I've heard teachers say they don't have time to read to their students during the school day. Research proves otherwise- it is valuable to include this simple practice in school. Kids are exposed to texts above their current reading level through read alouds, and hearing text read fluently is crucial to comprehending it. Additionally, Common Core State Standards Appendix A pg. 27 states: Children's listening comprehension outpaces reading comprehension until the middle school years; Children benefit from structured conversations with an adult in response to written texts. Valuable.
On the board I've written, "Books I've Read", which indicates all of the books I've read aloud to the kids over the school year. I write the very first one, The Breadwinner then together, we compile the rest of the list (and try to do so in order.) This is a fun little trip down memory lane.
Once this is complete, I tell them they'll select a book from the list and write a summary...but I'm cut off with groans before I can finish. They also have the opportunity to express their summary through a comic strip. This is a great strategy making for making everyone happier through giving some power in their decision making. Summarizing a novel they've read demonstrates understanding of the book, and, in the case of summarizing one of the earlier readings, shows long term comprehension.
As anticipated, they're energized by this varied opportunity. I allow them to work in small groups or pairs, because the early books were read so long ago. Although they can lean on each other for a few details, if needed, everyone must complete the assignment independently- no sharing of papers.
I hear a lot of chatter as many are excited to make these cartoon strips, but not everyone chooses this option. Indeed, if I was given a choice I'd definitely go for the written over any type of art work (Independent Summary Writing). Such is the reasoning behind choice, and differentiation in general. Those who want to try out the cartoon strip have fun creating the boxes, and deciding just how a novel can be summarized in such a way.
When all is said and done, it's about 50/50 on the two choices (A Pair Write Their Summaries). A few students who began the cartoon strip quickly realized it wasn't an easy way out! In fact, the whole process is quite challenging - summarizing a whole book into about ten boxes!
The class worked on their summaries independently, in pairs, or small groups (Some kids alone; some in pairs; some in groups) for about twenty-five minutes, then turned them in to the bin.
The differentiation in the summaries is great, but challenging to evaluate equally. For this reason, I informally evaluate the written summaries using the Six Traits of Writing, specifically Ideas and Content, Organization and Conventions. With the cartoon strip summaries, I evaluate looking at the Organization of the cartoon strip itself, pacing of the storyline, and choice of characters used (as well as conventions.) The key word here is INFORMAL. The kids are able to recognize that they met objectives, or didn't, but are more focused on the final product and sharing with friends.
Once the majority of students finish, and the ones who didn't will complete the assignment for homework, I picked up the Smart Board stylus for the final activity. We tallied the number of students who chose each of the books to summarize (The Listing with Tally Marks).
With the tallies in front of them, it was easy to analyze the results. A healthy number of 7 students chose the very first book, The Breadwinner, and an even larger number of 11 picked, Time for Andrew which is the last book we read in completion. Most of the others fell between 1 and 6. I added our current book, Shakespeare's Secret because a new student hadn't heard any of the other ones.
Two of the books on the list, The Name of This Book is Secret, and If You're Reading This it's Too Late, received no votes. When I asked why, out of thirty kids, no one chose these, the answers were: "They were bigger than the other books; these books were really bizarre and a summary would be too hard; I can't keep both books straight because they were so much alike and we read them at the beginning of the year." The analysis they put forward was true and I said as much.
After our discussion concluded, I asked them if they liked the assignment. There was a rousing affirmation, which just goes to show that a lesson can start with a groan, but end with a smile.