Being an Active Reader

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SWBAT comprehend and summarize literature using a graphic organizer.

Big Idea

Don't let your students be passive readers. Get them active!


10 minutes

To open this lesson, I engage students' prior experiences with reading.  I ask students to raise their hands if they have ever zoned out while reading or being read to.  Most will raise their hands.  I ask someone with their hand up to explain what it feels like when they zone out. 

After a few students have shared their experiences, I explain that today we are going to focus on a reading strategy that will help us from "zoning out" while we read.

Getting Down to Business

20 minutes

I have students fold a sheet of paper so that it is divided into six squares.  I have attached a photo to this lesson for the spatially challenged (we are English teachers, after all).  I then use the PowerPoint presentation to walk the students through six active reading skills and questions they can ask themselves to engage their minds during reading.  The titles and questions of each skill should only take the top line or two of each square.

I tell the students that they are going to fill in boxes on the graphic organizer while I'm reading.  They can use words, phrases, or sketches to be active readers.  I caution them against using complete sentences, simply because the level of concentration it takes for them to construct those sentences will cause them to zone out from the story, and that's just what we're trying to avoid!

Once their graphic organizer is labeled and ready to go, I read "Seventh Grade" by Gary Soto aloud to my students.  This story is a particular favorite of mine because it really speaks to how the students feel on those first few days of school.  Any favorite, or available, short story will do!

After I'm done reading the story, I give students about two minutes to finish their notes and sketches.  Now we're ready to turn the paper over and write a summary.


Putting it All Together

15 minutes

This is the first time in the school year that I introduce students to a summary-writing technique that I use religiously.  It involves answering five questions.  I first encountered this strategy in a book about writing.  The author suggested using these five questions as a way to organize your thoughts for a narrative piece of writing.  However, as I continue to use and adapt it, I find that it works for any kind of reading.  Also, the kids seems to really latch onto it.  Just last year, I had a former student -  now a sophomore - send me an email asking for the questions.  She remembered how well the technique worked, but she had forgotten the middle two questions! 

The magical questions are:

  • Who?
  • Wants what?
  • But?
  • So?
  • Then?


Using "Seventh Grade," which they have just listened to, I model this technique.  Because this is their first time using the strategy, I break it into two steps: first, we answer the questions, and then we revise those answers to form a paragraph.

I first write the questions on the board and ask that they do the same.  Then we create answers for the questions together:

  • Who? Victor - a boy at school on the first day of seventh grade.
  • Wants what? - Teresa to "be his girl"
  • But? He has to make sure she notices him in their French class
  • So? He pretends to speak French
  • Then? Mr. Bueller doesn't embarrass Victor in front of Teresa


We then convert this into a paragraph that the students write on their paper. I have students write a sentence, then we share out.  I will write the shared sentences on the board.  I do teach them that the word "however" is a great way to start the "But?" sentence (and they really like it when I say "but sentence")

Our final paragraph will be something like this:


         It is the first day of school in Fresno, California, and Victor is a seventh grade student.  This year, he wants the girl he likes, Teresa, to be his girl.  However, he has to make sure that she notices him in the French class they are both taking.  Trying to impress her, he pretends that he can speak French.  In the end, the French teacher, Mr. Bueller, doesn't embarrass Victor in front of Teresa.  Victor is looking forward to a great seventh grade year.



Did They Get It?

5 minutes

I collect this assignment from students on the way out the door as an exit ticket.

This assignment is a formative assessment.  My main goal in collecting it is to make sure that the students completed the assignment and that they made an attempt to work through the active reading skills. 

It is imperative that they get this paper back and keep it in their binders as a reference, as we will continue to work through this skill.

It is important that my students use their notes and classwork as a resource.  One of the goals of this year is to help students not only learn ELA content, but also learn how to be Literature and Writing students.  Using resources that they have create is a big part of that.