Sunday, March 18, 2012

Making Text Sets, Reading Across Genres, and Compare and Contrast Skills in Reading Workshop

Breanne and Francesca, two first grade teachers, and I have been thinking lots about how to help first graders meet the demands of the Common Core as they think across texts and use compare and contrast skills.  You might be embarking in a unit of study in reading workshop just like these first grade teachers and wondering what you can do to support students in this complex reading work. 

Here are some things we have been thinking about that may help you:

The first graders looked through their nonfiction library baskets and sorted books into narrow topics.  Then, they looked for other fiction texts and poems to add to the piles.  Soon, they had over 15 text sets!  Here is one example, "Monkeys and Apes":

Next, the teachers invited students to choose the text set they wanted to read.  Kids give choose a few options and teachers gave students a new reading partner based on interest.  Note:  Not all of the books in each text set match the level of both of the readers, but most of the books in the text set baggies did represent the range of readers in the room (levels G-K).  For this unit, the teachers decided that the partners and the books will be at mixed levels AND after 15 minutes of text set reading time, kids will then read from their just right book baggies for another 15-20 minutes.  

Here is the chart that reminds the readers of the text sets available and the partnerships assigned to each set.  Kids read from the same text set for 4-5 days.  Then they will switch to another set.

Next, the teachers wanted to have a way for kids to keep track of information they learn and questions they have while reading.  They decided to use RAN charts.  Tony Stead recommends these charts as way to help students read and analyze nonfiction reading.  See his book, Reality Checks, for more information.  Here is the example from Breanne's class.  She is reading the monkey and ape books aloud and modeling for her students how to use a RAN chart to keep track of their thinking.
Each partnership has one of these charts in their text set baggie to help keep track of the thinking.

As I listen to first graders read in a cross-genre unit like this, I often hear kids saying things like the following example (after reading a Poppleton story about the main character trying to wall paper his home), "Hey, Popleton's friend Filmore just ate the wallpaper!  Do goat really eat wallpaper?  Do they eat other things?  Do they eat people?" 
These questions then fuel future reading about goats.  This reader can now turn to some nonfiction text about goats to get his questions answered and learn some new information.

Finally, I wanted to share with you some of the other charts the teachers are using to help the students use nonfiction reading skills to help answer their questions.

Special thanks to Breanne and Francesca for thinking and working with me and their principal Ms. McEvoy for supporting all of this work!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Partner Time Reading in Kindergarten and First Grade

Hello Friends,

A few weeks ago some teachers at North Street School and I investigated partner reading time in reading workshop.  We began our investigation thinking that we can teach kids to use their partner reading time to practice one or more of the following:
  • Accuracy - Kids can read books to or with partners and practice monitoring for accuracy and helping each other with the tricky parts.
  • Fluency - Kids can read books with partners and practice reading in longer phrases and using punctuation to help with intonation.
  • Comprehension - Kids can talk about their books with partners.  They can retell important or favorite parts, ask for help with confusing parts, and talk about ideas across books.
Kristi, one of the teachers at the school, thought that her kindergarten readers needed some support to read for long chunks of time with their partners.  We came back to one of our BIG ideas this year...

Kristi taught her students several different options for partner reading time throughout the year and so now, rather than telling the kids how they would spend their time each day, she gave them some choices.  She presented a a 'placemat' of sorts with three options:
  • Read
  • Talk
  • Ask for help 

Note:  These three options can change.  You can add options like this:
  • Act out a page or a part
  • Read/perform in character voices 
  • Talk across books (compare/contrast)
 Kristi gave her students the placemat and invited them to place it on their table stop during independent reading.  Then, as kids read independently, they decided which books they wanted to read with partners and the purpose for reading each book or part of the book with the partner.  As they finished each book (8-10 books in the baggies of these readers reading at levels B-G) , kids decided if they wanted to read it to a partner and if so, they decided if they wanted to read it, talk about it, or ask for help. 

Many kids filled up their placemat with piles of books so when partner reading time began, they were excited to follow their partner time agenda.  Many of the partnerships read for 15 minutes.  Bottom line - using your independent time to prepare for partner time allowed kids to have a full partner time agenda and increased their stamina.  Kristi can now teach another guided reading group or strategy lesson during this block of time on some days of the week.

Thanks to Kristi for sending us the pictures!