UNWRAPPING Text Features
Lesson 3 of 10
Objective: Students will be able to analyze how the author organizes a text by UNWRAPPING graphic organizers and headings.
Since the beginning of January, I've been giving my students specific reading log homework. I've required reading logs for years, with a few basic rules to make it as easy for myself as possible. They could read whatever they wanted (novel, history book, website, science book, car manual, whatever). They had to read for 15 or 30 minutes a night throughout the week. The total would be 1 hour and 15 minutes for English 7 classes and 2 hours and 30 minutes for honors classes. They could do all the reading at once, like if they were going down to Phoenix for the weekend, or they could spread it out. To show their reading, they wrote a T3C paragraph about what they read.
It was okay. Kids were reading. Their writing was. . . grading these reading logs was painful and I grew to dread it. It wasn't working.
In January, I started giving them one specific passage. Reading the one passage certainly doesn't take the entire 2 hours and 30 minutes, so they still have choice, which was so important to me. If you dictate everything that a kid reads, they don't necessarily discover what they love to read. The passages are nonfiction, so they develop nonfiction reading skills, which my students need help on.The passages are from the 6 Way Paragraph series. There's a beginning, middle, and advanced book so I can use the advanced book for honors and the middle level for co-taught. The passages are interesting, and I've learned things that I didn't know.
The quality of their paragraphs have gone up, even if they're writing about a text they chose. I'm no longer dreading grading the reading logs. Perhaps that's the novelty, but I don't think so.
And, due to the fact that there are some multiple choice questions (targeted multiple choice questions to develop skills in finding the main idea, making inferences and conclusions, developing vocabulary, analyzing structure, etc.), I'm able to see and track how students are developing their skills.
In the last few weeks, I've noticed that they're really struggling with main idea and vocabulary. They're not necessarily reading closely enough to determine the right answer. So for today, once I had all the reading logs graded, I gave them back so students could discuss their answers and see where they went wrong. How many times did I hear, "Oh! I just didn't read closely!" I stopped counting.
Today students received another article about Emmett Till, from another source. This one is a three page article from The Biography Channel website. If you look at just the Lexile level, this is the most difficult passage. However, if you look at both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the text, this passage is accessible to students. In some ways, due to the quantitative aspects, it's easier.
Note: This was the second article I gave to my honors students and the third one I gave to my co-taught students.
First, I asked students to preview the article using the first few parts of the UNWRAP strategy. This is a strategy most of them are familiar with from sixth grade and it works well for nonfiction articles with text features.
The first thing students do with the UNWRAP strategy is to preview the article by underlining (or highlighting, yes you can highlight) the text features.
Second, they number the paragraphs for easy reference. With repeated readings and citing evidence from the text, this is important. It is so important, you might even say it's critical. It's much easier to reference passages in the text when we're all working with consistent numbers.
Third, students walk through the questions. This is a great way to give students focus. A reader with a focus is a more successful reader. It's also a great strategy for students to use on standardized tests.
They read the passage multiple times (repeated readings! yay!) before answering questions and proving (citing) answers.
Once I've run through the UNWRAP process with students we read the passage. The first time, I asked students to read and annotate. This time, I asked them to consider which details were also in source #1 and which ones were different.
I asked students to share what they'd annotated in their groups and if someone noticed something different, to add that to their annotations.
Then we went back and unwrapped some of the graphic features, starting with graphics and captions.
I asked students to label the three graphics included. The picture of Emmett Till is A, the picture the ring is B, and the picture of the cotton gin is C. I asked students to first describe each graphic and explain the information the caption provided. Finally, I asked them to identify how the graphic and caption helped them better understand the author's main ideas.
This passage contains the same information as the other two article. All three articles state that Emmett Till's body was so badly beaten that he couldn't be recognized. It was the ring he was wearing that allowed his body to be identified. What this passage has that others don't, though, is the text features. This passage has a picture with a caption to not only tell, but show, what the signet ring was.
The same is true for the picture of the fan Emmett was tied to. Most of my students had no frame of reference for what a cotton gin fan might look like. As far as they're concerned, a fan is something you plug in and blows air around. It's someone who really likes a particular sports team or music band. By including this picture, though, students have a visual.
Next, we look at how the text uses headings to help the reader navigate the text. This text has four headings:
- Emmett Till Murder
- Impact on Civil Rights
I asked students to consider how those headings impacted their understanding of the text. What purpose did those headings have in relation to the whole text? How did those headings help them navigate the passage?
Put simply, they help the reader
- to identify the main ideas
- easily locate information
- determine the organizational techniques the author uses
Then we went on to evaluating why this text needs the headings, but the other article (or other two articles, in the case of my co-taught classes) didn't. Or rather, would either of those passages have benefited from headings? The shorter, five paragraph essay would be fine without headings. However the passage from The Outer Limits could very well have been improved with headings.
Tomorrow, we'll talk about was how each heading helps develop the main ideas, and within those headings, how each individual paragraph develops the main ideas.