Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Still Learning to Read: Reading Across Texts

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

Somehow, even by 3rd grade, students think that writing informational pieces somehow begins with copying facts out of books they read.  One of the goals for 3rd graders is to take notes on research topics and when my kids noticed this on the feedback form our district has, they mentioned quickly how hard they thought note-taking was.  Even after all that we have done with sketch-noting this year, they had little confidence when we started to talk about "research" and "note taking".

So I decided we'd meet a few books in a weeklong unit of study on notetaking/informational reading/research. I ordered 4 picture books about Wangari Maathai as I figured this was a person very few of them knew much about. I also knew that it tied a bit into our Science curriculum. We read Wangari's Trees of Peace, Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, Seeds of Change and Mama Miti over 4 days.

These books worked well to read over days.  Each told the story of Wangari and I would consider each a picture book biography but each told different details and focused on different pieces of the stories.  So we confirmed much of our thinking when we heard it over and over and we added to what we knew as the different authors included different things.    Of course we continued to ask questions, chat informally and connect this with so many other things we've read.  But our new learning was in reading across texts to think about the most important things across -synthesizing information from a variety of sources.

This was a very simple study.  On the first day, I read the first book--Wangari's Trees of Peace, giving kids 3 sticky notes. After we finished reading the book, each child wrote 3 important things that they thought they'd want to remember from the book.  We then sorted the sticky notes realizing that many of us had similar things written. This started a good conversation about important vs interesting. Kids were amazed that after reading the whole book, they could "take notes" in their own words.

The next day we read Wangari Maathai which was a bit longer and more detailed. We did a similar activity with stickies and talked about the information we already knew as well as the information that was new to us from this book.

For Seeds of Change, I had kids jot important ideas in their readers' notebooks--just as they had with the sticky notes.

After reading the 4th book, we went back to all our notes and created a list of the most important things we would include if we were writing about Wangari Maathai.

These were great books to discuss as there was much new information and different lots to talk about after each book.  The students gained confidence in their ability to discover important information, write that down in their own words, and add to their learning with each new text.  They see the power in reading more than one book about a topic and they have a few strategies for determining importance.  Connecting what we learned to the sketch noting they love will be a next step.

1 comment:

  1. Well, that's brilliant! And adaptable across several levels.


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