Close Analytical Reading: Poe Article from the NY Times
Lesson 16 of 18
Objective: SWBAT demonstrate comprehension skills by answering multi-layered questions about a newspaper article.
Latin Roots Warm Up
This is our daily warm up, wherein students work with two or three Latin roots per day. The resource that I use to get my roots is Perfection Learning's Everyday Words from Classic Origins.
Every day, when the students arrive, I have two Latin roots on the SmartBoard. Their job is to generate as many words as they can that contain the roots, and they try to guess what the root means. After I give them about five minutes, we share words and I tell them what the root means.
The students compile these daily activities in their class journals. After every twelve roots, they take a test on the roots themselves and a set of words that contains them.
A few years ago, I found this NY Times article about Poe's "prediscoveries" -- things that Poe actually predicted in his writing that scientists later found to be true. The article's content is fascinating, it has great cross-curricular connections, and really challenging ideas and vocabulary. It provides a nice nonfiction piece for this unit that is packed with heavy literature.
So, to support comprehension and encourage engagement, we did a "bump" reading and shared the article aloud. Some students had trouble with some of the words (it's very science-heavy,) so I filled in, when needed.
During and after the reading, students are annotating the text by highlighting and making margin notes. This will support their performance on the multiple choice assessment.
Generally speaking, my students are good test-takers. They have good instincts and can often do well on a standardized test without really giving their brains a work out. However, new test formats that are supported by the Common Core demand that tests become more analytical and less formulaic. More "all of the following except..." and "choose all that apply..."
So, I want to train my students to think more deeply and answer more carefully. To that end, I crafted a reading assessment for them to complete. They were allowed to use their article and to take their time. Most finished in about 20 minutes. Some took a little longer.
[The results: Mostly, the students bombed this assessment. They didn't read carefully. They fell for silly distractors and they lost patience with finding answers and just "picked something."
The highest score I had was 6/8. Most students got fewer than half of the answers right. What does that tell me? Next year, I need to do these once a month. The students need training for thinking.
After everyone turned in their assessment, I went over the answers. Imagine the sound of 28 kids slapping their foreheads...while they didn't actually do that, that was basically the reaction that I got. When I reviewed the correct answers, the students "got it." I really think these questions are valuable and appropriate for more advanced learners. I think they are too often lulled into a false sense of confidence about their own understandings.
It's not that they aren't capable of working at this level; it's just that we don't require them to do so enough.