Supporting Student Reading

A local teacher, Jaime Arredondo, visited my class this evening to talk with students about “Reading with Focus.” His presentation made me reflect again on how important it is to help students learn how to process text. My tool belt used to be pretty limited. I’d have students do double entry journals or I’d model different reading comprehension strategies. Maybe I had more methods, but those are the techniques that were my favorite.

Jaime talked about how he helps students visualize when they read: while he reads a chapter/section aloud, he projects slides with photographs of the setting or definitions of words. It’s such a simple method, but such a good way to help support students as they try to understand a text. Brilliant!

I also tried a couple of new to me techniques in my class on Monday. The one I’m now officially in love with is talmudic pairing, which I mentioned in my previous blog post. My students had read Deb Brandt’s “Sponsors of Literacy.” I knew that this was a little easier to understand than the previous two articles we had read–but I also knew that there was still a level of abstraction in the text that would challenge students.

So . . . I chose a really significant passage in the text–and asked my students to divide into pairs. I told them that one partner would read the first sentence in the paragraph–and then the other would summarize and talk about what they thought was important in the sentence. Then, the partners would switch roles. They did this for the entire paragraph. When I told the students what we would be doing one said, “Oh, close reading.” Exactly. I heard great discussions as I checked in with each group. The students were really engaged as they worked through pretty complex ideas. To be honest, I was surprised that the technique worked so well.

And my students clearly valued the activity, several mentioning that they wanted to use this activity when they have their own students.

The last strategy I’ll mention is called 3-2-1. For this strategy, students in groups of 4 worked with a section of the article. Their job was to become expert on the section, listing:

  • 3 concepts, issues, or ideas that were important in their section
  • 2 examples to illustrate a concept
  • 1 remaining question

Again, simple technique but good effect. Although I don’t think this technique led to the same depth of discussion achieved with talmudic pairing, it’s still a technique I would use again.


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