This lesson comes from Chris Tovani's book, I Read It, But I Don't Get It. This was one of the first lessons I did with my students and is one of the few lessons I've taught every year with minimal changes.
I gave each student a copy of the handout "The House" and told them that they would need three different color pens, pencils, or highlighters and that the would be reading this passage, "The House," three different times.
For the first read, I told students to read "The House" by themselves, silently and independently, and underline everything they thought was important. I told them that was all the directions I was going to give them and just smiled as they uncertainly go about starting. I gave students about five minutes to complete this first read. I asked the to use a regular pencil so it would be easy for us (me) to see what they'd underlined first. I also asked students to rate on a scale of 1 (very difficult) to 5 (very easy) how easy it was for them to find the important details.
For the second read, I told students to use a warm color like yellow, orange, or red to. the task for this read was to underline everything that they thought a thief would think was important. Once they were done, I asked them to rate how easy it was to identify the main ideas. Most students rated the first read at a 1 (very difficult) and this read as easy (3) or higher.
For the third read and final read, I told students to use a cool color like blue, green, or purple and to underline everything that a prospective home buyer would think was important, and again, rate how easy it was. Again, students rated it as 3 (easy) or higher.
So why was there such a difference? Why was the first read so difficult and the second and third reads so easy?
I asked students to work together with their group to fill out a Venn diagram to identify the differences between what a thief and home buyer would think was important. I had them list at least three details (five for overachievers!) in each section. I gave students three minutes to complete this task.Rather than use paper, I distributed three small dry erase boards to the groups. One board was used for details the thief would find important, one was for the home buyer, and one was for details both would think were important.
After the three minutes, I pulled the class back together and asked groups to share out.
Then I asked students why the robber and home buyer would look for different things and prompted them to write their answer on the dry erase boards. Most students were readily able to state that the thief and home buyer had different reasons for noticing the house. Bingo! They have different purposes.
Then I asked students to consider the three different times they'd read "The House." Which one was easiest? Hardest? Why? The first read was hardest because they didn't know waht they were looking for. The second and third reads were so much easier to complete because they knew what they were looking for. They knew how to find what was important because they had a reason for reading.
I explained that in the same way, effective readers have a purpose for reading and they identify that purpose before they start reading. They dive into a text knowing whether they're reading to be entertained or to learn something. Authors also have purposes for writing. They may write to entertain, inform, persuade, or describe. Each purpose requires the reader to have different skills in order to be successful at reading. Some skills effective readers have are predicting, clarifying, connecting, questioning summarizing, reflecting, visualizing, using text structures, and more. Throughout the year, we'll be working on developing these skills in class and during their weekly reading logs to become more effective readers.
The bottom line is that when you have a purpose for reading, the act of reading becomes much easier.
I gave students this reference sheet. It includes the four major purposes for reading (informative, narrative, persuasive, and descriptive) as well as reading strategies.
To provide closure and as way for students to demonstrate their understanding of author's purpose, I asked students to answer two questions. These questions are included on "The House" handout.