New Favorite Reading Handout

This week, I was browsing one of my favorite websites for resources, the Greece Central School District’s Tools for Reading Writing and Thinking (many sources are from Jim Burke but others are collected from various sources) and each is well explain, often incorporating models.

I came to the BDA (Before, During, and After reading) handout called “Reciprocal Teaching” [the link has a nice explanation, clean handout, and even more links and tools along the left side if this one doesn’t suit your fancy!] Students groaned when they saw those words on the daily activities menu for the day, “Reciprical teaching? What is THAT?” 🙂 Aren’t they cute?

After we worked through the reading from the night before as a class and came up with three examples for each category on the Smart Board (which we are all still adjusting to writing on – it takes a while to write legibly), students seemed a little calmer. Then I went through each category and asked how it could be a useful reading strategy. I encouraged students to look for ways it could benefit them (be relevant where they are) by referencing science and history text books and reading questions on the ACT. They seemed to understand that these helped to keep the reader engaged and interacting with the material which would help with both comprehension and retention. Then I numbered them off at random and assigned each category to a corresponding number so they would be able to form groups. They were to fill out only ONE column/strategy for the reading assignment that night [we are reading Their Eyes Were Watching God].

Most of the students did the work and when they formed groups containing each element/category for discussion, it went fairly well. I’m still working on encouraging students to want to discuss rather than just copy down because they think it’s the most efficient way to recieve full credit, but that is a blog for another day. Then we shared highlights from each category as a class which allows me a few minutes to check for understanding, clarify points of confusion, and bring out deeper questions or issues that may have been ignored.

I did take a break from giving daily quizzes while we were working with this handout (for four consecutive days – still debating if this is the ideal use, though it allowed every student to experience each category) but I would not suggest replacing quizzes with this strategy. I will say I generally give open book quizzes with open ended questions though I know this can be problematic as well. You can’t always beat the Sparknotes kids and it makes for an unpleasant and exhausting game. I may have to return to the English Companion Ning to further discuss and contemplate simpler strategies to ensure that we are not punishing kids who read while rewarding kids who Sparknote. (Yeah, I used it as a verb AND an adjective in this paragraph!)

Ultimately, I was asking the students how they felt about this handout and I got a good response. It was not exciting or fun, but they said that it did help them understand and stay focused and it didn’t feel like busy work. Compared to some of the strategies I’ve come across, I take that as high praise!! I’m not sure how often it could be used, and I think each category should be explicitly taught previously ONE at a time, but it’s a definitely a keeper and I thought it was much simpler and more flexible than a lot of the lit circle handouts I’ve come across.

Thanks for listening and sorry for being overly chatty! I’m on day 3 of a flu bug, mostly consisting of a ridiculous fever that will not leave me alone and I’ve been alone in my room (sparing my family the germs) the whole time. If you have had a positive experience with any specific strategies, I would LOVE to learn about them , even if you just link to a blog post! THANKS! 🙂


7 responses to this post.

  1. Not overly chatty. I like knowing the pros/cons, plusses/minues.


  2. Hey Mrs. Follis its me again! This is Brittani from the University of South Alabama. I really like the strategy you explain in this post. As a current student I can see how doing something like this could be very helpful and beneficial. I had an english teacher once who really reminds me of you just from reading your post. Two strategies he used still stick with me today. When learning vocabulary he would do one of two things from week to week. Sometimes he would break us into groups and give us play dough and we would work together to mold a description of what word we got. After all the groups formed their play dough figure the class rotated and each group had to guess what word the other groups drew! This was awesome to me and I think it really helped, not to mention it was so much fun for us students to try and guess. Another activity he used was cartooning now we know not everyone is a Picasso but the actual quality of art didn’t matter. The point was to make a cartoon of the vocabulary word then explain it to the class. There is no need in trying to weigh how helpful these activities might of been because I know it works. Most everyone in that class passed vocabulary with an 80 or better, with the exception of the few student who I believe must have been trying to fail because they simply wouldn’t participate. Even taking into consideration of me just being in a class full of smart students I know what these activities did for me. When it came time for the test all I had to do to remember the correct answers was think back to everyones funny cartoons or sculptures. Im not implying this is the best method or that it is full proof by any means, but I do think it helps. I honestly believe the more opportunity people have for hands on learning the better. That might just be me though 🙂 again my blog is at


  3. This is Tracy Alms, from the University of South Alabama again. After reading this post and your approach I can see how this would be very beneficial and successful. Your approach of encouraging your students to engage in conversation and not just copy down is great and seems like it would help in their understanding as well.
    Also, congratulations on getting a good response from the class! That’s always exciting!


  4. Posted by Paula Casallo on April 7, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I am a student at the University of South Alabama and viewed your blog as part of an assignment in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310.

    I have taken a class that had quizzes given daily over assigned reading materials. The quizzes would be at the first of class. We would swap papers with our neighbor and they would grade. We would then spend the rest of the class grading/discussing our quizzes. This discussions were always great. I thoroughly enjoyed this style of teaching/learning. I can see the benefits of daily quizzing.

    As for the new assignment, I think it is a good sign from the children that they did not feel like this project was busy work. Most of what is assigned throughout the school years on into college is busy work. Students recognize it and resent it. I think this is something that you should try again with your class.

    I hope you recover quickly from the flu so you can get back to your family.

    Paula Casallo


  5. Although the students did not find this activity exciting or fun, they got something from it. Not all learning is exciting or fun. The key may be to just get them to start a discussion on the reading to let them see the reading from another perspective.


  6. Hey Mrs. Follis,

    My name is Allison Rogers and I was assigned by my EDM 310 professor to read and comment on a few of your blogs. I will be summarizing my visits to your blog in my own blog the link to that is . I think that the collaborative learning style is a great one and a fantastic way for kids to gain a better understanding of their readings. I think that it could help students learn because they are going to feel more involved with their own education. Instead of feeling like their teacher is just stuffing their heads full of boring stories, they are able to ask questions of and explain to each other what they got out of the story. Making them more open to the knowledge that is being spread around the room.


  7. Posted by DonteRome on April 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I thought it was very entertaining.


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