Test Prep

Powerful Practice: Read Aloud Reading Partners with Informational Text

One of the simplest but most powerful practices this fall has been read aloud reading partners.  I love the learning structure because it’s so versatile and can be used in multiple ways.

On a simple level, I used it last week when I lost my voice and needed students to review instructions for an annotation activity we were going to do in class that day.  I had students choose a partner and review the instructions together.  Then pairs summarized what they were to do with the learning task for that day.  They definitely internalized and understood the instructions much better than if I had just read them aloud and they had been passive receivers of those instructions!

Yesterday we did a learning activity to help students review a simple strategy to read strategically and find their textual evidence for an upcoming timed essay they will do on our second district benchmark assessment next week.  The task asks students to read two paired texts and then compose an expository or informational essay of some sort about those texts.

I pulled a set of paired texts through GALILEO, our state digital library; the paired texts are from the December 2019 issue of Scholastic Scope (citation at the end of this article):

I used a Sharpie to “chunk” and number sections of the articles to read before making a class set  to use.  I find that chunking and numbering sections helps the partner reading flow a little more efficiently since students can clearly see a section at a time.   I also created this hypothetical writing task:

Once students arrived to class, we followed these procedures:

  1.  Students selected a reading partner of his/her choice and sat either knee to knee, face to face OR side by side.  If we had an odd number of student, I did allow trios.
  2. Students took turns reading the passages aloud.  I gave the partners just one copy of the text for this activity to force them to listen a little more closely.
  3. Once students finished reading both articles, they raised their hands for the T-chart planning activity to do a treasure hunt for textual evidence that they would use in the essay prompt.

The last part of the activity was having groups share out their findings of the textual evidence and how we might organize that evidence into our hypothetical writing task.   We talked about how to use a T-chart to quickly note textual evidence/concrete details and then use them in our writing task on the assessment.  We then reviewed how we could use our paragraph writing structures we’ve practiced all fall with “two chunk” paragraphs ( we have practiced with scaffolded writing graphic organizers with sentence frames and sentence starters this fall) and how we might modify it for a timed writing setting of only 45 minutes.

I wanted to have students to read the paired texts aloud for a variety of reasons:

  1.  Students were forced to be more active readers and listeners and engage more closely with the text.
  2.  Students got an opportunity to practice their reading skills and speaking in a low-stakes setting.
  3.  Most students discussed each section as they read and took turns reading the “chunks” in both articles; they discussed with no prompting from me!  These short but important discussions are part of the meaning making process.

It was a jam packed class session but one I think that was successful and enjoyable for students, especially the Friday before our holiday break and on the eve of our district benchmark.   How do you incorporate read alouds or reading partners into your instruction with students?

Bartolomeo, Joey, and Jennifer Dignan. “Paired Texts.” Scholastic Scope, vol. 68, no. 4, Dec. 2019, pp. 16–21. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=139777318&site=eds-live&scope=site.


EOC Writing Test Prep with Noticings and an Inquiry Stance

We’re sprinting toward EOC testing this Friday with some inquiry stance/noticings based activities for informational/explanatory constructed response prompts and extended constructed response narrative prompts.  Using materials available to the public from the Georgia Department of Education, students had opportunities to read literary and informational texts.  We then looked at possible constructed response and extended constructed response prompts (see my previous blog post for a description) based on each of these texts.

Students were asked to read the passages and examine the two possible prompts attached to that text.  Students then had the opportunity to think about:

  • What is the prompt asking you to do?
  • How would you go about planning, organizing, and designing your response?
  • What ideas/strategies are important to keep in mind as you construct and compose your response?

Students jotted down their ideas on a graphic organizer I provided them.  We then did a large group share out and compiled a list responses.  I then projected exemplars for each prompt on the board with the LCD projector and students completed the final column of the graphic organizer by jotting down their noticings about the exemplar prompts.  This final piece of the thinking activity led to one more round of large group discussion and a chance for students to compare their original list of ideas to the second list of noticings with the exemplars.

This activity is great to do because it gets students thinking about how they might attack these kinds of prompts as writers, but it is also especially helpful if you don’t have time to have students do a full-blown draft of these kinds of prompts.  Last but not least, this activity is a great formative assessment to quickly identify gaps in understandings.  For example, from our conversations today I quickly heard a few students misunderstood the second prompt, and I easily had a teachable moment.  These noticings may sound simple on the surface, but the activity forces students to do some deep thinking as well as a chance to engage in dialogue and learn from their peers