During this unit of The Science of Reading, my partner teacher and I have been each exploring the appropriate books- fiction in my class and nonfiction in her class. The students have a strong background knowledge of the text we're using today. What she has not done is had the students answer comprehension questions based on the book so that's what we're doing today.
I hold up the book and tell the students that we're going to be working with the nonfiction side of electricity today. They are super excited because they love science and have done a lot of interesting activities with this book.
One guy holds up his hand and asks if we're going to do experiments with this book. I tell him no but that even scientists and people who do experiments need to answer questions about their research projects and materials and that's what we're doing today. He wasn't nearly so excited then, but hey... what can a teacher do??!!
My students have become so used to working together that when I pass out the papers, they ask if they can do Stand Up- Hands Up- Pair Up (Kagan and Kagan, 2009) to find their partner. When I tell them that they will be working alone, they groan so we come to a compromise. I will let them work with a partner after they all answer their questions independently. The are OK with that so we proceed.
I finish handing out the papers and let the students begin working. Since I promised partner time, they will get half the class period to work alone. I form a group to work with of some of my ELL and lower reading level students.
After about 20 minutes, the students who have all their questions answered are allowed to choose a partner. Before they do, though, they have to have some directions. First, the partners aren't there to finish questions for you. The students need to read their answers to each other and grade them on our scale. The answers need to be TTQA (Turn the Question Around), they need to have specific text evidence and the answer needs to be correct. After each person reads their answers, then changes can be made. Perhaps the students can combine answers, or find the text evidence together, but THIS partner work needs to be to strengthen answers, NOT to copy answers.
During the partner time, I continue working with my small group and those students who didn't finish their questions finish. When they finish, if someone is available to partner with, I allow them to partner as well. I don't want anyone to suffer because they work more slowly than others.
Students get another 20 minutes as they work with their partner to prepare high quality answers to their questions.
After the 20 minutes of partner work, we have a quick share time. I am interested in hearing the students' answers, but I am much more interested in hearing about the process by which they came up with their answers. I am sure to ask probing questions about was this your first answer, or how did you come up with that answer? I also, on incorrect answers, want to know what the discussion was and if the other partner has the same answer.
Overall the students did very well on these questions and with working together. This set of questions serves as the summative assessment for the nonfiction part of the Science of Reading Unit.