The Common Core State Standards specify that students in middle school should be reading at a ratio of 55% informational text to 45 % literary text and students in high school 70% informational text to 30% literary text through out the school day. The standards specify that students should be reading myths, legends and stories from other cultures. World language learners can use children’s literature, novels, magazines, textbooks, and on-line resources to practice the reading process. Reading is a process. There are strategies and activities that can be done before, during, and after reading to practice the target language and reinforce reading skills in both languages.
Although CCSS do not advocate for the teaching of pre-reading strategies, it’s what good readers do automatically, and something reluctant readers need to be explicitly taught. Model pre-reading skills in the target language and teach students to use the four P’s: preview, predict, prior knowledge, and purpose. Good readers quickly scan a book or website looking at the title, pictures, graphs, and bold words or headings to help access the information. Previewing helps to get the organization and schema of the reading in their heads. I compare it to when I shop at my local supermarket versus an unfamiliar store. I can shop much more efficiently in a store I am familiar with because I have the schema in my head, the organization.
Teaching students to predict what will happen next or what the chapter is about helps to keep students engaged. Good readers make predictions in their heads as they read and then continue reading to see if their predictions are true. Anticipation guides and Word splashes are good for getting students to make and confirm predictions. A Word Splash, from Dorsey Hammond at Oakland University, is a collection of key terms or concepts taken from a written passage which the students are about to read. The terms selected represent important ideas or vocabulary that should help the students while reading. Initially the students’ task is to make predictive statements about how each term relates to the title or main focus.
An Anticipation Guide is a strategy that is used before reading to activate students’ prior knowledge and build curiosity about a new topic. Before reading a selection, students respond to several statements that challenge or support their ideas about key concepts in the text. Using this strategy stimulates students’ interest in a topic and sets a purpose for reading. Anticipation guides can be revisited after reading to evaluate how well students understood the material and to correct any misconceptions. CCSS ask that teachers develop questions, and demand answers, that use evidence from the text to support responses and to defend opinions. The anticipation guide is one way to get students to look for text evidence to support their answers.
Tea Party is another type of prediction activity where sentences from the story are typed up and distributed to students. Students walk around and show each other their sentence silently, trying to make predictions about what they are about to read when they return to their seats. It also familiarizes students with vocabulary in sentences they are about to encounter.
I like brainstorming and categorizing or the Give One, Get One technique adapted from Reading for Understanding to activate prior or build background knowledge. To make a give one get one, have students fold a piece of paper lengthwise to form two columns. Then write “Give One” at the top of the left had column and “Get One” at the top of the right hand column. Have students brainstorm a list of all the things they already know about the topic they will be studying, writing items down in the left column. After they make their individual list, have students talk to at least two other students about their list adding or deleting information as appropriate in the right hand column along with the name of the person who gave them the information.
I try to collect several different books on a topic, and do a book pass to activate background knowledge. Students sit in a circle and pass the books every minute on cue to gather as much information as they can on the topic. Then they can be put into groups to brainstorm.
The purpose for reading establishes the rate at which you read. If you are reading for pleasure you read more rapidly, if you are reading to learn something you read more slowly, and if you are looking for specific information or just getting the gist you skim or scan. Teaching students to set a purpose for their reading is a skill that will help in English reading tasks as well. The good old KWL chart. Is good for establishing purpose and activating prior knowledge. Students list what they know, what they want to know,and what they learned. Here are simple copies in French Je sais and Spanish Yo sé.
As a teacher there is one other P, pre-teach critical vocabulary. If there are words that are critical for students to understand the reading, pre-teach that vocabulary through gestures, props or visuals, music, and drawings.
During reading students need strategies for holding their thinking, monitoring comprehension and practice, practice, practice. Reading specialist Cris Tovani recommends exploring methods of “Holding Your Thinking” with students. Good readers take notes, highlight, underline, use sticky notes, or create a graphic organizer to remember interesting or important information and quotes. Marking text forces the reader to look for interesting ideas and helps to hold the lines that the reader can quote to support an idea or opinion which is critical in CCSS. Providing students with symbols for annotating is helpful in holding their thinking for futher discussion.
Good readers monitor comprehension and use fix-it strategies. They stop and think about what they have read. They re-read. They adjust the speed. They speed up or slow down. They skip words and read on. Good readers make connections between the text and their prior knowledge and experiences. They make predictions. They ask questions. They visualize. They use bold words, italicized words, and key words to help them figure things out. They use context clues or other text aids to figure out unknown words.
I like to use my class sets of novels to model reading strategies. We read together and I stop every once and a while and make a connection to the text or wonder or think out loud. This is so they can see what is going on inside my head as I read. I make a mistake so I can go back and re-read or use another fix-it strategy. I tell them what I picture in my head. I agree or disagree with the book. I say I am confused about this part. Then I have students practice this with a partner. One reads and “thinks out loud” while the other one listens with a chart and keeps track of their comments. Then they switch roles. It’s a great way to get them to interact with the text repeated times.
Close reading is when a section is read over and over again each time through a different lens or perspective. The first time might be to identify cognates. The second might be to get the main idea, and the third might be for specific details or inferences. Close reading requires students to grapple with complex text by answering carefully planned questions that guide them to deep understandings of key ideas through multiple readings of the same passage.
It seems best to try to keep after reading activities authentic. When adults finish reading an article they do not answer a list of questions or do fill-in-the blank type worksheets. What is more natural is to reflect on it, or possibly talk about it with someone. I always reflect through writing after a workshop or reading on what I want to remember, however I seriously doubt the most of my seventh graders do this naturally. For students this reflection could include revising anticipation guides and predictions or summarizing, or keeping journals or reading logs.
I like to have students drawn scenes from the novels or text. This could be in the form of a storyboard, comic strip, or story quilt. For a story quilt students are assigned different sections of a novel or story to illustrate on a piece of construction paper. The squares are taped together, or stitched with yarn, in order resembling a patchwork quilt. Display in Library or on school website. Some great websites to make cartoon strips are www.makebeliefscomix.com or www.toondoo.com.
Students like to act out and retell the story, especially with a prop or two. Assign a piece of text to act out and have the students compete in groups for the best reenactment. This gives several repetitions on key vocabulary. Reading activities in the target language support fluency in both languages and CCSS.