Diane has been working very hard in the last few months to engage her readers. One of the ways she went about it was through the use of spiderweb discussions. They were rough going at the start, but each week the students reflected and determined what they did well and what they should do moving forward to deepen their conversation and include everyone.
Recently we videotaped one particular book club that was reading the historical fiction novel, Between Shades of Gray. Diane gave the students a very open-ended prompt to think about first, and that was all they needed to begin their discussion.
How do you think the challenges the characters have faced in the book influence their life after deportation?
The discussion was timed and continued until the timer sounded. The teacher documented the discussion by creating the spiderweb while listening. Students can also document discussions as we have done in the past through the fishbowl. The web (shown left) was the one documented during the discussion (above). Notice how students were able to facilitate for themselves and keep the discussion moving.
Compare the discussion with the rubric (below). It is clearly evident that the students were successful in all aspects of the discussion.
I wish we had thought to record their reflections after, it was incredibly reflective of how they have done in the past to now. However, a few things did stand out when asked how they liked book club discussions compared to work they have done in past reading classes. The group quickly lamented the use of teacher-created questions and packets that meant nothing to them. They expressed how much they like to have real conversations about their own thinking that doesn’t feel like a waste of their time.
For more background on the spiderweb discussion, check out previous blog posts.
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.
I’m going to be honest. When looking at any Facebook group for teachers, it’s typical to find a teacher ask, “What should I do after reading (fill in the blank with any book)?” The thread following the original post would include one response after the other, “one-pager”. I had no idea what a one pager was and assumed they meant a one page reflection of the book or a one page analysis.
While looking for different ways to incorporate thinking about reading without writing the dreaded TDA essay, I was reminded of the one pager by Theresa who used them last year now and again (I didn’t make the connection last year) and was planning to do something similar for the dystopian book clubs. Theresa has seen a lot of engagement around this work and generously shared her work.
One Pagers as a Get to Know You
One Pagers for Book Analysis
Samples from Independent Reading Books
Samples from Historical Fiction Book Clubs
Samples from Dystopian Book Clubs
I’d love to see something like this with a focus on one or two of the lenses to show a type of understanding and really zero in on analyzing author’s craft.
Thank you for sharing so much great student work, Theresa!
There has been so much talk and professional development around text dependent analysis this year, so it’s not a surprise that kids and teachers for that matter are over it!
Diane and I will be working together to bring you some moves you can make in your classroom that provide the many opportunities students need (because they need MANY) to close read and analyze while taking out the redundancy of writing one TDA after the other.
But as Diane and I began to brainstorm, Danielle dropped on my desk the most beautiful graphic essays created by her students, so I had to share!
Danielle outlined the expectations (seen above) and provided time for students to organize their ideas before they began. The result? Beautiful graphic essays that included thematic statements (thesis), evidence to support the statements, and an analysis of each piece of evidence. She also challenged them to incorporate symbols that related to characters, setting, theme, or conflict.
Students can close read and analyze as well as use creativity in a way to show deeper understandings of text without always writing an essay. We can find lots of ways to practice skills without the overkill of the dreaded TDA essay.