October 4, 2013

It's All About Text Structure!

      October is Text Structure month!  No, really, it is!  At least in my class!  I had planned on looking at this much earlier than this, but we’ve finally gotten there-and I’m kind of glad it took this long!  Here’s what’s been going on so far!

         Way back in September (last week!), we started to look at sequencing.  I think we, as teachers, assume that kids really know this structure naturally.  I know I did.  Well, was I surprised, for a second year, that my students couldn’t order their knowledge in a way to be able to write about what they’ve read IN ORDER!  Students were writing, but in random order of events.  So, we backed up to basics.  I began by having the kids reread just the beginning of the story and then write about that.  And it worked!  They were able to break down the very simple parts of the story and put them in chronological order.  However, it took 3 days!  This is way to long for kids to be able to write a simple summary. 

         Now, let me back up even further.  This summer, when I was breaking apart the Test Specifications from the state, I discovered there were very specific expectations for text structure.  Questions were given that targeted the WHY of having specific structure in texts.  Yet, everything we use, including sample tests, DOESN’T have questions that target this information.  That led me to start to BUILD structures to guide my teaching-and an extensive search to FIND them too!  It was quite a search.  And a lot of work! 

         There isn’t a whole lot out there is what I discovered.  When I did stumble upon things, they were usually things for the teacher to use or basic worksheets.  So, the lingering question for me was, “What do I do for my kids, right now.”  I also wanted to use my reading journals more this year.  I have used reading journals successfully in the past, but last year it sat on the back burner frequently.  The kids are not really capable, at this point, to add lots of information to their journals.  I started to think about premade notes for them.  And that’s what I’ve done.  I made premade pages for them to put into their reading journals.  I also looked at the graphic organizers that I found throughout the professional materials that I examined. I tried to create a basic organizer for kids to use with each type of structure.  I added a basic question for completion after the first use and for after creating a replica organizer and filling it out.  Here’s how it looked in lesson format.

         First, I passed out the student page.  I had to shrink it to fit their journals (86%) and trim off the edges.  They glued it in and then I had them come over to meet.  We discussed the information on the page.  I’ve included the definition, the facts, signal words, questions to ask yourself, and a place for examples. Then I had them hit the books.  We had completed the first story in the reader, a chapter excerpt from Because of Winn Dixie.  I sent them back into the story to search and find key words and phrases that signal it is a sequenced text.  

Before I knew it, they were asking me questions about words and phrases within the families given on the list.  We had a discussion about before and begin and how they were connected.  They were writing like crazy and finding tons of evidence.  Evidence, the key of what I was hoping for.   It was actually happening!  And then, IT happened…someone asked if sequencing was about moving through time!!!  Oh, how it made my heart sing!  I made them stop, I made this child ask me again, with all kids looking, and I repeated my answer!  I also went over to our chart that we are using to show text structure types and wrote it on there!

A shift through time.  It was a magical moment!  I could see into our reading and writing future and know that I could go back to that moment to use the term over and over.  That’s what it’s supposed to be all about by the time they get to this level.  It had happened!  We were ready for the next step.

         The next step was looking at our informational text, which happened to be our science series big book that is used for the nature of science lessons.  In that text, we meet Luke Dollar, a scientists studying the fossa.  I passed out the graphic organizer and together we filled in the information.  That did take a while, which was fine because it really set the kids up on what they had to do.
         The next day I had them pull out their reading books again and complete the same organizer in their reading journals.  This way they have the sample in their reading journal and a completed product to help their thinking along.  They used the chapter excerpt from Lewis and Clark and Me to make the graphic organizer.  Than I had them work together to answer the questions of “How did this tool help me?"  They were able to see more clearly that both texts were sequenced even though they were two different types of writing!  Awesome!  I’m pretty excited about how well this worked!  I also think it is foundational to start with sequencing.  This is the most familiar text structure to the students.  It builds the blocks needed to go to the next step, descriptive! 

         I’m almost ready to go to descriptive and I will share how I’m doing it and how it goes soon!  In the mean time, I’ll be sharing some information on author’s perspective in the next few days! 

Julie :O)

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