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Hosting Student Readers Until the Last Bell

No doubt. When school is almost out, some of our students are harder to engage in reading. They’re tired and they’re ready for summer break. (You probably are too;) To keep students energized, shake up your independent reading routine. Here are a few simple, low cost ideas. Change the Location A change in environment might …Read more

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“Building” analogy to teach “text structure”

How many of us hunt for the perfect texts to teach “text structure” and end up just banging our heads against the wall? It’s because texts are more complex than five simple structures. Below I describe an analogy I’ve started using with students to get beyond this problem. (This entry was first posted in 2016; revised …Read more

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Text Set: Athletes & Bias-Related Challenges

If you’re students love sports (and even if they don’t), a text set on athletes and the biases they have faced might motivate students to engage in some critical thinking and tranformative conversations. Below is a set of five Newsela articles I curated for a middle school program. (We used Sara Ahmed’s Being the Change …Read more

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Thinking Aloud for Students – The What, Why, How & When

When we realize a student does not understand a complex chunk of text, we may need to stop asking questions for understanding and “think aloud” for the student, modeling how to make sense of the text. What follows is an excerpt from a middleweb.com column “Letting Go is Messy” that I co-wrote with Julie Webb …Read more

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Why do I have to annotate? Why can’t I just highlight?

Note: This post was first published in January 2019. I’ve revised and posted again because it’s still so relevant! “Why can’t I just highlight? Why do I have to annotate?” Ever heard that from a student?  I don’t have to convince you of the value of annotating, but we do need to remind (and even …Read more

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Who’s in charge during GRR? The teacher or the student?

Co-written with Dr. Julie Webb @LitCentric and originally published at middleweb.com. Is the term “gradual release of responsibility” misleading? Especially when we explain GRR with phrases like “I DO, WE DO, YOU DO”? Terms like these position the teacher as leader of the learning, in control of the learning process. In truth, though, we want …Read more

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“It’s about dolphins” is not enough

Thoughtful, text-based predictions can make a big difference in students’ comprehension of complex informational sources. There’s a big difference between these two predictions: 1) It’s going to be about dolphins AND 2) The details in the heading, the intro and the photograph make me think this text going to be about the challenges that bottlenose …Read more

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Peeking in & conferring with Jamboard

Even when we’re all back in schools, feeling some sense of normalcy, I can’t see letting go of Google’s Jamboard as a tool at the guided reading table. This dynamic tool has become an engaging way for students to analyze important excerpts from informational sources and then plan for and write responses. Just as important, …Read more

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Main Ideas: What, Why, How

If your students are still struggling to identify main ideas in informational sources, do they need clarity on what exactly “identify a main idea” means? The chart below has language I use to explain the what, why, and how of identifying main ideas. If you feel like you’ve done this over and over again or …Read more

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Would a clearer purpose help?

If your students struggle with determining what’s important or they think “it’s all important!” make sure they have a clear purpose for reading. A purpose stated as a question is even better. Questions like “What is the author’s point of view? What are details in the sources that make me think so?” or “How did …Read more

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