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!