This is the second in a series of three posts providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.
Summarizing is a great strategy that teachers can use to help students remember important vocabulary and content. At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher recaps the key ideas from the prior lesson. For example, the teacher might say, “Yesterday we learned that the President of the United States is not elected by the popular vote of citizens during the general election in November. Raise your hand if you remember who casts the determining vote?” The teacher can call on individual students or say, “On the count of three tell me the name of the group who elects the president. One, two, three…” The teacher can then call on one or two students to explain what they remember, and then fill in any missing details before starting the new lesson.
Summarizing can also be used to wrap up each day’s lesson. This can be done by either the teacher or student volunteers.
Another way to begin a reading lesson is to have students skim the entire selection. They should be instructed to look for headings, charts, captions, and words that have been written in italics, bold, or highlighted. The list of focus text features can be written on the board to guide students’ independent work. Next, students should be directed to read the first few words, or sentence, of each paragraph. After a set amount of time, the teacher can allow students to interact with nearby classmates who will take turns making predictions about the content of the day’s lesson.
Text mapping is an independent, pre-reading strategy that helps students build their knowledge base before beginning whole-group instruction. Students are directed to underline all proper nouns, box all numbers and number words, and circle any words that are new to them, or words they think their classmates might find challenging. Text mapping can also be assigned as homework to be completed independently before the next day’s class.Whether text mapping is completed at home or during class, it helps if the teacher allows time for students to compare their work with peers seated nearby before beginning direct instruction. The teacher can encourage students to add marks, if necessary. Before the teacher begins reading the text aloud, he or she may choose to allow a few student volunteers to share some of their marked terms or numbers.
FOCUS ON VOCABULARY
When there’s a vocabulary word in bold, students can be directed to find the definition in the glossary or dictionary. Or, they can be guided to use context clues to infer the word’s meaning. The teacher might ask, “Who would like to read the definition aloud to the class?” or “Who thinks they can figure out the meaning of this word by looking for clues in the text?” After a definition has been agreed upon, the teacher can follow up by asking a second child to tell the class what he or she thinks the new word means using “kid words.” Finally, a third student is asked to restate the sentence in the text that contains the new word, only this time the student should insert “kid words” that help make the meaning even clearer.
Here’s an example.
The text sentence is, “Using wire and electricity you can make your own magnet.”
The teacher asks, “Who can find a definition of the word magnet?”
A student finds the definition in the chapter, glossary, or dictionary. He or she reads it aloud, “A magnet is a piece of iron, or an ore, alloy, or other material, that has its component atoms so ordered that the material exhibits properties of magnetism, such as attracting other iron-containing objects or aligning itself in an external magnetic field.”
The teacher asks, “Can anyone put that in ‘kid words’?”
A volunteer responds, “A magnet is something that attracts iron and some other metals.” The teacher asks, “Who can replace the challenging words with kid words to make the sentence easy to understand?”
Another student responds, “Using wire and electricity you can make something that attracts certain metals, like iron.”
REFOCUSING THE GROUP
After every paragraph or so, it also helps to pose a whole-group question that can be answered by a show of hands or other signal. Again, this encourages everyone to stay focused and participate. Questions like, “Has anyone ever gone to the polls with an adult to vote?” or “How many of you think it would have been exciting to sail with Columbus?”
If there’s time, the teacher might call on one or two students to comment. Or, the teacher could follow up with a targeted question for those students who did not raise their hands, such as, “Tyler, what do you think it was like to sail on one of Columbus’s ships?” It’s best to avoid questions that can be answered yes or no when asking targeted, follow-up questions.
VARYING RESPONSE MODES
Students might also respond with a thumbs up, down, or sideways. For example, the teacher might ask, “Using your thumb, how many of you think you would be able to use rocks to grind your own corn flour?” Students who don’t vote can be encouraged to participate by asking, “John, Sateen, and Kris, I missed your vote. What do you think?”
When working with challenging reading content, students need to practice summarizing, skimming, text mapping, and making meaning from new vocabulary. With a little help and motivation, students can learn to independently tackle even the most information-dense material!
Looking for useful tools to help your students write better? Check out these easy-to-use resources!
Whether you love it or hate it, writing can be difficult to teach. This presentation introduces the basics of writing a paragraph. Students can easily follow this organized, step-by-step approach to writing as they are introduced to key writing vocabulary and important writing concepts with examples.
The 63-slide PowerPoint helps students learn how to: 1) decode prompts, 2) use prewriting activities to generate ideas, 3) create a draft with organized ideas and supporting details, 4) revise writing for clarity and fluency, 5) edit writing for accuracy, and 6) publish writing that is attractive and easy-to-read. This NO PREP activity packet contains eighteen (18) ready-to-use printables. Just copy and go! The scrambled paragraphs in this unit are similar to those in Scrambled Paragraphs Mini Unit: Early Elementary Edition. The two products can be used together to differentiate instruction.
Scrambled paragraphs have eight (8) sentences that can be put together only one way. Students practice using transitions and inferential clues to assemble these organized, logical paragraphs.
Students love these activities, and teachers love how quickly students begin to write their own well-organized paragraphs!