This is a fun pre-reading activity that is easy to do and a guaranteed crowd pleaser! I am getting ready to have students read a short story, "Gaston" by William Saroyan. I started by paging through the story and choosing about 15 interesting words. I typed these up and printed enough copies that every two students could have a list. I cut the words apart and put them in individual ziploc bags. I am attaching the word list as a resource to this section.
Since this is typically an engaging activity, I let the students choose their own partners to complete the sort. Once they received their words, they were supposed to group the words into any categories that they chose. There is no right or wrong answer! The best part of the whole activity was that I let the students write on their desks with white board markers. After they created a category, they wrote the label for it right there on the desk. They were absolutely thrilled with this, so they had a lot of fun! The white board markers can easily be cleaned off of our desks with clorox wipes. All of the desk tops needed cleaning anyway, so it worked out!
As students came up with their categories, I circulated and asked questions like, "Why does this item fit into this category?" I mostly observed and helped students place words that seemed random.
The students were engaged in some deep conversations over words like mustache and white plate. It was fun to see them work so hard to find the perfect grouping.
I am trying to get my students to the point where they can give feedback to each other without being overly positive or plain rude. It seems they go to one extreme or the other. I thought I'd use this sort as a practice opportunity.
Once all groups are finished sorting, I asked them to circulate and give feedback on the way other group's approached the activity. I asked them to write comments right there on the desk in order to provide feedback. I made sure to mention that they needed to justify their responses. If they disagreed with someone, they would need to explain why. Well, this was a total bust the first 2 times I did it. I had kids write all kinds of weird, rude and irrelevant comments in my first two rotations. Finally in the 3rd rotation, I went with the "If you can't say something nice" philosophy, and it went much better. We had lots of , "good jobs" which is not what I had in mind, but it is much better than, "What in the world do you mean by this?" We will keep working on specific and constructive feedback.
I liked the idea of this gallery walk anyway. I liked the way the students were analyzing each other's work and comparing it to their own. For some it confirmed that they were on the right track, and for others it opened their eyes to a new idea. The students were eager to read the comments left by other groups (even if some were rude....).
Next time I do this lesson, I will give the students two sentence stems to choose from and make them stick to them. For example: I like the way you..... or Did you ever think of.....?
The final piece of this lesson is making a prediction. I asked students to think of all of the different words and groupings they saw, and decide what they think will happen in this story we will start tomorrow. Since the words dealt with character, setting, and plot, I told them they could make predictions about all or any of those elements. Some students made several different predictions just to be safe. I had the students write their predictions on index cards and bring them up to me along with the bag of words. I gave each group a minute to show their prediction on the document camera and discuss why they predicted like this. Some of the predictions were pretty wild, and they were all really diverse. The students left class excited to read the story and find out who might be right.
Making predictions, and eventually confirming or refuting them, can be helpful in increasing comprehension. If students are reading for a specific purpose, to confirm a prediction, they are more engaged and reading for meaning.