Saturday, February 16, 2013

Reading Multiple Texts on One Topic

In my state, fifth graders study Westward Expansion and in particular, the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I really enjoy teaching this part of American history! To align our curriculum with Common Core Standards, I've used our Read Aloud and Shared Reading time to read and discuss nonfiction, while our ESL teacher used the Social Studies periods to help build background knowledge by looking at maps and viewing videos about the American West.

To launch our reading, I displayed several books from our library about Lewis and Clark.  I modeled my thinking about the size of the font and the number of pictures and pages.  I showed my students a book that was almost all pictures and thought aloud about how I probably knew a lot of these details because of the videos shown by our ESL teacher.  Then I picked up a much longer text with almost no pictures and thought aloud about how I probably would understand this better if I had more prior knowledge.  Then I showed my students a book that had a lot of images but also nice, meaty captions and thought aloud that those images would help me understand what I was reading!

We started reading this book:
We read the first six pages to gather information about the Louisiana Purchase and how Lewis and Clark prepared for their journey.  With this book, we had our first experience "chunking" the text. I modeled for my readers how I make decisions about how to read a page that has paragraphs, images, captions, maps and sidebars.  

I scanned the pages and used my SMARTboard to draw boxes around paragraphs under one subheading and draw boxes around images and their captions.  This book, with lots of page breaks and images, worked really well for my struggling readers.  By chunking the text, and reading together, my students were able to answer questions such as "Why was the port of New Orleans important to the U.S.?" and "What did Lewis and Clark do to prepare for their expedition?" My readers also learned a great new word by looking at the image of a medicine chest and reading the caption: remedies!  I was SO impressed to find that word in their on demand writing.

After we had built up our prior knowledge, we moved on to a more difficult text.  As we read a few pages from this text, we noted some of the details the author left out, assuming the reader already knew about Lewis and Clark.

And now, we are reading In Their Own Words: Lewis and Clark by George Sullivan.  I introduced this text by discussing primary sources and secondary sources.  I shifted gears for a little bit to have 'my kids sort primary sources and secondary sources for the Titanic.  It's amazing how much kids love learning about the Titanic! 

Lucky for me, my school purchased a class set of this book for us, so the kids are able to really dig into the text.  I've been posing text dependent questions and asking the students to quote the text to support their ideas.

Some questions we've explored so far:
How do we know so much about Lewis and Clark and their expedition?  
Why did Thomas Jefferson want to explore the West?
Why did Lewis and Clark make a good team?
What three items did Lewis and Clark pack?  Explain their importance.

I found so many kids wanting to "show off" their prior knowledge when answering these questions that they didn't stick to what was written in our text.  Some students wanted to write about the remedies Lewis and Clark packed, but our current text didn't mention the medicine chest.  This was a great teachable moment to remind students that in a testing situation, they have to use the details from the text they are reading and not something they read or heard elsewhere! {Obviously it's AWESOME that they are able to integrate information in their response, but they have to refer to the text at hand when they take their big tests in April.}

I'm so eager to continue reading this text after our mini break!  What are you working on in reading?

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