Starting Something New: A Peek Inside Seventh Grade Reading
This year, our grade seven readers are starting a new curriculum that includes four new texts. As each department prepares best practices for these titles, we asked ourselves how can Keys to Literacy support learning? We wanted to use the Keys to Literacy comprehension strategies in ways that were authentic, providing opportunities for our students to access the material in a meaningful way. Since our students are familiar with most of these, it allowed us to focus on the new content easily without concern for new strategies too.
Short Story Anthologies-Flying Lessons by Ellen Oh
First Crossings by Donald Gallo
Novel- Towers Falling by Jewel Rhodes Parker
Nonfiction Text- Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Step 1- Divide text into manageable parts. Because the reading classes are 45 minutes in length, 30 minutes will be spent on reading and 15 minutes will be dedicated to comprehension strategies and discussion. A pacing guide was created to outline the page numbers and the specific comprehension strategies to be covered.
Step 2- Create comprehension questions that should guide each reading class. Use lower level Bloom’s Questions for first section of reading to check student basic understanding. Then include higher level questions for sections of text where conflicts are resolved, analysis of story can be applied, as well as evaluative questions to help students create their own understanding.
1) Omnivore’s Dilemma -Preface (pages 1-6 ) & Introduction (pages 7-13)
1(7.1) Consider the title and topic, then make a prediction on how this book might change your life.
2(7.1) How important are your food choices?
3(7.2) Identify the 4 types of food chains.
4(7.6) What is the author, Michael Pollan’s purpose for writing this book?
Step 3- Two-Column Notes will be used for two specific purposes. First, the front loading of important information that students will be exposed to. Students will benefit from having some background knowledge pertaining to certain topics before reading the text.
EXAMPLE: First Crossing: Stories of Teen Immigrants
Culture includes traditions, habits and routines that guide a particular group.
ie) clothing, music, foods, language, religions
An immigrant is a person who moves into a country in which they weren’t born in. They aren’t considered a citizen where they live.
ie) Mexican people cross the border to live in America in hopes of a better life.
What is Economy?
How does money influence our choices?
Economy is the amount of money, goods or materials a population has. It sort of has to do how wealthy an area is.
Money influences our choices in a big way. It decides what we can buy to support our lifestyle. If we have a lot money we can by expensive cars, house, clothes and toys! The opposite it true if you don’t have enough $.
If it’s important, how are we responsible for creating it?
Equality means being equal- or having the same opportunities and rights as others.
I think it’s important and we should try to create it by treating all people the same way.
A different group of people based on culture, interests, appearance, economics, education, religion, family, or environment.
The second will be to further their understanding of vocabulary terms. Vocabulary can be predetermined by the teacher or students can choose the words that they are unfamiliar with.
EXAMPLE: Flying Lessons- The Difficult Path
Step 4- Top-Down Webs are used for students to organize pieces of information. This is especially helpful for students to hold on to details of stories when there is significant time in between classes. These can also be implemented in the beginning of stories for students to outline characters and traits. In addition, they can be used as a road-map for learning, helping students remember what has been read and the topics that will be covered in the future readings.
EXAMPLE: FLying Lessons- SOL Painting Inc.
Step 5- Summary Writing is used throughout the entire reading process. Often, a journal entry is a summary of the text read that day. Sometimes the summary is of a big event, important visual, or as a review of a significant amount of text. Opportunities to pair/share their responses provide a chance for student feedback. Additionally, mini-lessons are appropriate to increase proper use of transition words and quality work.
EXAMPLE: (Towers Falling )Summarize the information Deja learns about the twin towers during the chapter she visits Ben’s house.
To begin with, Deja does not know anything about the previous skyline of Manhattan. She is confused about the image of the twin towers in the picture Miss Garcia shows, because she knows those buildings aren’t there now. Next, Deja, Ben and Sabeen work on a project that answers the question “Why is history important?” As the students try to answer this question, Ben shares information about the 9/11 terrorist attack. After that, Deja asks so many questions that Ben shows her the video. Deja finally understands why this history is important, and sees how it is affecting her life today.
Step 6- Question Generation by students- Students should have the opportunity daily to ask or write questions about their reading. Sometimes this can be assigned based on key parts of the plot, or hot topic areas in non-fiction. However, it should also be a natural part of classroom discussions. Students should practice writing questions at each of the six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Prompt from Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (around pg. 17 )
After reading about the items that contain corn in a grocery story, write questions you have about the use of corn in America.
- Why is corn used for so many things? Aren’t there other materials that work better?
- I’m so surprised that corn is used for almost everything in the grocery store, does everyone know this?
- How are so many products made from corn, who is growing all of it?
- Why do American’s buy all these items if they are so unhealthy?
Step 7- Categorizing can be used as an additional strategy for vocabulary instruction. Student-selected vocabulary can be used to find main ideas and themes throughout the stories. One method is to ask students to sort vocabulary into predetermined categories, alternately students can be given vocabulary words to determine an appropriate category title.
EXAMPLE: Towers Falling vocabulary and student categorizing ideas.
Words the fit into the category
1)Worried, Nervous or
-anxious, trembling, exasperated,
2) Fire Words
-ablaze, gaping, billow,fierce unfurls
-clambers, rumbles, trembling
4) Character traits
-sassy, fierce, sarcastic assertive, irritable, anxioud
Based off the categories you identified, what can you infer about this text?
The vocabulary from the novel Towers Falling implies that there are strong, diverse characters who experience an upsetting problem related to fierce movements and a fire that leaves them worried, nervous and upset.
So for anyone out there starting new with Keys to Literacy this year, hopefully some of these ideas help you approach your content with a clearer vision for implementing the strategies.