Reading Deeply (Another summer project)

My first year as a literacy coach, we were fortunate enough to have Jennifer Serravallo as a staff developer at our school. It was during our sessions with Jenn that I became more aware of the idea of bands of text complexity. Through studying the characteristics of each band more closely, lightbulbs went off. I finally began to realize how I could talk to kids about books, even books I had never read, and get a pretty good idea whether or not they were really understanding the books they were reading.

Through my conversations with kids and working with book clubs in the older grades, I quickly realized that most kids were plot junkies. They read for the adventure and to find out what’s going to happen next. It wasn’t the norm to find kids talking deeply about complex characters or various themes they were thinking about across their books.

This has been something that has occupied my thoughts and many conversation with other professionals for the last few years. We know kids can do this deep thinking work, especially during read aloud. How do we foster that transfer to their own independent reading?

I’ve been piecing together a few ideas and made a summer plan to finally put all of them together. Through our work with Teachers College and Mary Ehrenworth, I know that modeling the thinking work we want kids to do is so important. Mary once demonstrated creating sample reading notebook pages during read aloud. Genius. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

I decided to start my summer work looking at third grade. I began by revisiting the NOPQ Band of Text. I found some helpful charts that Eric Hand shared on Twitter, with prompts to support NOPQ work during Read Aloud. I also skimmed through TC’s first Unit of Study for third grade, Building a Reading Life. No surprise that the skills emphasized in this first unit also aligned to the NOPQ text characteristics.

I noted things that I could embed throughout the read aloud, rather than just during one mini lesson. I jotted:

  • Post-its to mark figurative language
  • Post-its to mark places to envision vs. gather facts
  • Feelings, traits, themes
  • Work through confusion
  • Envision, predict, retell
  • For readers ready for a challenge, entertain more than one possibility for predictions

These are also notes that I could take to other read aloud, including picture books. Showing the transfer of this thinking work across texts is just another way of modeling the kinds of thinking that kids can be doing in their own books.

I thought about sample notebook pages that would support the work of the band and also the unit. I decided that during the first read aloud, Stone Fox, I would model making a timeline of major events. I would model showing students how I stop at the end of each chapter to think about the important things that I learned and jot them down. I also decided that a character web would be a great starting place for beginning to distinguish between feelings and traits, while also working to build vocabulary for talking about characters. I felt like these two tools would be something kids could easily create on their own and wouldn’t take away from reading…the most important part!

Building these pages with kids during read aloud would be a great place for building a foundation for their own reading work, while also creating tools that would support small group instruction. For instance, the timeline could be used for kids who need to work on accumulating longer texts or thinking about how parts of a book go with the whole. It could also be used to challenge some readers to think about multiple causes and effects.

____ caused ___ and also _____.

Having the experience of creating these tools together during read aloud will be something that I know can foster independence and deeper thinking as the year progresses. Each read aloud planned, can apply this thinking work as well as begin to go deeper. These are also tangible ways to check in on the thinking work kids are doing and to differentiate instruction.

Doing this leg work gave me an even greater understanding of the skills needed to navigate books in this band of text and how to model that thinking explicitely. It also made me think about a replicable process that I can share with other teachers and apply to any read aloud.  In doing this work, I had to think about what that work could look like for kids-of course my sample notebook pages are just one way. I think encouraging kids to find their own ways to show there thinking should always be an option.

Kate Roberts Tweeted this last week and I think it’s brilliant!

Now onto fourth grade…

**Having read Being the Change this summer, I also noted several places in Stone Fox that would be great for conversations related to identity, bias, and perspective. There may also be opportunities to invite students to learn more about some of the issues from the text.

10 thoughts on “Reading Deeply (Another summer project)

  1. Wow, Jess. This is great work! Thank you for sharing – although these ideas can be used in any grade, I’ll be teaching third grade this year and can use these strategies. I particularly found the explicit teaching during read-alouds helpful. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Amazing productive work. This will be so useful to teachers not just your third grade but fourth as you break down how to develop deep understanding of the skills and strategies in use. As teachers we do have to do the work of learning to develop true understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought at the beginning was that if kids are plot junkies how many teachers are plot junkies? I know, thanks to all our PD, twitter, and professional reading – I have become a deeper reader. As I continued to read, you answered all my questions, this slice is PD on a page. Teachers can take this (as Davia said) and use it – tomorrow. Or, teachers can take it and do it themselves and teach from a place of understanding beyond plot junkie!
    Also – this slice is a classic example of using what we have! It’s not another “thing” on the plate – it’s using what we have better than we have! Thanks for doing this work, writing it, and sharing it!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. #plotjunkiehere I love the thinking you have done here! I will refer back to this for sure. Your thoughts about Stone Fox have plagued me for three years- I think that there I have to sub out the book, but it is a lot of work:(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean- I went with it because it’s what the unit suggests and our school had used. But I think there are so many other books that would work just as well!


  5. Love the thinking here. I’m impressed with how you put all this together, and I’m already wondering how I can adapt it for my struggling high school readers – and also how I can subtly use this is read aloud as with my own kids. You make me wish my district had coaches (cut a few years ago because of funding). Until they come back, I’ll just have to keep reading your blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your teaser hooked me because as we get closer to the start of the new year, literacy is definitely on the brain. This statement jumped out at me, as I noticed it did for others as well: “I quickly realized that most kids were plot junkies.” A retelling is the most basic of discussions about a text – the surface level. As I reflect on how to continue to get Ss to dig deeper, I will keep in mind your very explicit teaching advice. Will need to continue to read your blog to see how this thinking looks for fourth grade, though the skills you share here are great starting points for any grade! Best wishes on your planning journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These tips are fantastic. I’m a literacy coach and am definitely going to lead teachers through the work of reading the bands and writing out prompts. And creating notebook pages as you read through the read aloud! So fun and genius!


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