Go Deep! Part V – Reading Ideas from Elementary Teachers

Bryce continues with his Go Deep! reading series:
Reading it once is not enough, but how do we get kids to read something again?  If it’s about them it helps.  The double entry journal is another quick and easy technique that can be used to get students to re-read material and to quickly check for understanding.  It requires no prep and no special materials besides the novel.  Using double entry journals is a technique that elementary reading teachers have used for years.   You do not need a special form for this—just a piece of paper divided down the middle.  After reading a chapter, say in Spanish:  “Class, take out a piece of paper.  Fold your paper like a burrito.  Do not fold it like a taco.”  Here is how this lesson played out in my classroom the other day:
I had intended that the class read chapter six in Patricia va a California, a crucial chapter where the antagonist, Debbie Martin, is introduced.  The plan was for student volunteers to read short passages aloud in English and I would ask questions to get the usual banter going. 
But the students had other ideas.  They asked if they could just read it quietly alone or with partners in class instead.  The vibe felt right; I felt like it might be on task behavior (for that class, that day anyway), so I allowed it.  At one point, about 6 minutes into the reading time, I had to interrupt them.  This isn’t exactly best practice for a reading session, but you have to catch them being good.  I told them that I should take a picture of the class to be a model of what reading should look like.  They went right back to reading after my rude interruption and when most had finished we talked about a short assignment that they could start in class, if they wished.
The assignment was to write a summary and a reaction of two pages in the chapter.  It could be any two pages in the chapter.  This is way of getting the students to re-read the material, show that they have understood it and show that they have thought about it a bit.  Here is what was written on the board:
Summary (show you understood it)  Write 4-6 sentences in Spanish.
Reaction (show you have thought about it)  Write 3-5 sentences in English or Spanish.
Here is a sample of one page written by a typical student (average kid; not top, not bottom):
Summary:  Patricia está en la clase de ingles.  Patricia conoce un chico de Guatemala.  Se llama Alejandro.  Los otros estudiantes no le gustan latinos.  Patricia aprende acerca de animadoras.  Patricia aprende que una animadora lleva un vestido especial.
This is written just as the student did.  She accurately summarized the page and showed that she understood it.  She also was able to discern the most important parts of the story on that page.
Are there mistakes?  Yes, a few.  The personal “a” for instance, is missing two times.  This is a late acquired item and not a big deal at this level.  There is one missing accent mark on the word inglés.  Since occasional missing accent marks are not generally marked down on holistically graded assessments like the AP Exam, this is not that big of a deal either. 
This is her reaction:
“I like this page because Patricia found a friend besides Diane and Lisa.  Alejandro can relate to the way Patricia feels.  I think by the end of the story Alejandro and Patricia will become a couple.”
If we did this every time we read it would become old quick, but as an occasional check for understanding it works and my students enjoyed it.



5 thoughts on “Go Deep! Part V – Reading Ideas from Elementary Teachers”

  1. I can’t speak for what Ben was saying, but whenever I have used a double-entry journal, I have used it as a reaction journal. But let’s start with the fold.
    -You fold the paper burrito/hot dog so that you get to side-by-side columns. (Folding it taco/hamburger would give you a top and bottom.)
    -In the left column you write a summary of the “text”. This can be a reader (as in Ben’s example), other written text, oral report, film, etc.
    -In the right column you react to what you wrote in the left column. I found this interesting/sad/exciting/etc. because . . . This made me feel . . . The person who did this was smart/dumb/etc. because . . . If other people did this,the world would be . . . I could/could not do this because . . .
    Students can react at whatever level of language and understanding they are able. In the upper levels this is sometimes a good way to get students to concentrate on presentations by other students (or even the teacher). They listen for 5 key statements and write them in the left column. After the presentation they go back, review the statements and react. When there are student presentations, especially in 4/AP, I will often do the same thing and then construct a quiz based on my notes.

  2. Using Bryce’s suggestion:
    Chapter 7-Piratas
    1. Quick ten item vocab quiz on Ch. 6
    2. Intro new “unknown” vocab – 5 phrases
    3. Choose three sets of actors for Chapter 7
    4. Teacher narrates chapter 7 slowly and dramatically; kids act (teacher says dialogue; students repeat dialogue; if they don’t get intonation or volume right, we laugh, and do it again and do it again–very fun)
    5. Aural comprehension checks constantly as I read: What does ______ mean?,
    Who said ________?, Where was ________ when _________
    happened, etc.
    Day 2
    1. Take out comp books. Find next clean page. Fold page in half. Label columns:
    Resúmen and Reacciones. Tell class they will be reading the text as the native speaker reads (rather quickly) on the CD. They are to keep their eyes on the text, notice when it goes too fast, and be ready to give me their 0-5 (finger) comprehension score at the end. Teacher explains that what the activity will be after the reading (as per Bryce’s post above)
    (One of my kids, with some learning problems, has a great strategy that I want to try with all of my kids next time. She rips up a post it into little strips and lays them on the edge of the desk. When a paragraph gets incomprehensible for any reason, she sticks one of the strips on the margin of said paragraph. It is already in her hand, so it doesn’t take a bunch of extra time to do it. After the reading, when she looked back, she was even able to recall what had stalled her. She also told me that when she reread the paragraph, she had no trouble understanding the text.)
    2. 5-finger-comprehension check
    3. Resúmen/Reacciones activity. I told them they could write in Spanish, a combination of Spanish and English, or English–they know which one I prefer. I gave them 15 minutes. The only question anyone asked was, “How do you say “fourth” in Spanish?” I told him.
    4. These kids have never written anything like this before in Spanish. They write stories. They don’t write about literature. Well, they do now. Not one kid balked. Every kid in both classes was on task and almost every kid did it in Spanish. Teacher is very impressed (I read them).
    5. When they had turned in their notebooks, I commented about how cool I thought it was that they could just sit down and do something like this since all we have ever done are “silly stories”. I said that it is clear that they understand and know how to use the “structure” of the language–or they could not have done this task.
    6. They are reading the chapter again in preparation for the Jeopardy game tomorrow–questions made up by the other class.
    (My recent life’s goal: how to get them to reread the chapter without believing it is a terrible chore. Did pretty good this time around.)
    Day 3:
    Tomorrow they must read during the game, discuss answers in Spanish with their teams, and must to respond to aural input from their teammates and me.
    I feel like a good teacher this week and they are very excited about tomorrow’s game.

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