Diane and I recently attended the PIIC Professional Learning Opportunity, a three day conference for instructional coaches. The focus was on reflective practice with opportunities each day to participate in break out sessions to support our own professional growth. One of the sessions we attended was titled, Using Non-Traditional Text to Support Analysis. This session in particular really made our wheels turn and drove some of our conversations around engagement in the reading workshop.
We were already familiar with the New York Times’ What’s Going On in This Picture? and how this resource could be used to close read and analyze text. Those teachers who attended the TDA Trainings in our district will remember this well.
PIIC presenters Diana Hubona and Stacy Ricciotti brought a different spin to this kind of work.
They started with 4 images that related to Harry Potter and challenged us to discuss what each meant, how they connected which led us to discussing themes.
Using non-traditional texts such as pictures has its benefits.
- Less Threatening- Students (and adults for that matter) can be overwhelmed by the more traditional texts even before adding such a complex skill such as analysis.
- Leveled Playing Field – Even if students read below grade level, are English language learners, or struggle with comprehension, using pictures makes the text accessible for everyone.
- Increased Engagement – Pictures provide a low-risk opportunity that increases student engagement.
- More Opportunity – Students need many opportunities on a regular basis to close read and analyze. Pictures provide not only access but make it possible to provide many experiences which students need to develop and hone these skills.
Marrying the Old with the New
Diane and I decided to do something similar with the historical fiction book clubs but put it a bit more in the hand’s of the students.
The Mini Lesson and Active Engagement
Diane started with the connection, sharing how she learned something new while at a conference at Penn State which made her think differently about analysis.
Using the mentor text Patrol by Walter Dean Myers, Diane modeled how she thought about images that came to her mind while reading and shared their significance to the story.
She then challenged students, with 5 minutes on the timer, to think about their historical fiction book club book and the images that came to mind. Students added four images to a google slide.
Once students chose their four images they turned and talked about what they chose and why it was significant to the story.
Once they shared, Diane went back to her four images for the mentor text, and again went to modeling through a think aloud how the images could be connected.
She noticed that all four images could be connected through the soldier’s sacrifices and then she was able to think to herself, What does Walter Dean Myers want me to takeaway from the text about the sacrifices that soldiers make? which was the scaffold she used to move towards talking about theme.
Once Diane modeled her think aloud, she had book club members do the same using their four images. This experience provided students with the opportunity to not only identify symbols within the text but also allowed the time to think about connections among the symbols and how those connections develop various themes.
Students were then able to leave their book club discussion and take the time to write to explain their thinking about takeaways related to theme using the four images they chose.
A Workshop Fit
Diane typically uses mentor texts to model her own thinking about reading. The students do not use the mentor text to discuss but have opportunities to apply the same strategies to their own independent reading. Diane did not ask her eighth graders to explain the significance of her images or how they were connected to determine a theme. She modeled that thinking first, and then challenged her students to try that same strategy with their book. Modeling is an important principle of reading workshop. Diane broke the modeling down into two short parts with active engagement in between each.
Another major principle of the reading workshop is time to read and respond to literature. Diane’s students have large chunks of time each day to read their book club book and have opportunities to both discuss and write about reading.
The workshop also allows students to have choice. Not just choice in what they are reading. Every day students read books they have chosen, decide what they will focus on while reading, and in many cases what they will discuss. This particular lesson provided choice because students were not given the symbols but chose the ones they felt were significant. In our experience, students with more opportunities to choose are more engaged and willing to push themselves to think deeper about reading.
Students have many opportunities to turn and talk and gather in book clubs to share and discuss thinking, which is another principal of reading workshop. Today was no different and the amount of talking about the text and their thinking supported the goal of providing many experiences to analyze. The support of a community promotes deeper thinking and students need as many community opportunities as possible to strengthen this skill and provide a more solid foundation before writing.
The reading workshop has a unique structure that allows for more independent and community time than teacher on the stage time. This lesson provided the brief modeling in the mini lesson, many opportunities for active engagement and turn and talk, as well as time to work independently responding to the book they are currently reading. The class ended with time to share.
We were inspired by the work of our colleagues at the PIIC Professional Learning Opportunity and put our own spin on it to bring some more engagement and analysis experiences into the workshop. We are looking forward to trying this out over the summer with some of our own colleagues as we get ready for next year. We would love to hear about your spin on a great approach.