Justifying responses and thinking has always been an expectation in my room. I can't get into the kids' reading brain, if I don't know what they're thinking. Also, many times we have students who have attention issues and can't physically make themselves focus on a task for sustained amounts of time. I fell into justification simply for test-taking skills years ago for that very reason. I needed a way for my students who rush or lost focus to slow down and prove that the answers they were giving, made sense. I knew my kids weren't going back to the text to prove answers, so this was one way I could push them to do it. I saw such growth in my kids that I decided it was important to focus on backing up everything we say and write. When my kids respond to questions, I push them from "The character was scared" to "the character was scared because in the text it said..."
When we read and respond in this classroom, we need to prove our thinking. It's no longer acceptable to just answer a question. As I stated before, I can't get into your head and see your thinking, but you can certainly show me some signs of what you are thinking when you answer questions about the text. Today we're going to practice using some steps to practice justifying. This is just for multiple choice questions for now. In the next lesson, you'll learn my expectations for responding in writing.
Once we go over the steps, I want the students to answer a few questions on the page adjacent to these notes.
What seems hard about this task? Have you done this before? How do you think this will help you become a better reader?
After we discuss their thoughts, I'll model how to use the new justification strategies on some released passages and questions. You can use anything you have for this, but here is a file I found online. I like to always show them my expectations before setting them free. It's important that they know what I expect to ease any stress and clarify. This is a little lengthy, but shows how I would model this with the kids.
Now that we've worked through some justification together, I want you to try some out in groups. You only need to read the passage and answer the multiple choice questions. We'll work on the short response questions in the next lesson.
While the kids are working, I'll move around to take a look at how the kids are working, who might be struggling, and who definitely gets it. I also want to be there to keep my expectations clear. Many times, students will be on the third question and I see no sign of justification, I have to catch them and send them back to the beginning to try again. No matter the reading level, proving where we find information is always difficult. Whether it's simply forgetting or really no knowing where to find the information, all students can struggle with this. Again, I will send the whole year pushing this strategy, but it really does pay off.
Here is a pretty good sample of a student who gets it.
To wrap up today, I'd like the kiddos to complete "The Important Thing about Justification." This is based off the book, "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown. Many of the kids have read or seen this book, but I'll show the read aloud quick since it's the beginning of the year. This will be one of many closure/summarizing tools that I use throughout the year.
This sentence frame is great to help them think about the importance of justification. This will also give me a quick check for understanding about today's lesson. From this point on, I'll be modeling the strategy, using this in small group reading, and staying vigilant when the students are taking formative quizzes and tests. This really helps them slow down and keeps those kids who lose focus on track.