Whenever possible, I begin my lessons with silent, independent reading. During this time, I actively monitor their reading progress by checking their out-of-class reading logs and engaging in reading conferences that cover a variety of topics.
To find ways to enact this section, please see my strategy folder.
I explain the concept of the Five Minute Focus Read, or the independent reading weekly goal. Each week, every student sets an independent weekly reading goal, tailor made to the text they're reading that week. This strategy was taken from Penny Kittle.
To find more about this strategy see the lesson: Routines, routines.
Also, find out more in the strategy folder.
The Slip or Trip Assignment is classic. Many teachers choose to start off their argument writing unit using this assignment, because it forces kids to read carefully, pay attention to important details, and record evidence. Students are presented with detailed information about the events of one night, featuring Queenie Volupides and her husband Arthur. They are to read the text given, and then they need to decide about the true events of the night. Did Queenie push Arthur down the stairs or did he trip, accidentally?
I read aloud the first part of the assignment to the kids (page 1). Then I tell them they'll be working in groups to complete the rest.
I gave them new seats, because we started a new unit and I decided to give kids a "well rounded" group, meaning students from all different ability levels. When students get started trying to uncover the mystery using evidence in their small group, I ask them to reread the text together. Eventually, they'll need to highlight all information that they did not find helpful in solving the mystery.
They'll have two days to work in these groups. The first day they'll begin filling out the back of the form with information and evidence that supports their claim. The second day, they'll work on finishing this and presenting their findings. Even though they are working as a group, I have each student fill out their sheet individually. Here is a work sample of a group member with exemplary evidence and reasoning.
The extension of this assignment is that students are supposed to write an essay further explaining their thinking. In our district, kids do so much argument writing that I figured kids could just use the practice backing up claims with evidence and reasoning, and that's enough. I like this assignment so much because it really runs itself, with minimal teacher work needed. The groups work through the story and find their evidence.