A Tale of Two Projects: Week 2 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project)

This blog entry describes what my students and I did during Week 2 of the Emerging Tech (NSF Grant) project.  The events in this blog entry took place at the same time as the events in this article.  As a pair, these describe what a PBL teacher does while running two projects in two different preps at one time.  To see accounts on earlier or later weeks of these projects, go here.


Week 2, Day 1 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



During Day 1, I was not available to work directly with the students because I was at a training related to my responsibilities as Campus Testing Coordinator.  The students started work on informal presentations on physicists who had contributed to our understanding of nuclear phenomena and quantum mechanics.  The students delivered these presentations on Day 4 of this week.

Each team was assigned a different physicist.  To start preparing students for a grant they would write several weeks later, the research questions for each physicist focused on the research of the physicist, its intellectual merit, and its broad impact.  The assigned physicists and related questions for teams 1 to 6 are shown in this linked image.  I provided them with at least 3 age-appropriate and accurate sources to research the questions to streamline their research process.


Each team was also given a template slide deck that limited teams to 3 slides per scientist (see linked template).  The template also constrained students to mostly images and very limited text on the slides.  The bulk of their responses to the research questions were hidden in the slides’ speaker notes sections.


Later on Day 1, I finalized a lesson for Day 2 of this week by analyzing test bank questions related to TEKS on nuclear phenomena and the weak nuclear force.  I found that my workshop needed to focus on types of radiation (alpha, beta, and gamma) and their relationships to nuclear forces (weak and strong) and various technology.  They also needed to introduce half-life and how to use half-life to select appropriate isotopes for different types of technology.  I designed a graphic organizer that included an embedded half-life chart and questions that asked students to interpret the chart to select isotopes for different technology applications – see Day 2 handout.


Week 2, Day 2 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Early on Day 2, I made some minor adjustments to my visuals for the upcoming Nuclear Workshop because I needed to look up specific radioactivity values that corresponded to harmless and harmful levels of radiation and their effects.  I typically outline and draft lesson plans and related resources several days ahead of time and then refine them until the day before (or day of) the actual lesson.


Later on Day 2, I facilitated a workshop on Radioactivity with the IPE classes.  In this workshop, we introduced healthy and dangerous levels of radioactivity and used these thresholds to interpret the harmfulness (or harmlessness) of different types of radioactive technology.  We introduced the idea of half life and used specific half lives to discuss whether or not various isotopes were safe (or not) for consumer use.  We also introduced 3 types of radioactive processes (alpha, gamma, and beta) and discussed their connections to nuclear forces and technology applications.  After the workshop, students had time to answer the questions on the graphic organizer and to continue developing their presentations on nuclear / quantum physicists.


Later on Day 2, I finished grading revised reports from the previous IPE project on Rube Goldberg machines.  In this project, students built and tested Rube Goldberg devices in order to investigate conservation of energy and conservation of momentum.


Week 2, Day 3 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Day 3 was the final work day that students had to prepare for their informal presentations on nuclear / quantum physicists.  In the warmup, we practiced using the half life chart to select the appropriate isotopes for specific technology applications.  During the warmup discussion, I was able to repeat and model correct thinking relating to interpreting the half lives of isotopes in the context of emerging technology.


While the students worked on their slides, I started contacting potential panelists in order to provide feedback to students during Week 5 of the project when students would draft their grant proposals.  I drafted a recruitment letter that summarized the project logistics and the types of support the student needed.  I linked the recruitment letter to a Google form that gathered information on volunteer panelists’ degrees, areas of expertise, and availability.  By the end of this week, this work yielded 5 panelists, a great number to support 10 student teams.  If you’d like to volunteer to be a panelists at CINGHS, click the linked form above.


Also during student work time, I ordered equipment from the UTeach department that related to an upcoming emission spectra lab.  I thought this equipment was critical to give students hands on experiences related to modern physics and to give students a break from a project featuring lots of online research and very few hands-on research activities.


My co-teacher and I prepared for presentations the following day by setting up Google Forms to gather peer grades on collaboration and oral communication.  I created a set of note sheets for capturing our teacher notes on teams’ presentations on quantum and nuclear physicists.  To prepare for our notebook grading day later that week (Friday, Day 5), we decided what assignments we would grade for that week and how many points we would assign to each assignment in each of our class’s learning outcomes (Oral Communication, Written Communication, Collaboration, Agency, Knowledge & Thinking, Engineering Content, Physics Content).


Week 2, Day 4 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Early on Day 4, I decided to create an experimental tool to keep students in the audience of presentations more engaged.  I created a graphic organizer that students could use to take notes on other teams’ presentations.  I showed this tool to my co-teacher, Mr. Fishman, and shared a related idea: why not let presenting students’ stamp the parts of the graphic organizer related to their presentation so they could get real time feedback on how well they communicated their key points and also hold their peers accountable for taking good notes?  He was willing to try it.



The experiment was a success.  The students seemed to really enjoy stamping their peers.  Also several students insisted on making their peers improve their notes prior to stamping their papers so the level of accountability was kept high throughout the note-taking activity.  In addition to note-taking, students in the audience evaluated the presenters on their oral communication skills.  Meanwhile, my co-teacher and I took notes on their presentations relating to the rubric so we could use our notes to supplement what we would later gather from reviewing their slides and their hidden speaker notes.  Sometimes students say more than they write, so we use both our notes from what they say and what they write to evaluate their presentations and related research.


Later on Day 4, I used pivot tables to analyze data gathered via Google Form to generate peer grades relating to collaboration and oral communication.  I typed out my presentation notes in order to create a graphic organizer that summarized the key points delivered by all teams in both class periods.  I shared these notes with students the following day so they could learn from students in both periods.  See linked notes on tne left.  At the end of Week 4, the students used these notes and other notes to take an open notebook test on nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and biotechnology.


 Week 2, Day 5 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



On Day 5, we switched gears by introducing emerging (and ancient) examples of biotechnology.  We opened the class with a discussion on a Washington post article on the creation of pig-human embryonic chimeras.  After this introduction, Mr. Fishman led the class through an introductory workshop / discussion on biotechnology.  Students were so open with their opinions and prior knowledge of biotechnology that the 1-day workshop spilled over into the following day.


Week 2, Day 6-7 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



On Saturday morning, I checked the file revision histories of report documents to check which students were in danger of not meeting the final report revisions deadline.  I called the homes of all students who needed extra reminders and parental support to meet this important deadline.  Later on the day, I held online office hours to support students working on their report corrections.  While doing this, I gathered and re-formatted sample grant summaries that students would eventually analyze to learn the style of writing related to their grant proposals.  I also created a test on Nuclear Physics and generated the question sheet and bubble sheets for this test.


On Sunday, I graded the final revised versions of the students’ engineering report from the prior project (the Rube Goldberg project).  I also graded students’ presentations from earlier in the week using my presentation notes and also considering all the written texts and images on students’ slides and their speaker notes.  Using our IPE tool, the rubric chart (see linked Google Sheet), I was able to grade their presentations fairly quickly and enjoy the rest of my weekend.  The presentations were easy to grade because most of the students had done the assignment perfectly or nearly so.  I think the pre-selected articles, the specific research questions and the verbal feedback on the slides given throughout the week had really helped the students create quality products.


For more grading tricks, go here.  To continue reading  about this project, go here.


200: Teaching Chronological Thinking and Causality (Rail Strike of 1877)





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Chronological Thinking
  • Beyond sequencing events in temporal order
  • Examining sources to determine how events relate to each other
  • Looking for causes of events and consequences of events
  • Understanding the difference between causal and correlational relationships
  • National Standards for History (related to chronology):
    • Identify in historical narratives the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story
    • Measure and calculate calendar time
    • Interpret data presented in time lines
    • Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration
    • Establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives of their own
  • Chronological thinking needs to be taught alongside causality
  • Math / Science Connections:
    • Scientists / mathematicians are more likely to say that two variable are correlated than causally related because the latter is harder to prove
    • The relationships among things is emphasized throughout the disciplines, it is the basis of functions and functions are a main ingredient in mathematical / scientific models and the predictions that emerge from the models
  • Standards related to causality:
    • explain causes in analyzing historical actions
    • grasp the complexity of historical causation, respect particularity, and avoid excessively abstract generalizations
  • Debates surrounding causes of events / eras can make history more real and engaging to students
  • While introducing this concept, select sources that require students to form a chronological narrative – NOT multiple causes, perspectives, or other types of historical thinking – isolate chronological / causal thinking
Why the Railway Strike of 1877?
  • images involve buildings that are local and recognizable to Baltimore students
  • Background info:
    • economic recession and racial tensions during the Reconstruction
    • 1873 Wall Street panic negatively affected nationwide economy
    • 1874 6,000 businesses close
    • railroads hit really hard
    • railroads engaged in a rate war to minimize effects of the depression
    • lower rates led to lower labor costs
      • paid workers less
      • workers hired for less hours
      • workers had to pay for travel home when work took them to distant cities
    • railroads ended rate wars in favor of an agreement to lower workers’ hourly wave
      • workers striked
        • sometimes destroyed railroad property
        • involved 100,000 workers nationwide
      • strike ended due to
        • federal trop deployment
        • lack of central workers’ org
    • Impacts:
      • stirred fear in the public
      • some reforms:
        • created Employees Relief Association – provide some medical services and death benefits to employees (1880
        • 1884 companies setup pensions for workers
      • momentum for Workingmen’s political party and labor movement
      • highlighted problems of industrialization
Implementing the Lesson
  • Display image from strike that shoes building on fire and ask students to identify elements in the image that aid in understanding artist’s viewpoint
  • Introduce Driving question: What event does the image depict and what is the artist’s message about the event?
  • Four sources:
    1. letter advertising Gatling gun to owner of B&O Railroad
    2. broadside announcing lowering of worker wages
    3. letter from president of B&O to President Hayes asking for federal troops
    4. insurance document listing damages caused by worker
  • These four sources can help students’ determine causal relationship among events of the strike
  • Cursive note: can provide typed copies of cursive sources just in case students struggle to read the handwriting
  • Jigsaw analysis
    • Students analyze different sources within a team of 4 with the help of thinking sheets that use question prompts to guide students to notice and interpret key features of the sources and formulate hypotheses
    • As a group, students use collection of sources to create a chronological account that generate original artist’s image at project launch
  • Alternative to group analysis
    • Each group analyzes the same source and presents their finding to the whole class
    • The whole class tries to process and arrange the sources in chronological order
  • Note about the sources and lessons learned:
    • the dates on sources do not necessarily correspond to the actual dates of the events they describe
    • this fact requires students to use causality to correctly order the sources
    • students learn that dates alone do not order sources / events; determinations about the relationships about the information within the sources influence the chronology
    • history is more than a random aggregation of information – there is an organization to the information due to causal relationships
  • Concluding the lesson:
    • Is the launch image pro- or anti- labor?
      • after discussing this question, teacher reveals caption of image: The Frenzy and What Came of It”
Leveraging these Lesson in the Future
  • Lessons learned by students:
    • Challenges misconception – sources created close in time to the event are more valid
      • sometimes sources created farther in time from the event have useful things to say because they are written from a broader perspective with access to more corroborating evidence
    • Moving beyond timelines – students learn to interpret sources and their relationships to each other to develop chronological frameworks that connect the sources
    • Students learn to view history narratives as jigsaw puzzles that can be solved
      • students were more engaged by “creating” time line than simply memorizing it – led to better retention
      • caveats – students may read too much or too little into sources and develop chronologies with logic flaws; promoting discussing among discussion may helps students to catch logic flaws
  • Teaching tip:
    • Many historical tools can be used to analyze and interpret sources
    • While scaffolding these tools, it’s helpful to emphasize one over the others
Math / Science Connections:
  • This style of lesson can be used to design lessons that show:
    • chronology of events that led to expanding understanding of a concept or the development of a currently well established math / science model (often called a theory)
      • examples:
        • development of quantum mechanics – happened very quickly and may have a lot of sources with dates that don’t necessarily match the exact discovery dates – (can also remove dates from source until after students have a hypothesis about the chronology). Within quantum mechanics – there are several concepts that can be focused on such as:
          • development of model for an atom
          • development for model of behavior of light
          • development for model for atomic nuclei
        • development of understanding of models to describe electricity and magnetis
        • development of model to understand gravity
        • with biology – the development of the theory of evolution
    •  can open with quote or a cartoon inspired by model being studied and ask students to describe what they notice and answer the driving question – What does this image depict and what is the artist’s message about the contents?
    • teaching students to logically link the development of models can help them to learn how mathematicians / scientists incrementally create new knowledge using more and more sophisticated models (or sometimes simpler models) to understand phenomena


Teaching students how to create their own chronological frameworks by interpreting and connecting primary sources teaches students that history is not just an random aggregate of facts and events.  Creating their own timelines as opposed to simply memorizing ones can involve students in an engaging jigsaw puzzle that makes the resulting sequence more memorable.  This type of lesson can be applied in science / math lessons that investigate the development of now accepted models for describing phenomena.


Note:  This sequence will be written for science teachers.  If you’re looking for advice on how to prepare and implement lessons related to historical lessons on chronology, read the WHAT? summary above.


Preparation Steps
  • Research the unfolding of discoveries that advanced the development of models that describe a specific phenomena.
  • Find student friendly, engaging sources that represent different models that describe the same phenomena.
  • Select sources whose dates don’t necessarily relate to the dates of the origin of the models OR expunge the dates from the sources.
  • Developing thinking sheets with several question prompts that guide students to analyze each source and its relationship to the anchor image.
  • Find an anchor image to launch the project that shows the model in an interesting way that hints at its origins and implications.
  • Create a driving question that requires students to investigate the sources to chronologically relate the models depicted in them to the model depicted in the anchor image?
Early Implementation Steps
  • Introduce anchor image and driving question.  Hold preliminary discussions to share and record what is initially notices and initial hypotheses
  • Have different teams investigate different sources with the help of thinking sheets.
  • Have each team present their findings to the class.
  • Use teams’ presentations to have a discussion aimed at sequencing the models
  • After models are sequenced, reconsider the anchor image and re-address the driving question
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Lesson could have models that relate to concepts that are still in flux and have students predict future expressions of the model



164: Assessing Synthesis and Creative Thinking Skills (2 of 2)



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  1. Concept Maps
    • Description
      • Students create drawings or diagrams that show connections between major and minor concepts
    • Purpose
      • Observable assessment of student’s schemata – webs of associates they hold for various concepts
      • Can compare teacher and student mental maps of content
      • Students build awareness and control over the connections they are making with content
      • Can assess prior knowledge
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select a concept that is central to content and has lots of conceptual associations
      • Practice making a concept
        • lay down primary connections
        • then lay down secondary and tertiary connections
        • draw lines connecting concepts with descriptions of the relationships on the line
      • Model how to make concept map in collaboration with students
        • think aloud while adding concepts and relationship lines to the map
        • ask for students to volunteer topics and relationships
      • Give students time to create concept maps of their own on a different topic
    • Analysis Steps
      • Compare student concept maps with teacher generated ones
      • Can code for or scan for similarities and differences in
        • primary / secondary / tertiary relationships
        • types of relationships among concepts and their descriptions
    • Extension Ides
      • Use large grid graph paper for concept maps so that students can reasonably use distance among concepts to represent their degree of relatedness
      • Assign concept map as a small group assessment
      • Ask students to write explanatory essays based on their concept maps
    • Pros
      • Backs up cognitive research on the value of being aware of one’s mental maps
      • Visual way to see students’ mental associations
      • Favors visual learners who are at a disadvantage at verbal assessments
      • Helps students be aware of mental associations and their ability to grow and change them
      • Can serve as a note-taking and pre-writing activity
    • Cons
      • Comparisons among student responses are difficulty to make
      • Non-visual learners may find this activity frustrating
    • Caveats
      • Clarify how to identify primary, secondary and tertiary relationships and how to use phrases to describe specific relationships by modeling how to make a concept map with students (use think aloud a lot while doing this)
  2. Invented Dialogues
    • Description
      • Students create dialogues between key characters or key people by using actual quotes or by inventing reasonable quotes to represent their points of view
    • Purpose
      • Students practice capturing the essence of other’s perspectives and styles of communication
      • Improve understanding of theories, controversies and opinions
      • Students practice creatively synthesizing, adapting and extrapolating beyond the material being studied
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select 1 or more controversial issues, theories, decisions, or personalities associated that are associated with important topics in the course and lend themselves to dialogue
      • Write a short model dialogue that goes with associated people and topics
      • Make transcripts of famous speeches, debates and correspondence available to students
      • Prepare a handout that includes instructions, guidelines for using quotes, expectations, etc.  Provide guidelines that show how to use quotes to create original dialogue.
      • Discuss your model dialogue with the class.  Describe how it meets criteria and guidelines.  Demonstrate through think aloud how you created the dialogue
      • Give time in class to start the dialogue.
      • Encourage students in teams to give feedback on dialogues by taking turns reading aloud dialogues and giving warm and cool feedback.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Can assess dialogues for several qualities
        • number and quality of key points
        • quality of reasoning in exchanges
        • degree to which speakers stay “in character”
    • Extension Ides
      • Have students work in jigsaw paris.  Each is responsible for one point of view and together they combines their research to create a dialogue representing multiple points of view.
      • Ask students to act out part of their dialogues live in class or in video.
      • Provide specific feedback on dialogues that will help students refine them to finished products.  See Writing Workshop article for details.
      • Convert key ideas in dialogues into essays
    • Pros
      • Draws on higher order thinking skills more than essays
      • A lot of room for student choice
      • Assess students’ knowledge of content and creativity skills
      • Can help students internalize theories
    • Cons
      • Hard and time-consuming for teachers and students
      • Students who doubt their creativity may balk at this technique
      • Students who are not used to writing balanced written pieces may need extra coaching
    • Caveats
      • Start with limited topics and modest guidelines
      • Don’t be too concerned if first products are not very convincing
      • Too many guidelines may stunt creative thinking
      • Describe how you thought through challenges while constructing your own dialogues to show students that struggle is normal and tips for overcoming struggle
  3. Annotated Portfolios
    • Description
      • Students create a collection of examples of creative work, supplemented with students’ own commentary of the significance of each selected example.
    • Purpose
      • Assess how students’s creative work aligns to the learning targets of the course
      • Students practice applying content to new contexts
      • Students build metacognition of how their work aligns with course goals
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Choose one of the central topics or problems of the course.  Ask students to respond to that topic or problem with 2 of 3 work samples that demonstrate creativity.
      • Ask students to write how each work sample responds to the proposed topic or problem. If needed, provide sample annotations for students to use as models
      • Have students turn in their works samples and commentary in an folder, binder or envelope.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Portfolios can be assessed for several factors including:
        • Students’ creativity in resolving the topic or problem
        • Quality of synthesis in annotations in commentary
          • how well do these incorporate information related to course learning targets
    • Extension Ides
      • Use as an first draft for a final portfolio that students will submit after they’ve had time to respond to descriptive feedback
      • Encourage students to add work as the course progresses and update their annotations to show their growth
      • Let students develop their own focus prompt for the portfolio as long as it aligns with course learning targets
      • Arrange an exhibition to display portfolios.  See this article on Learning Fairs.  
    • Pros
      • Students can use images AND prose to show solutions to problems
      • Student select personally meaningful examples and connect these to course goals
      • Teacher learns what students value and appreciate
      • Can help prepare students to present their work to prospective employers
    • Cons
      • If it’s not carefully integrated into the course, students may see academic value in it
      • Take a significant amount of time to assess
      • Students may spend too much time selecting pieces and not enough time interpreting them
    • Caveats
      • Use guidelines to make portfolios more comparable
      • Link portfolio to a larger graded assignments to reward students for the time that goes into this


The strategies above all require students to actively process and make personal connections with content in order to create new products.  They all build metacognition – knowledge of how one is learning a course.  Being more aware of the connections one is making can give one better control over these relationships so that they can be deliberately cultivated and changed.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze central topics and problems in upcoming projects.
  • Decide whether or not any of the strategies above can be used to process the central topic or problem in ways that are helpful and meaningful.
  • Develop model products for the selected strategies.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Introduce the strategy by showing a teacher-created model and talking through how that model was created.  Be sure to model what challenges arose and what strategies were used to overcome these challenge.
  • Provide class time for students to work on the strategy and get timely teacher and peer feedback.
  • Assess products using rubrics if that’s practical.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Incorporate works into larger products that be featured in live displays of student work – especially the dialogues and the portfolios.
  • Adopt student’s favorite strategies into classroom routines.

163: Assessing Synthesis & Creative Thinking Skills (1 of 2)





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  1. One-Sentence Summary
    • Description
      • Students write 1 sentence summaries that answer the questions: Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?
    • Purpose
      • Students practice chunking info into concise statements
      • Summary format that is easy for teachers to scan and assess
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select important topic(s) to summarize.
      • Create 1-sentence summary of topic – first in sentence fragments and then combine into 1 sentence.
      • Model strategy for students
      • Give students at least 2x more time to write sentence as it took you.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Separate sentence fragments that answer questions with slash marks
      • Code responses: 0 = inadequate, Check = adequate, Plus =  more than adequate
      • Total codes for class to see where group as a whole is strong and where they need extra support
    • Extension Ides
      • Gather sentence fragment responses and full final sentence in a Google form for easy of analysis
      • Convert 1 sentence summaries into more complete 2-3 sentence summaries
      • Let students critique summaries in pairs or small groups
      • Use this strategy several times to summarize key points.  Then combine sentences into one paragraph that summarizes the project.
    • Pros
      • Quick and easy way to assess students’s ability to concisely summarize a lot of info
      • Students practice grasping complex processes and conveying them in everyday language
      • Info is easier to recall once it’s packaged in a familiar format, one sentence
    • Cons
      • If focus questions have multiple answers, 1 sentence format is too limited to adequately summarize processes
      • One sentence limit may oversimplify material
    • Caveats
      • .Don’t ask students to do a one sentence summary on a topic you haven’t tested with this strategy first
      • Choose focused topics that can be adequately summarized with one sentence
      • Encourage students to make sentences grammatically correct while being OK with sentence’s clunkiness
  2. Word Journal
    • Description
      • Student summarizes text with one word then writes a paragraph to explain why that one word summarizes the text.
    • Purpose
      • Students practice reading deeply and carefully
      • Students practice defending conclusions with textual evidence
      • Students practice type of concise writing needed to compose good abstracts
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Choose assigned text
      • Decide what aspect of the text you want students to focus on (main theme, conflict, problem, etc.)
      • Try assignment out by coming up with one summary word and related paragraph.
      • If you find the text helpful and thought provoking, assign it to students.
      • Emphasize to students that the word choice is not as important as the quality of explanations and text evidence that support the word choice.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Affinity group their responses by their word choices and by their approaches to justifying their word choices.
      • Select 3-4 examples of approaches to be shared with the class.
    • Extension Ides
      • For early attempts at this strategy, can support students with a word bank of possible words.
      • Use a model to hold a discussion that helps students come up with criteria for assessing quality word journals.  See this article for more tips on how to do this.
      • Focus word journals by having students focus on one aspect of the reading.
      • Use this assignment to teach students conventions for writing abstracts.
      • Start class discussions on readings using the words chosen by students to summarize the texts.
      • Group students and have students read their word journals aloud and give descriptive feedback such as – What is the main idea of the word journal?  What is one piece of evidence that does not go with the main idea of the word journal?  What is one piece of evidence that needs elaboration to better support the main idea of the word journal?
    • Pros
      • Promotes active processing of reading
      • Encourages students to make personal connections with text and to justify their ideas with text evidence
      • Practice summarizing, remembering and communication info
    • Cons
      • Takes time to prepare and analyze
      • Without discussion time, value of assignment is limited
      • Anonymity of responses might help discussions
    • Caveats
      • Not a good strategy for texts that can only be interpreted one way – work with texts that lend themselves to multiple interpretations
      • May be challenging for students – can help overcome this gap with good modeling
  3. Approximate Analogies
    • Description
      • Students complete statements of the type: A is to B, as _______ is to _______ where A, B, and X are ideas in the course
    • Purpose
      • Assess student understanding of the relationships among words
      • Guided practice in making connections
      • Use familiar connections to formulate new ones
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select key relationship among terms that is important to understand
      • Create approximate analogies with that relationship of the form A is B as X is to Y. Aim to formulate analogies that bridge technical relationships with everyday relationships
      • If trial produces results that you think are helpful and accessible to students, try out assignment in class.
      • Show sample analogies and think aloud to model how to create them.
      • Give students class time to compose approximate analogies.  Not time consuming – 1 min / analogy
    • Analysis Steps
      • Divide analogies into piles: good, questionable, wrong
      • Look for logical, memorable funny responses to share
      • Analyze the wrong pile to get insights into misconceptions that need to be addressed later
    • Extension Ides
      • Leave less parts of the approximate analogies blank (A is to B as X is to _________ ) to focus the analogies
      • Invite students to label the type of relationship in the analogy such as: part-whole, cause-effect, exemplar-to-class, etc
      • Let students come up with several analogies in teams and compare/contrast them
      • Let students critique analogies in teams
      • Students can practice this strategy whenever they encounter new relationships in the course
    • Pros
      • Thinking about analogies builds skill of transfer
      • Builds stronger bridges between new material and prior knowledge
      • Challenging and fun
    • Cons
      • Can be frustrating if students can’t diagnose relationship in one part of the analogy
    • Caveats
      • May need to model this strategy for students who are unfamiliar with analogies
      • Students may make analogies that are so personal that they are hard for teacher to understand
      • Strategy favors students with larger vocabularies and broader reading experiences


The assessments listed above double as active reading strategies that students can practice to process new learnings grasped in texts.  All of them produce deliverables that can lead to productive team discussions about content.  They all lend themselves to a variety of responses from the same prompt which can lead to interesting discussions about what big ideas and relationships students notice in texts and what textual evidence supports these interpretations.


Preparation Steps
  • Select assigned readings and/or learning activities
  • Decide which strategy students can use most effectively to process the reading or learning experience.
  • Trial the strategy to test if it’s worth doing and to practice modeling it for students.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Use samples and think aloud protocol to model how to do selected strategy.
  • Give students the appropriate class time to do the selected strategy.
  • Let students discuss their deliverables in small teams – they can compare/contrast their responses and give each other constructive feedback.
  • Analyze responses to see what students are grasping and what they are struggling to understand
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Try extension ideas listed above.
  • Incorporate strategies that students enjoy into classroom routines.

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.



160: After Reading Activities




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  1. Where do you stand?
    • Focus
      • Taking and supporting a position
    • Description
      • Also called: Four Corners, Human Continuum, Living Likert Scale, Barometer, Human Bar graph, Peoplegraph
      • Students represent their opinion by where they stand in the room
      • Facilitate conversations with students who share and do not share the same opinion
    • Why do this?
      • Students practice:
        • offering interpretations of text
        • backing conclusions with evidence from text
        • debating view points in a social, kinesthetic activity
    • How it works?
      • After some reading, ask students to evaluate what they think using a question framed like: Based on all you have read about _________________, where do you stand?  Label different parts of the room for different opinions.
      • Give students time to review their notes and decide their opinions.  Let students know that they will use textual evidence to back their opinions once they pick a stance
      • Students take a stance.  They use their notes to explain to a partner who shared their stance what reasoning and evidence they used to come to that stance.
      • Ask several pairs to explain their positions to the entire class.
      • Fold the line in the middle such that students at extreme ends are now paired.  Prior to letting students debate their position, over guidelines for their debate conversations.  For example – students can take turns saying opening arguments and rebuttals.
      • Ask if any students have changed their positions as a result of debate with classmate.  Have him explain why/how opinion changed.  Have him move to new spot in room that represents new opinion.
      • Ask some pairs to describe how their debate unfolded and what types of evidence they would need to gather for a stronger future debate.
    • Variations
      • Have students stand in 4 corners of the room to represent different opinions
      • Students can arrange themselves in a pie chart or a bar chart.
      • Key thing is to plan conversations among students who agree and disagree ahead of time.
    • Related Reading
  2. RAFT essay
    • Focus
      • Recalling and summarizing
    • Description
      • Extended writing activity:  topic is assigned, students can choose RAFT items
        • R = role of writer
        • A = audience of writer
        • F = format of writing piece (letter, news article, poem, brochure, etc.)
        • T = more specific topic within the material
      • Can offer students content-specific choices for RAFT options
    • Why do this?
      • Students can dig deeper into content
      • Memorable activity that helps cement key ideas into minds
      • Students respond well to creative choice in their assignments
      • Good for highlighting several key ideas in a course
    • How it works?
      • Develop lists of options for each letter in RAFT.  Can research these ahead of time and/or brainstorm them with students.
      • Use think aloud and co-writing with class to model how to get started on sample RAFT assignment.  See Joint construction.
      • Allow for in class writing times and individual coaching sessions.  See Writing Workshops for ideas on what this could look like.
      • Share the writing online and in class.  Allow students to read aloud their essays to small or large groups in order to exchange ideas.
    • Variations
      • CRAFTS
        • C = Contexts
        • R = Role of writer
        • A = Audience
        • F = Format of text
        • T = Themes of text – rather than just address a broad topic, students make a claim about the topic
        • S = Structure of text – this deals with how ideas are organized in text
      • Students write context piece – use voice of chosen personalities to tell stories about them.
      • Represent more perspectives with other CRAFTS pieces.
      • Students read and digest 100+ pages of nonfiction materials while creating CRAFTS pieces.
    • Related Reading
  3. Password
    • Focus
      • Building Academic Vocabulary
    • Description
      • Students play Password game show to review vocabulary
    • Why do this?
      • Review content-specific vocabulary
    • How it works?
      • Students make a list of vocabulary words recently studied on chart paper
      • One student sits with back to list.  Team mates offer clues to help seated student guess the words on the list.
      • Teams take turns helping their player guess the words.  The team that can get their guessing player to guess all the words the fastest wins.
  4. Tweet the Text
    • Focus
      • Reading and summarizing
    • Description
      • Students work in pairs to craft 140-character summaries of key concepts in the text
    • Why do this?
      • Co-opt students’ texting / tweeting habit
      • Practice synthesizing texts into concise statements
    • How it works?
      • Assign a short selection of content-specific text
      • Students talk aloud in pairs to develop a tweet to summarize the text.  Can post on Twitter if school allows.
      • Discuss different summaries
      • Compose über tweet – one that has the most summary info
    • Variations
      • Use a short hashtag so it’s easy to find all tweets such #sum
    • Related Reading
  5. Exit and Admit Slips (Also see Minute Paper)
    • Focus
      • Reading and summarizing
    • Description
      • On post-it or small slips of paper, student respond to one or more of the following prompts:
        • one important idea learned
        • question
        • prediction of what’s to come next
        • thought about a character or idea in the text
      • Students can discuss their tickets in pairs and then as a whole group.
      • Teachers can affinity group their responses to notice patterns in what students understand and what they want more information about.
    • Why do this?
      • Short writing assignment that builds a bridge between learning activities that occur on successive days
      • Creates focus at the start or end of class
      • Teachers get a snapshot of what students are thinking that can inform future discussions and lessons
    • How it works?
      • Model how to perform activity using think aloud.  Stress how it’s OK to make struggles with learning the focal points of exit/admit slips.
      • Give students 2-3 min at the start or end of class to complete slips.  Can use sentence stems such as:
        • One thing I learned is ________
        • One question I have is _______
      • Now pass paper 3 spots in one direction.  Read slip carefully.  On the back of the slip, write a response to the original responses.
      • Can call on students to share their original responses and other students’ responses and tie these reactions back to the assigned text(s).
      • Don’t make these a grading burden.  Best to quick glance at them to notice overall patterns in what students are thinking and questioning.
    • Variations
      • Can use a provocative statement from one of the slips to start a class discussion


These activities help students process texts in different ways.  They can use these strategies to practice developing conclusions that are backed by textual evidence, using reading to develop writing pieces that represent different perspectives, reviewing vocabulary, summarizing key ideas, and asking related questions of the texts.  Using these activities can teach students how to read more deeply and to process texts in ways that are close to methods using by experts in the discipline.


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.



159: During & After Reading Activities



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  1. Turn and Talk
    • Focus
      • Reading as Thinking
    • Description
      • Think Pair Share
      • Teacher pauses and gives students 1-2 minutes to discuss an issue in pairs
      • Gathers responses from the class
    • Why do this?
      • Draws out wait time so that all students have time to process question prior to gathering responses
      • Creates several learning processing breaks in lessons.  Also see writing breaks.
      • Great way to generate long lists of what students know or notice
    • How it works?
      • Model the strategy with a volunteer partner.  Discuss a topic suggested by a student for 1-2 minutes.  Ask students to share what they noticed.
        • Things to model:
          • good eye contact
          • facing each other
          • asking each other questions
          • staying on topic
          • listening to each other
          • building on each other’s comments
          • acting friendly
      • Make sure everyone is sitting next to their partner
      • Practice strategy with a short reading a several prepared prompts.
      • Fine-tune strategy by gathering strategies from students how to have good conversations and displaying these.  Can also research these conversational strategies by googling “turn and talk anchor charts”.
      • Repeat several times in class.  Be sure to gather responses after turn and talk time is done.
      • Monitor students while they are talking so you know who to call on to get a variety of interesting responses.
    • Variations
      • Use turn and talk time to give plus / della feedback on different pos-its and place these on the piece of work being assessed
    • Related Reading
  2. Word Meaning Graphic Organizer
    • Focus
      • Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Students complete a graphic organizer in teams on a single vocabulary word
      • Graphic organizer has students record:
        • target word
        • topic where word is found
        • parts of word we recognize
        • examples
        • so the word means
        • why it’s important?
        • where is the word used?
        • How it connects with other words?
      • Different teams can work on different words and share their results in a gallery walk
    • Why do this?
      • learn word meaning through their connections with other words, ideas, concepts and information
      • gather all contextualized meanings for one word in one place
    • How it works?
      • Model how to complete the graphic organizer using think aloud.  Role play with a partner and use turn and talk before completing each box in the graphic organizer.  Emphasize that graphic organizer won’t be completed all at once.  It will take a couple discussions and readings to finish it.
      • Let students complete the graphic organizer (1 per team) – joint understandings may enable team to complete the entire graphic organizer
      • As students read, let them meet periodically to discuss what they read and add more information to the graphic organizer
      • Teams may handle 1 or more graphic organizers – depending on whether or not groups will share graphic organizers.
      • Put graphic organizers to work –
        • gallery walk
        • can use post-its to give peer feedback on graphic organizers
        • groups can compare graphic organizers to notice similarities and differences in what they annotated
  3. List-Group-Label
    • Focus
      • Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Students are giving a list of vocabulary words and they cluster them into groups based on common characteristics.  Some words can appear in multiple categories
    • Why do this?
      • Learning meanings of words by seeing relationships (as opposed to in isolation)
    • How it works?
      • Give students working in team a long list of terms
      • Students group words and decide what to title groups
      • Can have students reread texts and see if better understanding of words improves understanding of the text
    • Variations
      • Display clusters on butcher paper around the room so they can be updated throughout the project
  4. Written Conversation
    • Focus
      • Sharing ideas, discussing, debating
    • Description
      • Students write notes to each about learning experiences
      • Also called write-arounds and dialogue journals
      • Can have students take and defend positions using evidence from the text
    • Why do this?
      • Class discussion where everyone is actively talking at once
    • How it works?
      • Students team up – up to 4 persons per team
      • Each student has a large piece of blank paper.
      • Describe the strategy – key points:
        • everyone is writing ALL the time – no one is watching while other write
        • write reactions to text (summaries, questions, surprising points, etc)
        • write reactions to other’s reactions to the text
      • Can provide question prompts to focus the writing or leave it open
      • Students start with an initial note to the persons on their team
      • After 1-2 minutes, papers rotate and students start writing a reaction to the note passed to them.
      • After rotations are done, have students circle  most interesting comments.  Then let them continue the conversation out loud.
      • Call on groups to share key comments.  Read aloud circles comments on papers.
    • Variations
      • Have students write notes while mimicking a specific person’s point of view (famous scientist, famous historical figure, etc)
  5. Second Helpings
    • Focus
      • Recalling and summarizing
    • Description
      • Students and teacher re-read a dense text multiple times
      • Make each rereading feel like a reward deep dive / dig
    • Why do this?
      • Dispel myth that readers who need to reread texts are “bad readers”; smart readers do this too with dense texts
      • Supplement understanding that’s gathered from a quick first read
    • How it works?
      • Go through first read of text and annotate to get gist of the information in the text
      • Reread the text with the help of prompt that reframes this second helping of the text.
        • Science example – reread to help you draw the process and make it a diagram
    • Variation:
      • Example – on orbital motion
        • read once for main ideas
        • second helping – read for information that can help you create visuals for orbital motion
        • third helping – read for information that can help you invent a device to deflect comets
    • Related Reading
Using a variety of strategy to process information in texts can help students actively process texts and better learn the information in these.   Any of the strategies listed above can support students while they learn new concepts and vocabulary in the context of active reading.


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.



158: During Reading Activities (2 of 2)




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For part 1 of During Reading Activities, go here.
  1. Coding Text
    • Focus
      • Reading as Thinking
      • Inferring, Interpreting, and Drawing Conclusions
    • Description
      • Students puts codes in margins of books (can do this on post-its for school and library books) that indicate type of excerpt.  For example
        • C = connection
        • ? = question or confusing point
        • ! = surprising point
      • Can supplement codes with reasoning
    • Why do this?
      • Speedier form of annotation
      • Gets students to stop, think and react to reading
      • Can annotate text quickly without breaking reading flow too much
    • How it works?
      • Choose codes that work well with subject area such as
        • Checkmark = confirms what you thought
        • x = contradicts what you thought
        • ? = puzzles your
        • ??? = confuses you
        • Star = very important item
        • ! = new and interesting item
      • Model how to code using a short text and think aloud protocol.  Be sure to explain purpose of coding while modeling the strategy.
      • Give students time to use the strategy.  And talk over their coding with a partner.
      • Call on students to share excerpts that go with specific codes.
        • Example – Who’d like to share an item that is new and interesting? (Has ! near it)
    • Variations
      • Can transfer some coded items to KWL charts
      • Can use codes that are specific to problem solving – use a code to set off relevant given information
      • Let students come up with their own codes
  2. Multicolumn Notes (Also see Double entry journal)
    • Focus
      • Inferring, Interpreting, Drawing Conclusions
      • Analyzing Author’s Purpose, Theme, Point of View
    • Description
      • 2 columns of notes
        • column 1 = summaries
        • column 2 = reactions to text such as questions, confusions, personal reactions, reflections
      • Also called a Double entry journal
    • Why do this?
      • Practice summarizing information
      • Practice reflecting upon and reacting to text
      • Balance summarizing with actively thinking about text’s meanings
    • How it works?
      • Model how to apply strategy using read aloud and think aloud protocols
        • show how to distinguish between major and minor points
        • how to paraphrase info in column 1
        • how to generate reactions that go in column 2
      • Using gradual release, continue modeling the strategy while the class works together to complete double entry journal
      • Then complete double entry journal in pairs
      • Then complete double entry journal as individuals
      • After small group or individual work time, have whole class share their notes
      • After students are familiar with strategy, you can vary content in two columns.  See Double entry journal article for other ideas for column labels
      • Continue to give students debrief opportunities to share their notes with other students
      • Assess note taking – look for common patterns in students’ strengths and gaps.  Praise students for what’s going well.  Model for students how to annotate the text in ways that address their gaps.
      • Vary these notes with other strategies because these are time consuming and can grow stale if overused.
    • Variations
      • In Science class, 3 column notes
        • column 1 = pictures, key ideas
        • column 2 = making predictions before she reads
        • column 3 = so what? column, ask reflection questions such as what if the variables were different?
      • In Social studides class, 3 columns
        • middle column = driving or provocative questions
        • left column = supporting evidence from text
        • right column = counterarguments
        • bottom of page = student’s conclusion
      • In Math class,
        • column 1 = graph, chart
        • column 2 = direct reading of info in graph or chart
        • column 3 = inferences and questions related to the graph
      • Also see Double entry journal article for other column label ideas
    • Related Reading
  3. Sketching My Way Through the Text
    • Focus
      • Visualizing Meaning
    • Description
      • Students draw a sequences of sketches, drawing, cartoons to represent key ideas in readings
      • Quick sketches not masterpieces
    • Why do this?
      • Visualizing meaning can be a powerful tool for developing understanding
      • Can reveal different perspectives
      • Can show how students see ideas evolving in a text
      • Good for representing sequences of events that represent changes over time (examples – plots, growth, historical events, biological processes, etc.)
      • Students are more likely to remember visuals they create themselves
    • How it works?
      • Model how to create quick sketches while summarizing and reacting to a text
        • make sure sketches are rough diagrams
        • emphasize that sketches should be quick and simple so they don’t eat up too much reading time
      • Let students try the strategy.  Circulate around the room and coach them as needed.
      • Let up drawing sharing modes
        • Physical drawings – post around the room and facilitate a gallery walk
        • Electronic drawings – gather in Padlet
        • Allow students to notice what points students drew in common and what points were uniquely noticed by different students
    • Variations
    • Related Reading


Students can’t just be instructed to read texts deeply.  They need to be taught how to do this.  Using a variety of methods to annotate texts can teach students how to stop, think and react periodically while reading.  The annotation artifacts can also remind students at later times what was the key information they noticed and what were their key reactions to readings.


Preparation Steps
  • Select reading selections that will help students apprehend learning targets and develop products.
  • Decide which during reading strategy will best help students summarize and react to the information in upcoming assigned readings.
  • Select model texts (short) to model the selected strategies.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Model the selected strategy using short passages and think aloud protocol.  Be sure to provide key tips and the purpose for the strategy.
  • If the strategy is new and complex, use a gradual release method – model it first, do with the whole class volunteering next steps, do it in pairs and then do it individually.
  • Let students try out the strategy.  Circulate around the room and coach them as needed.
  • Facilitate discussions that allow students to share their annotations.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use student feedback to determine which strategies they enjoy most and find most effective.  Incorporate these strategies into routines.
  • Use annotations to create written pieces.  See Writing to Learn and Quick Writes articles for ideas.



157: During Reading Activities (1 of 2)





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For part 2 of During Reading Activities, go here.
  1. Partner Reading
    • Focus
      • Sharing ideas, Discussing, Debate
    • Description
      • Partners side by side take turns reading a content-area text
      • Take turns per paragraph
      • In between paragraph discuss what they just read
      • This can be a warmup that transitions to individual silent reading
    • Why Use It?
      • Build up to more independent reading
      • Can help students understand dense texts
      • Can support students who are not year ready for careful independent reading
    • How Does It Work?
      • Select important chunk of content-area text and set aside 5-10 minutes of classroom reading time
      • Form pairs of students who can work together and have similar reading levels
      • Use a volunteer to act as a co-model while you model the strategy for the class.  Model reading aloud, taking turns at paragraphs, and pausing between paragraphs to discuss the text
      • Possible Discussion questions:
        • What did the author say?
        • What were the big ideas?
        • Were there some hard words?
        • Is there anything we didn’t understand?
        • How can we figure it out?
        • What questions do we have?
        • What do you think we will come up with in the next paragraph?
      • After demo, let pairs begin reading. Circulate around the room and observe the pairs at work.   Coach pairs as needed.  Note patterns of confusion and address these in later lessons.
      • At close of activity, ask several pairs to share what their understandings and questions of the text.
    • Variation
      • Students can read in unison and discuss texts in between paragraphs
      • Students can read silently and discuss texts in between paragraphs
    • Related Reading
  2. Post-It Response Notes
    • Focus
      • Reading as Thinking
    • Description
      • Students periodically pause while reading text to think and react to text
      • Record thoughts and questions on post-it-notes
      • Post-it notes can be used in later discussions and writing assignments
    • Why Use It?
      • Helps readers slow down, focus and notice important parts of text
      • Creates concrete notes that can be referred to later
      • Can be rearranged to show different relationships among ideas in text
      • Relaxing form of note taking because post-its are small, readers/writers can see they don’t need to write a lot
    • How Does It Work?
      • Model how to use text with a short passage (~2 paragraphs)
        • notes for confusing points
        • notes for surprising points
        • nots to summarize key points
      • Let students try out strategy.  After several minutes of using the strategy, encourage students to turn their neighbor and discuss their notes.
      • Discuss the post-its with the whole class.
        • Can call on feedback related to key points by asking for post-its at specific locations in the text (bottom of page 3)
        • Ask questions to pull out key elements of the text – conflicts, debates, main ideas, confusing points, surprising points, etc
      • Can also have students bring their notes to a common whiteboard area and group notes under key categories such as: main idea, conflict, confusing points, etc
      • Prior to transferring notes out of book, have students write their name on post-its and the page #
    • Variation
      • Color code notes to distinguish between different types of responses such as summaries, questions, etc
      • Use chart paper to divide up post-its into different categories
      • Use summary notes and quotes to write a paragraph summary of the text.  See Writing to Learn articles and Quick Writes articles for even more ideas.
      • Can use Post-Its as Admit or Exit Slips
  3. Annotating Text
    • Focus
      • Reading as thinking
      • Making connections to other texts, information and self
    • Description
      • Students take notes on key, puzzling, surprising points in the text in the text margins
    • Why Use It?
      • Teaches active reading processes: stop, think and react
      • Practice generating questions from the text
    • How Does It Work?
      • Model how to use the strategy with a short passage.  Think aloud as you mark up the margins to show how to stop, think and react to text excerpts.
      • Ask students to categorize model feedback according to types such as
        • questions
        • connections
        • visual images
        • important parts
        • predictions
        • times I got lost
        • wow factors
        • authors’ style, point of view
      • Have students implement strategy with the above list of types of feedback in view.  Encourage students to stop and think at points that go with all the categories listed above.
      • Provide many opportunities for students to develop their annotation skills over time
    • Variation
      • Have students read and annotate text while assuming a content-specific point of view such as a famous scientist, historical figure, etc (Point of View Annotation)
      • (Conceptual Annotation) have students to watch for specific conceptual groupings while taking notes.  For best results, limit categories to 3 or 4
        • Example of concept groups: causes of concussions, symptoms of concussions, treatment of concussions, prevention of concussions
    • Related Reading


Teaching students how to actively process texts while reading them can help them grow into smarter readers who know to stop, think and react to texts.  Helpful reactions to texts include noticing key points, surprising points, and confusing points and generating related questions and predictions.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide which During Reading strategies will help your students actively and effectively process texts
  • Practice the strategy you’re about to model
  • Select a short passage for the demonstration of the strategy
  • Gather related materials: texts, post-its, chart paper, etc
Early Implementation Steps
  • Model the strategy using a sample text and think aloud protocol
  • Give instructions for strategy and explain how strategy artifacts will be used later
  • Give students opportunities to use the strategy (multiple opportunities for annotation strategies so students can develop skills over time)
  • Facilitate discussions based on strategy artifacts
Advanced Implementation Steps



156: Five Pre-Reading Activities





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  1. Reading aloud
    • Focus: Building Enjoyment of Reading
    • Description
      • Teacher reads aloud short, ear-worthy passages
      • Individual students, pairs or small groups may read passages aloud
    • Why Use it?
      • Student experience powerful language about important ideas
      • Evoke time-honored experience of listening to stories
      • Helps students grasp big ideas and questions that make subjects meaningful
      • Draw students into school topics
      • When student read aloud – build text fluency and comprehension
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate texts
        • these cover key ideas in clear, vivid language
        • they involve beautiful brilliant content-specific language
        • Note – students might be able to understand higher than normal lexile texts when they read them aloud
      • Practice reading with energy, drama and vocal variety
        • Rule of thumb – read 5x before going public
      • After modeling read aloud several times, invite students to do some reading aloud on their own – individually, in pairs, or in small groups
  2. Front loading with Images
    • Focus: Visualizing Meaning
    • Description
      • students primed for upcoming unit by studying photographs or works of art that communicate upcoming settings, contexts, processes, problems, or people
      • teacher may encourage a deep study of image by revealing image in parts before showing the whole
    • Why Use it?
      • we are in competition with vibrant multimedia images
      • low floor tasks – everyone can play
      • build background knowledge and evoke curiosity
      • Common Core requires students to read visual images
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate images
        • build background knowledge
        • introduce subject
        • seek out dramatic, puzzling, surprising images
        • seek out one emblematic anchor image
        • assemble collection of 6-12 slides into a slide deck with NO CAPTIONS
      • Do not lecture through the slides.  Provide purpose and instructions:
        • Introduce purpose of images – to provide background knowledge of upcoming reading.
        • Instruct students to think aloud and talk aloud to the screen individually to describe what you’re seeing and thinking
        • Model how to think and talk aloud to the screen in response to an image
        • After talking aloud to the image, jot down words and phrases that cover highlights of what you said aloud
      • Conduct a close reading of Anchor Image
        • Present entire anchor image –  students write down every detail they notice
        • Mimic process of “rereading” by presenting anchor image in cropped sections – students continue to write down details they notice (1 min per section)
        • Present entire anchor image one more time – students continue to write down noticed details
      • Facilitate class discussion on images
        • What did whole set of pictures show?
        • What are the larger themes?
        • How do details contribute to understanding of larger themes?
      • Ask student to make predictions about what upcoming reading will be about based on images, image notes and discussions
    • Related reading
  3. Pre Reading Quiz
    • Focus: Connecting to and building background knowledge
    • Description
      • Trivia Quiz related to concepts and misconceptions in an upcoming reading
        • focuses on big ideas, concepts, surprising or puzzling info, controversial issues
    • Why Use it?
      • establish a tangible purpose of reading = compare what one knows to what’s in the reading
      • reading supports or challenges one’s positions
      • guide students to big ideas in the readings
      • reading becomes part of an ongoing conversations between students and the texts
      • help students think while they read
    • How it works?
      • Create 3-5 short questions or statements related to the text
        • use true/false, agree/disagree formats
        • effective questions post big open-ended questions or draw attention to curious or startling information
      • Students read related passage.
      • Discuss quiz with partners.
      • Provide time to write down justifications for responses.
      • Discuss quiz – note common agreements and disagreements with info in the text.
    • Related reading
  4. Vocabulary Predictions
    • Focus: Building academic vocabulary
    • Description
      • Students are given list of vocabulary words and categories to sort them into.
      • They write a gist statement to summarize the words.
      • They asks questions they hope to learn from reading as a result of words they don’t know in the list.
    • Why Use it?
      • activate prior knowledge
      • call attention to key vocabulary words
      • use prediction to build active thinking about a topic before reading
      • sets a purpose for reading = discover meanings of confusing words
      • thinking about own questions gets students more engaged in the texts
    • How it works?
      • Select appropriate list of words and categories to group them
        • 8-15 terms
        • some words students already know or can easily figure out
        • some technical terms
        • some terms connected to key concepts
        • select categorizing group names – examples: people, settings, causes, effects, etc
      • Use Think Aloud to model the processes of classifying terms and asking questions of the terms
      • Provide a few directions
        • Unknown pile is only for terms team has no idea about
        • Set expectations for gist statement (all or some of the words used)
        • Explain that if gist statements mismatches text it’s OK, but it’s important to note that expectations of text were not fully met.  Differences can highlight new lessons learned and surprises in text.
        • Note list of “to discover” questions inspired by the terms
      • Give students in groups time to following instructions
      • Small groups share their questions and groupings with the class
      • Read the texts and see if they answer the “to discover” questions
      • Discuss answered and unanswered questions
    • Variation (Quotation mingle)
      • Give students 8-15 sentences (quotes from the text)
      • Students make hypotheses about the text using the sentences
  5. Clustering
    • Focus: Visualizing Meaning
    • Description
      • Clustering – students create a 2-D map of ideas with connecting lines showing how they think ideas relate – good for pre-reading
    • Why Use it?
      • Access prior knowledge
      • Open up students to possibilities they were unaware of until they got started
    • How it works?
      • Using Think Aloud and drawing to model how to create a cluster
      • Write a central nucleus word at the center of the visual used for clustering
      • Students write relate terms, circle them and draw lines that represent how they are related to each other and the nucleus word
      • Students share parts of their clusters with teacher to create a class cluster
      • Have students read the text
      • Compare what students read to the relationships in their pre-reading cluster – what was the same and different


Pre-reading activities help teachers build and activate students’ prior knowledge so that they are well primed to make sense of texts.  These activities can engage students in reading, give purpose to their reading, build visual and mental maps of upcoming concepts, and pose questions to discover.  Using these strategies can make texts more accessible and more interesting to students and can help them to read texts more deeply.


Preparation Steps
  • Research texts that would be useful references for an upcoming project.
  • Decide which pre-reading strategies can be used to best highlight key ideas and terms in the text.  For example
    • Read aloud – texts with beautiful brilliant language
    • Front loading with images – texts with concepts with good visual representations
    • Pre-reading quiz – texts with controversial or surprising conclusions or many misconceptions
    • Vocabulary predictions – texts with a lot of vocabulary
    • Clustering – texts with a lot of interrelated ideas
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement pre-reading strategy that goes with text – be sure to model the strategy well using the think aloud strategy if students are using strategy for the first time
  • Use formative assessments to measure the impact of pre-reading activities on student learning through reading related texts and to assess whether or not students are enjoying and “getting” the strategy
  • Use formative assessments to fine tune strategies
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Supplement pre-reading activities with related Writing to Learn activities.
  • Incorporate effective and engaging pre-reading strategies into classroom routines.