Saturday, May 9, 2009

What to do with a “Texts We’ve Shared” display

One of the great suggestions in Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell is to keep a display of the texts the class has read throughout the school year. I’ve done this for three years now, and each year I find new connections and new uses for the display.

This past year, I broadened my ideas of which texts to display. When I started, I only put up picture books. This year, I started including all texts, including the simple little stories, poems, and articles that I use for group instruction.

Creating a Climate
In the early days of the school year, a Texts We’ve Shared wall is an easy routine that encourages participation. After we read a book together, I write the title on a piece of paper and give it to a student to decorate with pictures from the text. Once the student is finished, we hang the paper on the wall. By the end of the first week, we have a visual display of the learning we’ve done together.

Identifying Kinds of Text
When I teach students about genre, we label all of the texts on our display. By this point in the year, we have a good number of signs, giving kids lots to talk about as they deal with the differences between “narrative” and “expository” text. I use different color notecards to label the texts we’ve already read as narrative, expository, and poetic. Then, we look even more closely to think about the genres within each type. It’s great to hear kids use details from the text to support their ideas. “No,” one kid told another. “The Magic Key is not a fantasy, because it just has real stuff in it. That’s why it’s realistic fiction.”

Making Connections
I love to use the display while we’re sharing a read aloud. It’s easy for me to see texts that we’ve read and model how to make text to text connections. “Does anyone remember when we read Mail Harry to the Moon? In that book, the older brother learned to love the baby Harry by the end. I bet the main character in this book will change in the same way.” And sometimes the kids take me to task, making connections between books using details that I had forgotten. “Oh, yeah1 Look, Mrs. Kissner. This one’s in chronological order, and A House Spider’s Life was in that order too.”

Comparing Texts
When we formally compare texts, looking at topics, author’s purpose, figurative language, and so forth, the Texts We’ve Shared display is invaluable. We can scan across and look for texts that have similar topics, similar writing styles, similar formats. We can talk about how texts can develop similar ideas in different ways. Because the titles of the texts are easy for everyone to see, we can get some great discussions going.

Understanding Theme
For fourth graders, theme is a difficult topic. After we talked about some common themes, I had students refer to the Texts We’ve Shared display to try to match themes with the texts we have read. This led to an interesting talk about whether there are themes in nonfiction text, whether fairy tales have themes, and how one text can have multiple themes. We’ve even used another bulletin board to display common themes and show which stories depict those themes.

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