Moving from Pictures to Text…Oh My!

Why do the images work so well and then when we present a text, we feel like we can’t get past the blank stares? Images are a great way to practice using the strategy for analysis with something relatively easier. Until the strategy feels comfortable, we may need to use a lot of pictures. After modeling and doing a couple with guided practice, continue to use the pictures at transition times while encouraging partners to talk it out. I’ve modeled with a few different images, but this has been a fun go to recently.

After modeling, I guide students through the process one step at a time, but relying on them to do the heavy lifting with their turn and talk partner. This image has been great for differentiating between evidence I notice and inferences I’m making (buckets). For example, as students turn and talk, if I hear in step one, “I notice a protest,” I will ask them to show me how they know. They will inevitably point to the signs, the gathering of people, the megaphone, the hashtags, and the open mouths. I will congratulate them for already noticing a pattern/bucket and they can jot that down, but they need to list everything they can explicitly and not implicitly see. The same goes for, “I notice a city.”

Students need so many opportunities like this when the stakes are lower to practice using the strategy. Once you take the time to model and do a couple guided practices, you can use these in shorter periods of time for students to talk through because they need to be able to talk through them to reinforce the skill but to build on ideas. Then when you send them off to do their independent reading, encourage them to pay attention to what they notice while reading and what patterns they may be seeing. Maybe they notice a series of character actions. I might think of Dallas Winston in The Outsiders, for example, and notice how each action is rude and vulgar in a particular chapter. I might think, what can this pattern show me? Well, maybe I can make a theory about the kind of person Dallas is. Dallas is the kind of person who pushes people away because he’s afraid he won’t be accepted or deserving of a real friendship or maybe it’s to make himself feel more powerful over others because he doesn’t feel very powerful inside. I might start to think about how this pattern of actions speaks to the theme. Maybe the author is using a series of rude and vulgar character actions to show the reader that people who don’t feel confident may push those around them away before they can be rejected. We can learn that what we see on the outside are the effects of the hurt that is on the inside.

We want to encourage students to use the strategy while they read and think deeper than the summary of what’s happening, and we have to model using this strategy as much as possible too. You can use your real-alouds to model too!

Moving to Texts

When I started revisiting classrooms after they had some time with images, I didn’t bring a long, giant text with me. I brought something super short yet meaty.

from The House on Mango Street

I read paragraph one aloud and asked them to turn and talk about what they thought it was about. I walked around and heard the same thing over and over again. It’s about what kind of hair people in this family have. What a perfect moment to encourage kids to break it down and think deeper because it’s about so much more than hair. I started thinking aloud about paragraph one and breaking it down more and more right in front of them.

I showed them what I noticed and how I was seeing patterns of descriptions and comparisons using figurative language. By looking closely at the figurative language I discovered that maybe it wasn’t the hair that was being described but the personality of each family member in paragraph one. I then ask myself, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about this? to think about theme.

After modeling, I read the second paragraph aloud and gave some turn and talk time to get, “Her hair smells like bread!!!!” out of their system. Then using the strategy kids noticed a lot, saw many different patterns, and came to new understandings.

Like the images, kids need many opportunities with texts to use the strategy and to have time to talk through it with a turn and talk partner. They can use their independent reading book, but another idea is to share excerpts from time to time that they can zoom in, look for patterns, and come to new understandings. This may be another way to share a book from the classroom library shelves. Let’s look close at a key scene in Ghost by Jason Reynolds, for example. Not only a great way to practice but to advertise a book!

Some Important Shout Outs!

I love going into classes and learning from kids as much as they learn from me. That’s why talking it out regularly is so important…we learn and grow from the perspectives of everyone around us!

When analyzing this image, I had a discussion with a group of sixth grade boys at Belmont Hills Elementary who noticed the repetition of orange, black, and white. They were wondering aloud if the colors represented the colors of prison jumpsuits and how that may relate to the message. I found that thinking pretty fascinating. Way to think beyond the literal!

When a partnership in sixth grade at Cornwells Elementary saw the pattern of the same colors, they didn’t know what to make of it. I told them about the discussion the boys at Belmont had. Another partnership overheard and shared they too saw the pattern, but they were thinking the colors represented the school colors of a recent school that faced gun violence and the protesters were using those school colors to show support.

A fourth grade class at Rush Elementary pointed out to me that the first paragraph was all about everyone in the family except mom. They all shared that one paragraph, but Mom had an entire, and even longer, paragraph all to herself showing the reader that Mom is the central and most important person. They noticed the author’s use of the structure to share a message!

Back at Cornwells Elementary, two fifth grade girls were discussing the second paragraph about mom and how maybe mom was not necessarily a person who is the comforting, nurturing, and safe person we need, but a place. A metaphor for the place we feel most safe and secure and how everyone needs that. WOW!

If you have great work, you’d like to share or would like support, you know where to find me. A special thank you to the amazing kids who have been teaching me in the last couple weeks!

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