Here's a video of why and how I use a Guiding Question to begin each lesson.
For this Guiding Question, I wanted to hear what kind of thinking students think they do as they read. Do they think it's deep thinking? Are they straining their brains? Because I can't get inside their heads, I want to know what's going on up there!
But, above all, I want them to know that Reading IS Thinking! Students informally answer the Guiding Question in their Writer's Notebooks and are only given about 5 minutes at the beginning of class to do so. I want them to get geared up for the lesson, so it's less about getting the "right" answer, and more about the discovery toward the lesson's theme.
Okay, so because my students do soooooooo much talking, I found that they needed a way to distinguish between the kinds of talking I was asking them to do. They needed to understand that when I was asking them to talk about a book, it was going to look very different than, say, a Turn and Talk or a Socratic Circle. I adopted the term "Buzzing" from Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6 by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. I guess I kind of visualize these little 6th graders at a dinner party, talking about their latest read!
For the mini-lesson we brainstorm ways people talk about what they've read. I gave the example of how I was in the teacher workroom, and another teacher started talking to me about the book she was reading...something about Japanese migrant women in the 1940's. I thought it sounded so good, so I begged her to bring it to school when she was finished (the book was The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka...in case you were wondering). I wanted to get across that people Buzz about books all the time. I ask them when they've ever heard people Buzz.
Here's what we came up with for How to Buzz:
The work time for this lesson is split. The real work is going to be their Buzzing about their books, but I also want them to have something to Buzz about. I'll give them a small independent work time where they are reading independently (10 minutes or so), and then leave the rest for Buzzing. As they are reading, they know that they're going to be talking to someone about their book. I don't have any formal way for students to keep track of what their going to say, because I want the conversation to be organic, just like it was for me in the Teacher's Workroom. A real conversation can't be scripted, anyway. It should be a give and take, with kids making natural connections and understandings.
Just like I had to build stamina for their independent reading, I also have to keep in mind that I'm building their speaking and listening stamina, too. If I have kids "Buzz" for more than a few minutes, they are going to get off topic.
This is actually a nice precursor to the Speaking and Listening standard that requires kids to use details from a text to present an argument. See the rationale here:
My students glue these Reflection stems in their Writer's Notebooks (WNB's). Each day they choose one to match their reflection. I'll have to say, the one I see the most is "Mrs. Boles didn't notice that I..." This is super-cute, and I want them to feel recognized, even if I don't witness their accomplishments each class.