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teaching with nonfiction

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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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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Insect Superfood: Two Sources + Cheat Notes

Entomophagy is the human consumption of insects as food. While we were in Mexico last summer, my husband and I tried avocado toast with crickets at La Gruta, a restaurant near Teotihuacán, Mexico. There tasty! This week’s sources for remote learning (during COVID-19 pandemic) are on this high interest topic. Geared towards 2nd-5th grade. I’ve included …Read more

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Hey, Mom! Guided Writing

“Who will you tell?” This is a conversation I’ve started having with students at the guided reading table before they write in response to an informational source. I usually start by saying something like the following: When you go home tonight and your mom asks about school, you could just say, “It was okay” OR …Read more

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Orally rehearsing with key words can boost writing

Do your students struggle to compose sentences about nonfiction topics that make sense or sound right? Do they lack structure at the sentence and paragraph level? Here’s a few tricks I’ve been trying with small groups of late-early and transitional stage readers. As part of a conversation generate key words they will use to orally …Read more

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Discourage students from taking notes like this. Here’s why.

If students are reading multiple texts on a topic and taking notes on each of those sources, I require that (or strongly suggest) they write notes in phrases–just enough words to help them remember what they learned or what the author was saying or the student’s response to information. In most cases, I strongly encourage …Read more

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Explode to Explain

Are your students citing “text evidence” without really having control of the meaning of the quote they choose? Do they state “in the text it says” and then fill in the next blank with a quote they may not really understand? Do they forget to explain further or elaborate? Here’s an idea a group of …Read more

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Critical Thinking Across Multiple Texts – Choosing Texts Part 2

I’m hooked on the art of locating and layering texts for students to read and think across. In my last entry, I described a series of lessons where middle school students used an evolving definition of “honorable” to think critically about the role of medieval age warriors and modern warriors. We chose text excerpts and …Read more

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Creative Responses Analyzed – Persuasive Letter from the Roots to the Plant

A few posts ago I wrote about shaking up how we ask students to write in response to texts–creating hall of fame posters, designing two-page layouts for trade books, and writing letters. One of my colleagues in the field, Britany, a fifth grade teacher, gave this a go! She asked students who’d read the book …Read more

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