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close reading nonfiction texts

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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Don’t neglect connectives like “even though”

BUT. DESPITE. WHEREAS. ALTHOUGH. IN CONTRAST. INSTEAD. HOWEVER. YET. WHILE. NEVERTHELESS. NOTWITHSTANDING. Our students may gloss over these words as they read, not realizing how powerful they are. Words like these signal a causal relationship that is in opposition to what a reader might have expected. These words are a BIG DEAL. Technically they’re called …Read more

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Observing for what students are “not saying” during conferences

During conferences, while I do listen to what students are saying, I also listen for what they are NOT saying. This is why. Frequently when you ask a student to tell you what they have learned from a complex informational source (or a part of a source), they will talk about content they understood without …Read more

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“Why do we have to annotate?”

“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 convince) students that annotating a source can help us monitor for meaning. Annotating can help us make sense of …Read more

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Do you have high-reading kinders you need to challenge?

Some our of kindergarten students read above grade level. How do we keep them challenged? A colleague of mine, Lisa, engaged a small group in close reading of an informational text about energy with great success. Here are some photos and tips she shared with me. Just some background. These nine students were reading at …Read more

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Three Phase Lesson – Explaining Supporting Evidence

Do your students ever need help with explaining how key details support a main idea? Here are a few thoughts and artifacts from a three-phase lesson I gave. Phase One – Meet the Source The students read the article entitled “Tortoises battle it out with Marines for the right to stay put.” Suggestion – Before …Read more

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NEWSELA–I like this site but beware…

Just be careful. NEWSELA is a great site for short informational articles for students to read. TheĀ  content is usually worthy of student-led discussions and writing about in response. The beauty of NEWSELA is that the same article is available at different Lexile levels. (When you click on an article, check out the blue bar …Read more

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Teaching Main Idea and Details with Photos: Sample Lesson

A simple way to start talking with students about “main ideas” and “supporting details” is to use a photo as a “text.” When you use a photo as a text, you take away the cognitive load of reading and provide more mental space for students to grapple with concepts like “main idea” and “supporting details.” …Read more

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Brief, focused opportunities to build background knowledge

Recently I was asked to teach a lesson to second grade students with an informational text on magnets. As I read through the text, I began thinking about how many of the students I’d be working with may not have had many language and hands-on experiences with magnets or magnetism or the concept of force, …Read more

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