How do we learn things in real life, adult life? Do we read something and then answer some questions at the end and possibly check some answer sheet for confirmation? Of course not! How boring and ineffective. However, so often that is the only way students engage with nonfiction texts. This lesson I teach students how to read, think, respond and then grow their thinking even further by discussing with other students.
I introduce this lesson by asking students about what they do after they learn something interesting. They go tell someone. Sometimes that person agrees with them, other times, they are shocked by the new information, and sometimes they disagree. Whichever way they respond, it makes us engage in a conversation about the topic and helps us refine our thinking.
In this part of the lesson, I model how I read, think, and respond to the text. Mostly, this is just a review of concepts I already taught and expect them to do when they are reading. However, this time, I make sure to record a few questions that I wasn't able to find answers to and a few questions that were really just things that I was confused about. These questions are a set up to show how talking with others can help me understand something better.
I tell the class that I'm still wondering about a few things. Are there any students who read it differently or made a connection that might help me understand what I read better? Students share and of course, they do understand and can explain their thinking. After acknowledging their helpful explanations, I reiterate the teaching point about how important it is that students pay attention to their questions as they read but then talk with others who may be able to answer those questions.
I tell students to read the article, record their thinking and questions as well as any responses they have to what they are reading. Later, students will be sharing their thinking and asking each other the questions they wrote down with students who have also read that article.
In this part of the lesson, students work with another student who has read the same article as they did. They first share what they found most interesting and then share questions they had. If the other student can answer the question, then they can begin to discuss it and hopefully develop their understanding. After one partner shares, then the other partner can share and ask their question. They can record the answer directly on their article, next to the question or response they wrote down while they were reading.
Finally, in this part of the lesson, I ask students to share some of the successes they had with growing their thinking by talking to a partner. I ask them to focus on questions or misunderstandings they had while they were reading that they were able to answer or understand because of their partner. I give them the sentence structure: "First, I though ... but then my partner explained ...." or "First, I had this question...but then my partner explained..."
I reiterate how important it is to pay attention to our thinking when we are reading. However, if we get the chance to discuss with a partner, we should utilize it because it might really help us understand new concepts deeper.