I am trying out a strategy from the Core Six book today that I learned about at a district ELA training. Its is basically an organized method of discussion called Circle of Knowledge. The first step is to think of a spark question that relates to the text your are using. This question should be one that gets the students thinking and should be open ended.
Several of my students have asked me questions about Malala Yousafzai and her plight. I came across this article in a Scholastic Scope article I had borrowed from a friend. I liked the way the text was organized with headings, graphics, photos, and a mini glossary. I thought it would be a great way to kick off an intensive study of informational text. These text features will really help my students determine the central idea of the text.
Since we are reading about Malala, I started with the question, "What is a crusader?" In hindsight, I would not have used this question because about half of my students had absolutely no clue! That is fine, and I asked them to give their best answer. The result was some wacky answers: a type of Italian food, a wooden platform....the list goes on. Next time I do this I would definitely choose a different spark question like....."What freedoms do we take for granted in the United States?" I used this as a kindle question instead, but I feel like this question would have been a better opener.
To start, post the spark question on the board. I had students write the question, and answer it in their reading notebook. I gave 5-10 minutes to do this. After they wrote, they discussed the question for about 3 minutes with their tables. Then I let them share out with the whole group.
The next step in the Circle of Knowledge is to ask a few follow up or kindle questions that keep the discussion going. My questions are: Why are people willing to risk their lives for a cause?
What freedoms do we take for granted in the U.S.? and How can one person affect society?
Ideally, the teacher should give each student a notecard with one of the 3 questions printed on it so that there are a variety of questions spread across the room.
I didn't prepare the cards ahead of time, so I numbered the questions and wrote them on the board. Then I numbered my students by 3's and had the students write the question the corresponded with their number down in their notebook. I gave everyone about 10 minutes to write and answer the question.
Once all questions were answered, I asked the students to share out with their table group. We started with people who had question 1. They read their question, shared their answer, and invited the rest of the group to share their thoughts. We repeated the process with the other two questions. Once we finished the small group discussions, I went through each question and asked volunteers to share out what they wrote.
The purpose of this activity is two fold. First, it helps activate prior knowledge and prepare students for the concepts to be found in the reading. Second, it gives them practice at speaking to their peers in a structured way, and listening to their responses.
Here is a student sample spark and kindle question. I realized that many students have little to no back ground knowledge on Malala's situation or any other similar situation, so I knew I needed to help them. I think that preparing students before they read can really help increase comprehension, especially when the information is new.
Since my goal today was to prepare the students for reading, I decided to introduce them to Malala through a video. I debated over when to show it, and i decided to do before they read in hopes that it prepared them to read the text. I thought it would peak their interest, and they'd be excited to come back and read more about Malala tomorrow. I was right! Most students had not heard about Malala's ordeal, and were very interested in her story!