Prior to reading, students will discuss several questions that will prepare them for the themes and issues presented in the story.
Students should be in groups of 3 or 4. My students are already seated in groups of 3 or 4, so for this activity, I will have them work with their assigned groups. These groups are mixed ability levels.
Have them make a consensus map at each table on a large white board or large piece of paper. I love, love, love using consensus maps! It gives every student a voice and forces students to listen to each other and try to relate to each other. I find it to be a very successful strategy in lots of different situations. My team mate uses it daily in math too.
In a consensus map, each student has his or her own work space. After posing each question,I give students a few minutes to think and write alone. When they finish, I have them share their answers with each other. Anything that they come to consensus on is written in the middle circle. Have students take turns sharing what they come to consensus on as you move through the questions. There will be some interesting conversations for sure! I always just walk around evesdropping on them without saying much. I usually ask one person per group to report out what was discussed and ask them if they could come to consensus. I have found that girls and boys typically view these questions differently, and it is fun to hear the students describe this to everyone.
Students will likely have strong opinions about these questions, especially the last one, so I like to let them discuss and share their thoughts. My students were bursting at the seams to share and could hardly write quietly at first. I love asking these questions before reading because they are SO relevant to the life of a sixth grader. Each and every student has an opinion about them. Since they all have something to say, everyone is writing too, which makes me a happy teacher!!!
The students will see these themes popping up in the text, and discussing them ahead of time will help them connect to the literature. It is so exciting to see them make those connections as they read.
The purpose of this activity is to help students make connections to the literature prior to even reading it. Through the questions, they will be introduced to issues that the characters in the story face. They are already forming opinions about these issues which will aid in comprehension.
In addition, it is important for middle level students to feel like their opinions are heard and that what they say matters. This activity gives them a chance to use their voice and to listen to other students. Don't be surprised if arguments break out and sides are taken during this pre-reading time! I like to have fun with it and approach it all in a playful way.
As students read, they need to be active readers. I will read the story aloud to them the first time, so that they can hear the appropriate fluency. Another reason to read aloud the first time is the increased rigor in "Raymond's Run." It is a little tough for sixth graders at the beginning of the year. If they hear me read it one time without having to worry about pronouncing words, they are more likely to comprehend. When they tackle it a second time, they will have any idea about the basic plot, characters, and theme. With this prior knowledge, they have an greater chance of comprehending this more difficult text.
Here is the active reading guide that I use. I keep it simple and consistent saving more detailed tasks for close readings later on.
Active reading guide:
The idea behind active reading is that the students' minds are engaged the entire time. They are analyzing the words and responding to them as they see them on the page. This strategy also prevents students from zoning out during the reading and aids in comprehension.
Since we have already done active reading once this year so far, I will model a little but not as much. If I notice that students have stopped being active readers (aka they are spacing out), I will stop them and regroup by modeling again. I am trying to train them to do it naturally, but it does take a few months for it to really become second nature. After a few paragraphs of reading, I might stop and ask if anyone has noticed anything they want to discuss along the way. Squeaky, the main character says lots of interesting things like "I don't feature much chit chat" and "I don't play the dozens." We will stop and discuss what these phrases might mean, and when and where the story might be set based on the language.
After the first reading have students each write a few questions that they have about one of the characters on a post it note. I will ask them to think of questions that are text based but may have more than one right answer. For example "Why did a character do __________?" or "Why did a character say__________?, Why did the author_________? or What did the author mean by _____________?"
This scaffolding will help them write effective text based questions with out too much stress. After students write their questions, ask them to share them with the class. I record all of their questions and then go through and narrow them down to the questions that can easily be supported by textual evidence. I choose about 4 of these and ask the students to answer ONE using the RACE method. They will rephrase the question, answer it, cite specific evidence to support the answer, and explain how the evidence answers the question. The RACE method supports textual evidence and higher level thinking which increases the rigor of the activity.
At this point some of my students do still need support using RACE. I will still post the acronym and explanation to support them. The most difficult part for them is explaining, so I make sure to circulate around the room and help them connect their evidence to the answer. Students may also need help finding evidence, so I will direct them to re read certain passages of the story. Although this activity is for "Raymond's Run" it can be used with any story.