seasons. I decided to overlap the learning in this way because I wanted to show my students that proficient readers keep all this in mind as they read. I invite you to think about what would work best for your students. I feel my student were ready for the challenge.
With illustrating the seasons, I am basically helping them dissect how the author tells the story. My students did a good job with quickly illustrating and finding words about Autumn. I asked them to write both words: Autumn and Fall. As simple as this may sound, I want my students, largely ELLs, to have a visual of how the seasons change within the story and be familiar with words that are used interchangeably to describe this season.
Next, my text dependent questions were about analyzing specific words to help the conceptual understanding of the story. In looking at the meaning of words, we practiced the strategy of context clues. But we know that not all context clues are equal. And so I asked the students to think about, evaluate whether the author gave us clear clues. This takes practice, patience, and time for my students to do well. To aid this, I created a template for the vocabulary words and then I made sure to model. My students benefit from this scaffold.
In the video, one of the students explains clearly that no the author did not provide clear clues for what the word "drifts" means. So we go digging into the dictionary. Hearing their peers critique the author's vagueness about words and letting the students use a dictionary are powerful visuals and practices for them to later do independently in a confident way.
I took on teaching these different skills because I wanted them to feel the complexity of the text. One reason I did it was because the words in the text itself are easy, but the storyline/content/author's choices are still complex. Another reason, I wanted to challenge them. And, I feel they did well.
One quick note: I would cut back on the time because some students did get tired. Feel free to do one skill at a time and then integrate as you want.
Since we covered much information during the table reading/discussion, I gather the students for Socratic Seminar to help review some key details of the story with these questions:
I am giving them another opportunity to analyze the structure of the story so that they are able to write about it. Giving them different opportunities to discuss the story structure helps my English Language Learners.
Before starting Socratic Seminar, I make sure to review the reason for it and the Rules for participation. These rules are written on a chart that is visible to the students. There is a Handing-Off chart for those who need help with discussion starters. Additionally, I am attaching a document that entails how I implement Socratic Seminar in my classroom.
I am constantly building connections between the listening, speaking, reading, and writing with my students. Now students are writing about what has happened so far in the story. They can use the events they want to write about. I encourage them to use the vocabulary words we discussed. I am curious as to what words will appear in their writing.
As they write, I walk around and offer help as needed. Some students need help with getting started, other need help with spelling words, while others need encouragement to stay on task.
Also, I make a mental note of who is meeting the task and ask if they are willing to share.
Here are some of their writing examples:
Now it is time for some of my students to share their learning with their peers. For me it is important to give my students many opportunities to share. It allows them to build their self-esteem. It helps them to practice the academic language they are learning. It improves their listening skills.
My students know that after each speaker they have the chance to provide feedback. The feedback protocol we follow involves two stars and a wish:
Here are the speakers for today: