Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stamina for Reading

I am a huge fan of short texts.....anything by Leonard Pitts, stories such as the Story of an Hour and Hemingway's A Very Short Story, resources and tweets from #engchat, etc. However, with the state tests having a word load of around 3500 words in two passages (not to mention the reading included with the revision and editing passages), I cannot help but to worry about stamina. I have seen students  challenged by a lengthy text. Often, they start by looking at the questions, then hunting for the answers in the text. This is a HORRIBLE strategy. The End of Course test questions are no longer written at a level 1, which students could hunt and find those "right there" answers. Instead, the EOC is written starting at a level 3 and including questions about inferences and synthesis. Students must read the text closely, and entirely, in order to have a shot. How do we prepare students for this type of word load?

We must start by short texts...yes, short texts. Have students learn to analyze and read closely with a short, accessible text. Then, bring that text out AGAIN and revisit it for a different purpose. Revisiting a text is very similar to watching a movie again. (Trust me, being a mommy to 3 children, I have watched a DVD multiple times and gleaned something new each time.) After short texts, challenge them with a lengthier text. Here are some of my favorite reading strategies to employ for building stamina:

1. Establish a purpose: Why are we reading this text? We must be very explicit in our purpose. For example, perhaps we are reading "My Papa's Waltz". Have students circle the words that make the reader believe this is a positive experience, or box words that lead you to believe this is a negative/abusive experience. Maybe we are reading "Mezzo Cammin"....have students share what they know about mid-life crises, and have students sketch what they visualize as they read this poem. (Other poems I love to have students sketch are "The Fish", "Seven Ages of Man", and many poems by Gary Soto.) Perhaps we are reading William Maxwell's Love (scroll to page 13). Have students choose to circle either flower imagery or funeral imagery. Then, share out their text evidence and effect on the piece. Have students to characterize the mother or the daughter...then have them draw a T-chart, and give their characterization and text evidence.  Or create an adjective/noun pair over a character, such as the "avid reader" in Welty's text.

2. Chunking the text - Have the students number each paragraph. If students cannot physically mark the text, have them use post-it notes. Then have them chunk the text, drawing a line (or placing a sticky note) under paragraphs that seem to go together. Then have them chart the text. You can have them pull out key words from that chunk, summarize that chunk using those key words, then note what the Author's craft is (maybe comment on the grammatical elements or interesting features the author employed). You can also choose to summarize each chunk, detailing what the author is saying, and then detail what the author is doing (using a verb such as "establishing a need" or "explaining a purpose").

3.  Color Dots - Give students small, colored sticker dots. Have students place dots beside information they feel is important. Have students share with a peer their dots...they may remove or adjust their dots after processing with a peer.

4. Graphic Organizers or Foldables - Graphic Organizers are HUGE. Have students record their reading on a graphic organizer. Use foldables to record summarization, such as "SWBS" (to summarize fiction, Somebody Wanted But/Because So), "SIFT" (to analyze fiction, Symbolism Imagery Figurative Language Tone and Theme), SOAPStone, or any other acronym.

5. Sentence stems are great for all learners. Challenge your students to how many sentence stems they can complete over the reading.

6. Immerse the students in the complex language by assigning vocabulary terms. I do not mean look up the term in the dictionary. I mean, figure out these terms using only context clues. For example, using "The Road Not Taken", have students figure out terms such as diverged, undergrowth, and hence.

What are some of your ideas for building stamina?


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