Saturday, December 10, 2011

Before, During, and After Reading: Before

Over the past few years, I've come to a comfortable pattern for planning reading experiences. The pattern is simple--before, during, and after. When I have all of this planned and worked out, my task as a teacher is so much easier. Here is how I frame texts to share with my students.

Before Reading
This is a harder list of words from "The Adventures of Isabel"
What will students do before they read the text? I like to make a table with key words from the text. This makes a quick and easy speed drill that we can read together before students encounter the words in the text. I like to read the words aloud to students, and then have them say the word back to me. I change my voice for each word and make it really dramatic, so kids find this enjoyable. As we come back to the text over multiple days, we return to the speed drill each day. (Cute story: We were working on The Adventures of Isabel on Friday. I accidentally called a student by the wrong name, and he looked at me and said,  jokingly, "I am really cross with you."

I also use this opportunity to talk with kids about the words. This isn't a full-blown vocabulary lesson, but a quick discussion of the words. Sometimes we act them out; sometimes I draw a picture; sometimes I show kids how a derived word relates to a base word. In the case of the word cross, I drew their attention to the fact that it is a multiple meaning word.

I've learned that it's best to limit these words to 15-20. I look for words that are important to the content of the text, as well as words that may be difficult for students. Sometimes, these difficult words are short, like "scarce"; sometimes, they are longer words that are related to words they already know, like "professionally".

After we look at vocabulary, I ask kids to use the words to make a prediction. This may take different forms. In fiction, I often have kids sort words according to story elements--which words will relate to the characters? The setting? The conflict? In nonfiction, we often write 3 prediction sentences, with at least one of the practiced words in each one. Sometimes we ask questions--for example, in a recent text, kids were intrigued to find out how the word "powerful" would relate to a text about Antarctica. And sometimes we draw pictures, doing a sketch-to-stretch kind of activity.

The goal in all of these activities is to equip kids with as much as possible before they enter the text. When I have it all planned and copied for kids, we can all immerse ourselves in our preparations for reading. I project it on the board, kids can make notes and predictions on their own copies, and we work together to get ready to read.

Free texts and activities
Adventures of Isabel: Activities to go along with the classic poem. It's a challenge for kids, but they absolutely love it, and it's a perfect choice for repeated readings. You can find the poem online.

Animal Adaptations: Science text and activities suitable for grades 4-5.

Decomposers Article and Activity: I loved reading this with kids. It worked so well to change their ideas of what decomposers are. This text includes an anticipation guide, another of my favorite before-reading activities. Good for grades 3-5.

The Acorn Mystery: I wrote this based on a real experience! It shows how these ideas can be used with fiction stories for younger readers. Good for grades 2-3.

Retelling Nonfiction: This includes a text about how painted turtles survive the winter, with directions for retelling nonfiction.

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