To prepare students for today's lesson, I ask students to respond to this prompt:
Good morning! Today you are going to read some books written for children. Please take a few moments to write a list of your favorite children's stories/tales. Explain what you like and remember about them (W.9-10.10).
I ask students to do this so they reflect on these types of texts.
Today students are learning to read a text closely and purposefully. My mini lesson is gong to use the text A Unicorn Named Beulah Mae which we read yesterday. I will put the text under the document camera and will write on my white board.
I will first distribute the Harvard University "Six Habits to Discover in your First Year."
The first task that Harvard suggests is to look around the text. I read the first section of the handout and then I tell students,
I am going to look around this text and record my thinking on the white board. First I notice that this book isn't in color. (I write that on the white board. I write all of my thinking there). I particularly discuss how the author's choices concerning how to structure the text (RL.9-10.5). This looking around the text video models the rest of the process.
Next, I explain I am going to annotate the text using post it notes. I work through the first three pages with the students. For time sake, I don't annotate the entire text. During the three pages, I make predictions on theme (RL.9-10.2), identify figurative language (L.9-10.5), I will discuss vocabulary words that are specific to the purpose of being a children's book (L.9-10.3), This annotation video explains this process.
I model these two parts of close reading because it is the basis for all reading. There aren't very many times that I will ask a student not to annotate. While the year progresses and students' confidence grows, this process will be faster. However, right now, I exaggerate the process.
I've discovered that at the beginning of the year, students need time to practice close reading skills. My guess is that they have spent the summer reading Twitter, Facebook statuses, and have done very little academic reading, so I need to get them re-focusesd and re-engaged.
I've been thinking a lot about close reading and what that actually means. Often times I find myself telling students they need to read something closely. Here, at the beginning of the year, is the time for me to define exactly what that looks like. As a base for teaching students what the life-skill close reading looks like, I use Harvard University's Six Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard. I print and copy the pdf version of their Six Habits and ask students to keep it in their classroom binder. Moving through a text this deliberately is time consuming and quite laborious. Often times students think they can read a text once and discover everything there is to know about it. Today's student work time begins to build reading and thinking endurance.
I distribute classroom sets (I buy them when they are cheap from Amazon) of The Frog Prince Revisited, Jimmy the Pickpocket of the Palace, The Read Story of the 3 Little Pigs and Cinderella Outgrows The Glass Slipper. I use these fractured Fairy Tales because while they are written with simplistic vocabulary, often fracturing the original Fairy Tale complicates the plot. Students really have to read carefully to determine how this text is different than the tale they are used to.
Students group themselves according to the text they received. I tell them:
First, spend some time and read your text.
I don't give them additional prompts because I want them to simply read it.
Next, I explain:
You are going to work with this text today in the same way I worked with A Unicorn Named Beulah Mae yesterday. I want you to begin by "looking around" the text. Using the Harvard handout as a guide, look around the text and discuss what you find.
After they are finished, I explain:
Next, I want you to annotate. You can't write in the books, so instead use the small post it notes while you annotate. Use the Harvard handout as a guide and work through each bullet point of the guide. Your book should be littered with post its. I want you to do this quietly. At the end of 13 minutes, I will allow you to discuss your annotations.
To end class, I ask students to rate their comfort level with the two reading strategies we practiced today. Students use an index card to rate 1. Looking Around and, 2. Annotating.
Students write a:
1-I'm not comfortablee
2-I did well, but need some additional practice
3-I rocked this process today and could teach it to someone else.
I ask students to do this because I want to know where they are. Tomorrow's lesson practices additional reading strategies, so if students are struggling at this point, I can use the time tomorrow to work individually with those students who are struggling.