short stories

Putting Students in the Driver’s Seat: Read Aloud Reading Partners

Reading partners is not a new concept; many literacy experts have written about this concept and offered best practices for implementing them into classroom life, including Smokey Daniels.  Though I don’t implement them as much as I’d like to or probably should, I do love watching students in action when time and opportunity present themselves to do so.

Recently, one of my classes had the opportunity to work with a reading partner.  I gave students three choices:

  1.  Read alone (I try to respect those who are introverts and work better alone).
  2.  Read with a partner.
  3.  Read in a “triangle” (group of three).

I had taken a copy of “Raymond’s Run” and marked in up into three sections.  After reading the first three sections together with a wonderful audio rendition of the story and completing our reading reflections graphic organizer, I gave students the option to finish reading the story alone, with a partner, or in a group of three.  I provided these general guidelines for working with reading partners in addition to the fundamental principles of being an active and respectful listener/participant.  We also talked about the rule of “knee to knee, face to face” talk meaning we were actively facing each other as we read so that we could focus and hear each other.

I was truly blown away by how focused and engaged students were whether they chose to work solo, with a reading buddy, or in a group of three.  Their positive energy, their conversations about what they were reading, and how they encouraged each other truly brought joy to my teacher heart!

How do you incorporate time and space for reading partners in your Language Arts classroom?

Getting Ready for a Short Story with Pre-Reading Learning Stations

As you know, I love trying new learning activities and strategies.  I’m teaching a formal short story unit this year for the first time in years, and I wanted to do something fun and meaningful to kick off our first whole class story study.  This summer I purchased this bundle of awesome activities from “Write on with Ms. G” on Teachers Pay Teachers, and decided to modify the template for the “Pre Reading Learning Stations for ANY Novel: Engage students before reading!” for our first mentor text, “Raymond’s Run.”

The original plan calls for the stations to be completed as timed rotations, and I think high school students, especially those in an accelerated section of Language Arts, could  complete the stations in a 60 time period; if you are on a block schedule with a longer class session of 70-90 minutes, you could definitely complete the pre-reading stations in one class session.  I tried this method with my 1st period class and even provided a structured work session at each station giving them 3-4 minutes for quiet thinking/jot your notes time and 3/4 minutes of conversation time.  However, I could see my 8th graders needed more time to process the the task presented at each station, so I made some modifications:

  1. Modification 1:  Modify station notes to be more structured for 8th graders.  I took the thinking prompts from the station task card and added language to their note-taking tickets to help them think and write down their ideas for each question prompt.

2. Modification 2:  Break station work into two class periods.  For the remaining three classes, students began at their assigned table area and then visited the  remaining five stations in any order.  Day 1 was devoted to them doing their quiet silent thinking and notetaking.

As it turned out, we actually needed 1.5 to 2 days of class time to do the quiet thinking and notetaking work.  Students who finished early could work on Membean, an awesome vocabulary resource provided by our district, or they could read their library books.  When students finished all six stations on Day 2, they had the chance to take a sticky note and indicate their top three stations they felt represented their strongest work and that they would feel comfortable discussing in a small group and sharing out with the whole class.  I used this information to form Table Talk groups for each station on the following day.

We used the first half of class on Day 3 to do our Table Talks; group assignments by table/station were posted on a Google Slide as students arrived.  Depending on the class, I used either a “3-2-1” reflection structure or each person was asked to share his/her responses and then choose their “best thinking” they wanted to share aloud to the entire class.  While these reflection structures sound simple, they are big steps forward early in the year for 8th graders, especially for those not used to interacting in small groups or speaking in front of their peers even from a seated table area.  I did appoint “table captains” to kick off discussions in the small group share as well as the whole group share to help facilitate table talk in a timely way.  I am happy to report all classes did a terrific job with their discussion and sharing tasks!

The pre-reading stations included:

  • Station 1:  Anticipation Guide Statements and Discussion
  • Station 2:  Inferring Character Traits Based on Two Passages from the Story
  • Station 3:  Inferring Setting
  • Station 4:  Excerpt Analysis
  • Station 5:  Making Predictions Based on the Story Title and a Photo
  • Station 6:  Identifying Similes and Their Importance to the Story

 

Though the stations took more time than I planned (the story of my life!), I think pre-reading stations are a worthwhile investment at the beginning of a unit, for an extended study of a text, or with a challenging text.  What kinds of pre-reading activities do you like to do with students to get them ready for a short story or novel?