Graphic Novels: Part 3

Do the Strategies for Close Reading Work in Graphic Novels?

  

So far we have explored the strategies for navigating graphic novels in order to improve comprehension and even specific strategies that can be used for analysis that is specific to graphic novels. But the question I get more often is how can the students do the work of the units of study if they are reading graphic novels? The assumption is that graphic novels are just bags of chips and do not lend themselves to the deep thinking about big ideas including character and theme, so I decided to put that notion to test.

Close Reading Menus

In the TDA trainings a couple years ago, we learned that the strategies and anchor charts in our units can be translated into lenses for close reading. Here is a typical menu of the kinds of lenses that lend themselves to close reading in order to think deeply and come to new understandings.

The idea is for readers to be active readers who zoom in on elements that authors use to do things like develop characters and themes in order to look for patterns. Readers can then use those patterns to come to a new understanding. Authors may use some element more than others; therefore, a menu provides differentiation for readers to determine what they are noticing in the independent reading they have chosen.

Genesis Begins Again – A Traditional Novel

Let’s examine an excerpt from Alicia D. Williams’ debut novel Genesis Begins Again a powerful story centered around a thirteen-year-old protagonist. Read this excerpt to get the gist while keeping in mind the lenses for close reading (blue post-its) on the menu.

Excerpt from Genesis Begins Again

Now look at the menu again. Which lenses (blue post-its) did you notice?

  • Did you notice the actions of Genesis and the girls with her?
  • Did you notice what the characters were saying or how they were saying it?
  • Did you notice Genesis’ thinking?
  • Did you notice the conflict between Genesis and her “friends” or her internal struggle?
  • Did you notice how the characters were reacting?
  • Did you notice the setting descriptions?
  • Did you notice the relationship between Genesis and the other girls or even a possible relationship between Genesis and her father?

Some of these lenses may have been more prevalent than others, but all of them were there. Students reading Genesis Begins Again can easily read actively using any of these lenses to look for patterns in order to come to new understandings (pink post-its).

Let’s Try It Out: Examining Character Actions

Look at the actions of the girls who are going home with Genesis that day. What pattern do you notice in those actions?

You might say the actions are mean-spirited, judgmental, and unsupportive. And what do these patterns show?

When thinking about character, you might think that Genesis is the kind of person who surrounds herself with people who are not really her friends and you might even make a theory about why she might do that. Maybe she’s the kind of person who surrounds herself with people who are not really her friends because she wants to be part of a particular crowd and thinks that is more important than surrounding herself with people who respect her for who she is.

You might even look at those same patterns and start thinking about themes by asking, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about these judgemental and unsupportive actions?

Class Act – A Graphic Novel

Now let’s look at the graphic novel, Class Act by Jerry Craft. This is a companion to the graphic novel, New Kid by the same author. Both novels feature three middle school aged boys as they navigate the struggles of adolescence. Read this excerpt to get the gist while keeping in mind the lenses for close reading (blue post-its) on the menu.

Excerpt from Class Act

Now look at the menu again. Which lenses (blue post-its) did you notice?

  • Did you notice the actions of Jordan and his dad?
  • Did you notice what the characters were saying or how they were saying it?
  • Did you notice Jordan’s thinking on the black and white pages?
  • Did you notice the conflict between Jordan and his mom and his internal struggle?
  • Did you notice how the characters were reacting?
  • Did you notice the setting descriptions?
  • Did you notice the relationship between Jordan and his dad?

Some of these lenses may have been more prevalent than others, but once again all of them were there. Students reading this graphic novel can easily read actively using any of these lenses to look for patterns in order to come to new understandings (pink post-its).

Let’s Try It Out: Examining Character Speech

This time look at the dad’s words to Jordan. What pattern do you notice in his words?

You might say Dad’s words are concerned, full of advice, and trying to relate to his son, Jordan.

When looking at these patterns, you might think more about Dad’s character. You might say Dad is the kind of father that takes the time to put his son at ease by trying to relate so that Jordan feels safe enough to open up and even possibly consider his advice. We know he is a caring father because he invests his time in building a positive relationship.

You might use those same patterns to think about possible themes by asking, what does the author want me to know, think, feel, or believe about these words that are full of concern, advice, and attempts to relate?

In conclusion…

There is a lot of concern that graphic novels are not as valuable as traditional text and are easy reading, otherwise known as a bag of chips. But while reading up on the value of this type of text and putting it to the test alongside a traditional novel, I see that they can be very valuable as independent reading choices. A lot of what we are teaching is how to think about reading and graphic novels 100% provide an engaging way to practice those skills.

Graphic Novels: Part 2

Analyzing Craft Moves

We know that graphic novels are all the rage, and they are incredible opportunities to engage reluctant readers, but they are also valuable tools for practicing those analytical skills by studying craft choices.

This post will share several strategies for examining craft to push readers to analyze the choices creators (authors) make when developing the plot, characters, themes, and even the effect on the reader.

The Strategies

Strategy 1 – Looking at the Height

One of the moves that a creator makes is utilizing the height or type of view from panel to panel. Readers can examine the height or type of view in a series of panels in one scene to determine the effect the scene has on the reader. The creator begins this scene with the reader having a bird’s eye view to show the setting but leaves the reader disconnected. This is followed by a series of eye level views that create a sense of feeling part of the scene and joking among friends. The scene then takes a sharp turn with a worm’s eye view making the reader feel as threatened as scared as the two joking boys who are about to experience a real problem.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 2 – Considering the Distance

The type of shot is examined when considering the distance of the subject from the camera in a panel. Each shot serves a purpose. By looking at a scene closely and examining each shot, the reader can determine what each shot is doing and why it was chosen.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 3 – Noticing Color Choices

Creators use color, much like authors use word choice, to evoke a feeling, mood, or atmosphere. On this page it’s the first day of school. Notice the absence of color of the students around the friends who are seeing each other for the first time after a long break. Even though the friends seem excited to catch up, there is a sense of dread in the air and the author evokes a feeling of doom and gloom. In just one page we are experiencing both the excitement and dread of going back to school.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 4 – Paying Attention to a Series of Panels

This strategy has readers examine the passage of time by determining the type of camera and why the creator chose it for the scene. The panels on the left show a static camera that slows down the story to emphasize the emotions in this important conflict between friends. The panels on the right, however, speed up the scene to show the drama and even evoke the anxiety that the character is experiencing.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 5 – Zooming Into Each Panel

Reading graphic novels includes a close reading of the pictures along with any text. Readers can determine a lot about characters, struggles, mood, atmosphere, etc. by asking not only what do I see but what don’t I see. In this scene we see up close a picture of a man and the boy, but what you may not know is that this is not the boy’s father. What we see (the picture of this man) and what we don’t see but hear arguing with his mother (the father) tells us that this son is disconnected from an absentee father and we will want to pay attention to how this impacts this character. .

In conclusion…

These strategies are more specific to graphic novels than traditional text and are good to have in your toolbox when conferring with readers who are enjoying this type of text. These strategies can be used by graphic novel readers to focus reading and set a path for studying craft, identifying what patterns they are seeing, and determining what the patterns show to develop the plot, characters, themes, or even effect on reader. The next post will focus on the reading strategies that both graphic novels and traditional text share.

Graphic Novels: Part 1

Why Graphic Novels

I remember a time when my middle schoolers were told that graphic novels were like a bag of chips. They are to be enjoyed, but is there really any thinking involved? Since then the world of graphic novels has exploded and kids who generally don’t like to read gravitate toward them. While reading into the subject and looking through some graphic novels myself, I have zero concerns that graphic novels are merely a bag of chips. First of all, if kids who don’t like to read are reading, what’s the issue? Secondly, like many novels and even informational text, the same thinking about reading work can still be applied and practiced, but I will leave that to another post…Coming Soon! This post will focus on helping kids navigate this type of reading and the vocabulary associated with reading graphic novels.

Basic Vocabulary

There is specific vocabulary associated with graphic novels that differs from traditional text. Using and teaching kids this lingo will be helpful when they read and/ or talk about the text.

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategies to Coach Readers – Navigating Graphic Novels

Like any kind of reading, small group and conferring can be opportunities to coach into navigating and making meaning of graphic novels for those who are choosing them.

Strategy 1 – Reading Panels

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 2 – Reading Dialogue

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 3 – Choosing What Works Best

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 4 – Adding the Actions in the Gutters

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

Strategy 5 – Making Connections to Construct a Continuous Story

Page borrowed from Jerry Craft’s Class Act

In conclusion…

Bitmoji Image

Graphic novels may not be your cup of tea, but if they are what kids are reading, let’s use them to engage kids and teach comprehension strategies. Coming next we will compare strategies for traditional texts with graphic novels. Then we will explore the strategies teachers can use to coach into the inference and analytical work specific to graphic novels.

Feel free to make a copy for yourself of the anchor chart and strategies for navigating graphic novels found here!

Jamboard for Student-to-Student Interactions

Getting Started

There is a great Facebook page with lots of how to ideas and troubleshooting for any subject area. It’s call “Teachers Using JAMBOARDS.”

Like anything else in the classroom, you will need to begin using Jamboards by laying down the ground rules and establishing norms. This could even be it’s own partner or small group activity. One of the complaints is the scribbling some students will want to do. It might be a good idea to give them a minute to get the scribbling out of their system on a blank frame or incorporate drawing at times.

Discuss each post it and move to the correct side. Add two of your own ideas too.

There are lots of great ways to use Jamboards for the whole class, small groups, and even partnership collaboration.

Student Check-Ins

One place to use Jamboards is for a student check-in. Whether it’s to check-in on emotional state, check for understanding, or simply to get a pulse on student thinking, Jamboard is a quick way to get the info you need.

Drag an image to cover the entire frame
Content check-in
Pose a question and see where students fall at different times

Share Thinking About Read Alouds or Content Area Texts

Jamboards can be used to share thinking and collaborate using a common text. Again this can be worked on as a whole class, in small groups, or partnerships.

Thinking About Setting
Comparing and Contrasting Characters
Pros/Cons or Positive/Negative Aspects of a Character
Maybe how a character approaches a conflict or solves a problem
Character moments of choice
What caused the problem and what effects does it have on the characters?
Examining complexity of character

Differentiate Based on Choice

What starts off as a whole class stop and jot can quickly be used to determine most popular responses to move students to a smaller discussion based on their thinking.

Whole class shares thinking
Sort and send off to small group discussion

Notice, Wreck-It, and Imitate Mentor Sentences

Mentor sentences are most useful when students can share their thinking and build on ideas with peers. Jamboard can provide that platform to zoom in on what authors do, deconstruct it to see exactly what the author did, and imitate it before going off to use it in their own writing.

Notice
Wreck it
Imitate

Annotate Text (Small Group or Partnerships)

The beginning of a unit is generally a great place to look at a type of text and notice what authors do when writing. Before writing an informational writing or a realistic fiction piece, readers can study a mentor text for the moves authors make when crafting this type of text.

Strategy Lessons and Guided Practice

Any strategy in The Reading Strategies Book or The Writing Strategies Book can be turned into a Jamboard for a small group collaborative space for guided practice with you.

Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for theme
Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for character
Based on a strategy from The Reading Strategies Book for character

Small Group Progression Lessons

Progressions can also be posted for students to evaluate themselves and determine their next steps or to examine a particular progression in a mentor text.

Students share their writing about character, discuss where they are based on learning progression and determine their own next steps
Small groups or partnerships can determine what this author did to develop characters, setting, and plot before do the same kind of work in their own writing

The Possibilities Seem Endless

Clientmoji

The Adventures of TDA: Chapter 3

On Wednesday we began a new story. The story “Charles” by Shirley Jackson intrigued the sixth graders as they read about Laurie, a kindergartner who came home for lunch daily to tell his parents all about Charles, the bad kid who caused all kinds of trouble and chaos in the classroom. The twist ending caused explosive conversations!

Students turned and talked about possible lenses that would work well with this particular story. I love having students determine the possible lenses and am always excited when they come up with one I didn’t even think about! One student who typically struggles asked if repetition would work for this particular story. I asked what he meant and he was able to give several examples of different kinds of repetition. YES! Not only did he come up with a great lens, his idea was used by a lot of partnerships as their focus…what a confidence builder!

I reminded students of the work we needed to do before moving into writing because if they don’t take the time to do the thinking work with the strategy I taught them last week, then they would not be able to successfully and confidently write their text dependent analysis. Partnerships made a plan for the lens work they were going to tackle that day and then they got to work.

While students worked I pulled up to partnerships and coached them into finding examples of the lens they were examining. Some needed specific direct instruction, for example, to determine who was saying what when they were examining dialogue between multiple characters.

After class I looked through their work and noticed a lot of identifying but not a lot of annotating. Without the annotating I knew they would struggle to see the patterns. So I knew they needed more modeling of this work.

I showed them how I notice something, immediately pause, and annotate with my thinking. This definitely helped move many students to combine this work instead of only underlining evidence of their lens thinking they would go back and annotate after. Once students made a plan for the independent work, they went of to do the work in their partnerships. I was able to conference with every partnership and pull two small groups.

The next day the students continued to examine with one lens and move onto a second, and some even a third, but first I wanted to push their thinking about coming to new understandings. Students were feeling super confident in their thinking about character at this point, but I wanted them to use that confidence to push theme work, which was not an area they had strength.

I continued conferring with partnerships and pulled a small group that needed coaching to make the their theme universal.

Friday we moved into our last story, “Into the Rapids” which I snagged from www.commonlit.org. The idea of using three texts in the past week was twofold: to provide students with ample opportunity to practice using the strategy while using a variety of lenses to focus their reading and to provide choice when it’s time to begin writing a TDA. Each student will choose the text from the three they will use to practice using the writing strategies for TDA,

Since we were on our third text, students felt very comfortable digging right in with their partners and were all engaged in the lenses they chose. By the end of today, I was overwhelmed by the level of thinking they were bringing to the text. One particular student who struggles and receives EL support has grown so much in the last week. His partner was absent on Friday and while he was only able to finish one lens during the independent time, his thinking made me so proud.

While moving around to confer with partnerships, I was coaching one group into theme when we realized that we needed to tweak the strategy. This was a great opportunity for a midworkshop interrupt and ended up helping many other partnerships too. Midworkshop interupts are great when coaching students through a strategy and realizing something that others may need to use too!

They will have some time to finish up their thinking work, but many will be ready to move onto choosing and organizing their best thinking to begin writing. We will continue to use the anchor chart created at the start of this mini unit to drive our minilessons. I did add writing in third person to the chart as that is what is expected based on the learning progressions for text dependent analysis! Here are more examples of the thinking that came from Friday’s work.

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!

A Close Look at Why We Teach Analysis

Ask any student what analysis is and why we do it, and the responses are pretty telling. I know this because I’ve been doing just that lately. Asking kids.

Kids seem to think that analysis is just a school thing that we have to be able to do on the state testing, but outside of school, it’s not important. My conversations with kids have been makeing me wonder. We complain that kids don’t see value in the state testing, but do we take the time to communicate what analysis is, why it’s important, and what can be analyzed?

I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves and get state testing out of the forefront. State testing is a reality, and sadly is used to determine teacher effectiveness, but it should not be the primary reason we approach this work with kids.

I do not believe analysis is something we hurry up and teach kids before a test. In my mind, it’s a spiraling concept that helps us to understand something deeply. It takes us from getting the gist of something to breaking it down and looking at all the pieces to see how all of the moving parts create a new and deeper understanding.

That was pretty heavy! But think about it…anything could be analyzed and it’s all around us.

When people talk on social media or in the faculty room about the current season of say Game of Thrones. They are breaking it down and coming to new and deeper understandings. They talk about how the writers use things like symbolism and foreshadowing that encourages them to go back and re-watch previous seasons for a closer look. That’s analysis.

When all of America was shocked when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, viewers looked back to figure out how the coaching staff’s decisions and the plays that were used brought the underdogs to victory. That’s analysis.

When we look at our students or even our own children and ask ourselves, why is she behaving this way? What is the root cause? What patterns are we seeing that lead to this behavior or outcome? That’s analysis.

When the latest installment of Star Wars was released in theaters, blogs and articles were immediately shared about how this movie was written and if it lived up to the story originally created by George Lucas.

When I watch reality tv and especially my guilty pleasure, The Real Housewives, which my husband refers to as “The Screaming Show” I immediately go on social media after to see how others have analyzed and interpreted the big dramatic moment and how editing is used to twist and confuse perspectives.

A few things stand out to me in all of my thinking recently about analysis.

  1. Analysis is not easy — It’s is not cut and dry. It can’t be taught in a quick activity or in one essay nor can it be a weekly essay assigned, which is what my own daughter experienced last year. It’s something that should be constantly spiraling in what we do.
  2. Analysis is social — In real life we talk out our thinking whether it be after watching a sporting event, movie, or a decision that was made at work, we often talk about our thinking and dive deeper with people.
  3. Analysis is not about what happened so much as it’s about how and why it did — It’s about looking closely and coming to a new conclusion or a deeper understanding. It’s the act of not accepting something at face value.
  4. Analysis needs to be modeled and modeled and modeled some more — The more you model, the more you put in the work, because it is work, the more you will see how you can scaffold the work for kids and determine what they need and next steps. Kids also need to see that it is a struggle for you too. Analysis doesn’t just magically happen. It takes time and a lot of thinking!
  5. There is not one answer when it comes to analysis — What I love so much that continues to prove why it is a social act is how much I learn and notice when hearing other perspectives. On more than one occasion I have been blown away by what others notice that I did not see myself. Just last week Mrs. Barats’s fourth grade class at Rush noticed how a text we were looking closely at was structured. My mind was blown. It was a brilliant way to look at what the text was really about that I did not see myself!

I will be sharing some work I’ve been doing recently with teachers around analysis and look forward to learning from my own work as well as the work of some really awesome students and teachers! But if you have not taken the time to really look at why analysis is important aside from state testing, I encourage you to analyze the way you go about this work with kids and how your work does or does not grow deep thinkers who have solid understandings…because, in my honest opinion, that is what is most important.

TDA: Students Take on the Images

This is a great time of year to work in a lot of analysis work using images so students have lots of opportunities to talk and talk and talk!

I’ve been visiting some great fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms this week and love the excitement kids get when doing this work. They don’t even realize they are working and the engagement has been incredible.

Here’s the gist of what I’ve been doing to model for teachers using their own students. Sometime after break I will revisit these classrooms and begin using lenses for close reading and texts, but in the meantime these teachers will be trying lots of image work with them.

The Modeling

Teaching Point + Strategy

Today I am going to teach you that readers come to new understandings when reading by looking closely for patterns. Watch me while I read this image by looking closely at the details I notice, the patterns I see, and then ask myself, “What so these patterns show?”

Active Engagement

Students work in partnerships not groups. Students are more actively engaged and on task when working closely with a shoulder partner. This time is just as quick paced as the modeling. I use timers, model fast and furious, and expect students to work fast and furious as well. The active engagement was not longer than 6 minutes and could have been condensed.

Invitation to Practice Independently

Students were invited to try this work in their independent reading books. Whether they use post-its or a readers notebook, they are encouraged to stop and jot what they notice while reading and identify patterns. Then they can do some deep thinking work and ask themselves what the patterns show.

The work that students did today included what they noticed about the lenses of repetition, setting, and even tone. When they noticed patterns they were able to discuss different aspects of the image including central idea/theme, the author’s purpose, and the effect it had on the reader.

After the break we will move from pictures to short texts, but in the meantime, students will have lots of opportunities to practice with images with a partner, try the work in their independent reading, and receive specific lenses in small group and conferring to notice.

Everyone can try this work! This image for Juicy Couture was a fun one to try with sixth graders.

Click here and try as many as you can!

Let me know if you would like support too!

TDA: Starting with Images

Last year we had a pretty intensive training on text dependent analysis for ELA teachers in fourth through eighth grade. One of the things we learned in the training were the three steps to get to analysis that helped us focus on the craft of the author. Often we want to start with the big idea and ask something like, “What’s the theme and what in the text makes you say that?” While we have been doing this move for a long time, it does not encourage close examination of craft and intentional moves an author may have taken to push a particular message through.

The anchor chart

Instead of starting at the bottom and determining a new understanding such as character traits, theme, effect on reader, central idea, and author’s purpose, we start at the top and teach readers to pay attention by asking what do you notice? What do you explicitly see?

Once we have noticed a lot, we want to look and see if there are any patterns. When it comes to patterns, we are thinking about buckets. What do we notice that could all go into one bucket, and what would we call that bucket?

After seeing a pattern or even multiple patterns, we want to look at those patterns and determine a new understanding. If we are looking for theme, for example, we may ask, “Based on the bucket(s) and what’s inside, what does the author want us to know, think, feel, or believe? What message(s) is the author pushing through?”

Analysis takes a lot of practice and scaffolding!

Before kids can write, they need lots and lots of opportunities to discuss with partners. Analysis is hard stuff so many times we can use images to get us going. Jackie, a sixth grade teacher at Rush, showed me what she was using and I LOVED the idea. During the training we shared lots of images from a series by the New York Times called, “A Picture a Day”. Jackie decided to also incorporate advertisements including this one below.

I decided to try one out myself. Look at this add for Camel Lights.

You could model using one and then provide some guided practice with another. I might have turn and talk partners try this one next as they are guided through step 1, then 2, then 3.

How one teacher supported students

Jackie noticed her students were struggling with noticing patterns, and so she created a scaffold which she will soon take away just to give them a nudge. She gave them some possible buckets to fill for the Heinz Ketchup advertisement and now that they have had some experience, she will have students determine the patterns they are seeing moving forward.

Jackie’s sixth graders then wrote their thinking while supporting their ideas with specific moves the author/artist made. The student example below proves her thinking by including how the author/artist used color, words, and even formatting.

If this is all new to you or you haven’t gotten your feet wet with this process, click here to use some of the pictures we’ve compiled and try it out yourself!

And if you would like some modeling with your students or simply would like to plan with your current unit, you know where to find me!

One rule of caution! There is not one “right” answer and there can be different patterns noticed. We want to celebrate and push for individual thinking.

Coming Soon!

Once you get your feet wet with the images, I will share out the use of the lenses to look through while reading.

The Power of Modeling: From Sticky Notes to Reader’s Notebooks

One of my pushes this year is pushing thinking using the reader’s notebook. While re-reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them and her newer book 180 Days which she co-wrote with Kelly Gallagher, I found myself re-energized by the act of doing the work in front of kids in a real and organic way.

Our great reading teachers have been modeling active reading with stop and jots and think alouds within mentor texts pretty much on a daily basis, but when it comes to the reader’s notebook there is a disconnect. Kids want to be told what to write about and how it should be formatted. As workshop teachers, we know that everyone writing the same way about the same thing is not conducive to growing readers. They do not benefit by doing what the teacher wants; they need to have the choice and ownership to push themselves.

Revisiting Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s work made me wonder. What would it look like if we modeled moving from the stop and jot to the notebook? What would kids see if more than one teacher modeled using the same text? This was an experiment that I felt was important to take on, so I asked some of my people who I have worked with in the past to do this experiment with me. I thought I’d get a couple volunteers, but little did I know that all of my people would volunteer!

My first stop was with my former coaching colleague turned fifth grade teacher. I shared my idea during his prep one day, and he not only said yes, he suggested we start that day! We grabbed two of the same book from his classroom library, and when his fifth graders came back from special, we shared our plan.

To do this plan, we had to flip the workshop around and begin with independent reading followed by the minilesson. While the students read, we did not conference or pull small groups. We joined them in reading and jotting. After about 30 minutes of independent reading, they joined us on the carpet and we took 5 minutes to look over our jots and write a notebook entry.

The kids paid close attention while we grappled with our thinking and writing about our thinking.

Then we each explained how we went from our stop and jots to the notebook entries that were before them. They turned and talked about what they noticed about how we went about it and how we formatted our writing.

I continued my tour with Sarah Wolbransky, also a former literacy coach who went back to the classroom this year to teach fifth grade. We did the same experiment. Using a different book that we had not read from her classroom library.

From fifth grade, I hit the middle school and Bridget Sperduto’s seventh grade. The best part about middle school is we can do this for five periods, which is the equivalent of five class periods of reading and noting. The students were not only able to see what we each did using the same book, All American Boys, but also what we each did over the course of five class periods!

I continued in the middle school, but this time my seventh and eighth grade teachers, Theresa Simon and Danielle Armstrong, pulled their classes together, and the three of us got to work using Everything, Everything.

Seventh and eighth grade teacher, Justin Hopf decided to join one of Danielle’s classes and since we were already pretty far into Everything, Everything, we decided to pull another book from the classroom library.

From there I went back to the elementary school to experiment with Chris Jordan and his sixth graders. We used a book from his classroom library that neither of us had read.

Later that day, I joined Gina Miller, Kelly Kovach, and Natalie Hartman, a sixth grade team in another building. They pulled the entire sixth grade together to do the experiment with Out of My Mind which showed how four different teachers went about this work.

I ended my tour in eighth grade with my Wonder Twin, Diane Murray. Using Ghost, we modeled our thinking and writing about reading across the day.

What did I learn from this experiment?

  • I learned that notebook entries should not take more than a few minutes. We’ve seen that when given prompts and structures, students will take hours and sometimes days to push themselves to do the thinking work that should only be taking about 5% of the workshop time. The time spent was because students were often so focused on being right and formatting it correctly that they were losing time from the real work.
  • I learned that students need to see a lot more of modeling. I encourage teachers to keep their own reader’s notebooks and share images of their own work but also take the time to do the work right in front of them. Students will benefit from seeing you grapple with your own thinking and how to get it in the notebook.
  • I learned that students may start with imitating exactly what you do. Having the confidence to do it your own way takes a lot of time and practice. Keep modeling your process!
  • I learned that when kids don’t have enough experience and don’t know what to do, they default to writing a summary or nothing at all.
  • I learned that these notebook entries are the seeds that can be used for long writes that are not as frequently written.
  • I learned that reader’s notebooks show thinking over time and that thinking can change along the way.
  • I learned that together as a team we can do so much more to model with kids.
  • I learned that other people think differently than I do even when we may be reading the same book.

What did students learn?

A LOT! They watched us in the moment write about our thinking based on what we noticed, taking no more than 5 minutes to write our entry. They listened as we explained our process of stopping to jot, determining what to explore deeper in the notebook, and how we decided to organize it. They learned that it’s okay to take charge of their own thinking about reading, but most importantly, there is no one right answer or one right way to go about it.

I look back at my notebook compared to Lee’s. We both ended up looking closely at how the characters were acting, but we came to different conclusions. Kids need to see this!

Lee wonders if the poor behaviors are a result of living in poverty while I wonder if the leaders feel helpless and try to control the situation by punishing everyone instead of those who are really responsible.

I also look back at Diane and I who came to similar conclusions by noticing different patterns.

What’s next?

I encourage you to do this modeling in front of kids. I’m not going to lie. It’s slightly uncomfortable, but that’s what kids need to see. They need to see us struggle with making sense of what we notice while reading, so they are less overwhelmed when they are expected to do the same. They need to know it’s really hard work but so important. They need to see that we too have to really push ourselves. If you’re able to do this work with a colleague to show the different ways you both go about it after reading the same text, it’s pretty powerful. And if you would like to invite me in to do this work with you, you know how to find me!