162: Before / During / After Reading Activities




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  1. Vocabulary Tree
    • Focus
      • Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Free form graphic organizer of a tree that shows how concepts and ideas are related
        • Trunk has key concepts
        • Branches has related ideas, information and concepts
    • Why do this?
      • Displays relationships among all the words in a unit
      • Build a single integrated picture of concepts in a unit
      • Develop better understanding of concepts in unit through their relationships to other known concepts
    • How it works?
      • Start with short list of words – 4 to 5 words.
      • Organize words in a tree
        • more important general words go on trunk
        • sub-categories go on the branches
      • Students continue to add words to their trees and they identify more key words while reading
    • Variations
      • Have students create a word tree for 1 word (given) on the trunk
      • Give students post-its – one word per post-it – and have them place the words on the tree visual.  Have them rearrange positions of the words as their reading reveals new relationships.
  2. Word Wall
    • Focus
      • Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Wall display of key vocabulary terms for a project
    • Why do this?
      • Learn words by seeing them in use
      • Refer back to new language in a visible place
      • Support student’s comprehension of new vocabulary
    • How it works?
      • Model how to create word wall items by creating a few models of key terms
        • model how to put related information on the back of the card so that students can later interact with the cards by seeing if they know the information and then flipping the card to check their knowledge
      • Have students create more word wall items
      • Throughout the unit, conduct activities with words on word wall.  Examples:
        • Group words according to their similarities.  See List-group-label.
        • Rearrange words according to set categories.
        • Do your best to define words.
      • Add words as they are introduced in the project.
    • Variations
      • Have students guess the definitions of terms from a selection of definitions using root words
  3. KWL
    • Focus
      • Setting purposes for reading
      • Connecting to and building background knowledge
    • Description
      • Students generate lists of
        • K = what they already know
        • W = what they want to know
        • L = what they learned after reading
    • Why do this?
      • K – activate related prior knowledge
      • W – asking questions builds a purpose a reading
      • L – assess whether or not W goals were met and summarize new info
    • How it works?
      • Encourage students to brainstorm what they Know related to a given topic
      • Model how to create W questions.  Ask probing questions to help students generate questions.
      • Group and categorize items in K and W columns to build connections among questions and ideas.
      • While gathering L items, compare them to K and W items.  Note questions answered in W column and misconceptions clarified in K column.
    • Variations
      • Show an image to help trigger prior knowledge for K column. 
These strategies can teach students how to use texts to clarify and enhance prior knowledge, to find relationships among words, to answer pre-prepared questions, and to build academic vocabulary.  Using these strategies can help students learn how to actively process texts in order to develop understanding.


Preparation Steps
  • Select readings that will students learn key information in upcoming projects.
  • Decide which strategies will help students most effectively process the targeted texts.
  • Gather materials related to the strategies.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement active processing strategy.  See instructions above.
  • Have students reflect on how strategy is helping them learn new information.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Incorporate students’ favorite processing activities into classroom routines.
  • Combine reading activities with Quick Writes or Write to Learn activities.



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