Now you need to know - we've had four snow days, at least 3 delayed openings, 3 scheduled days off and about 3 feet of snow in the last month. I barely know what day it is, nevermind being able to keep up with what I had planned. Our super-engaging study of penguins, both narrative and expository, had taken a major hit (along with our ability to stay focused!) and at this point I just needed my kiddos to be engaged and learning. There was no time to do what I had planned, so I quickly scoured my file folders on informational text to come up with something to lead us through the morning.
Then it hit me. I wanted my kiddos to be engaged with the text, which of course meant getting them to THINK about what they were reading (no small task after all the days off and craziness lately!). I remembered a basic, solid strategy I had used in the past (the VERY past) that I had termed "coding." (And I'm sure I didn't invent this idea.... I know I got it from somewhere.)
The idea was for students to be thinking of four things as they read the text: Was this new information added to your schema? Did you already know this? Did you find this to be amazing? What did this text make you wonder?
I quickly explained what each code meant, and we talked about how good readers thought about what they were reading and how it fit with what they already knew. Instant engagement for some reason - my kiddos were hooked by the idea of a "code" to use while reading. They eagerly found their reading partner, grabbed a book and got to work.
The first job was to read the text together and stop along the way to share what each person was thinking. No writing! Each pair of students had a set of four sticky notes (woo-hoo!) on which they had written each coding symbol. As they read, they stopped and pointed at a sticky note when it fit their thinking.
Their "reading talk" was amazing! Every pair was focused, engaged and talking about their thinking. Keeping the sticky notes in front of them helped to structure their conversations and gave them a purpose for their reading.
My original plan was to only have students talk about their thinking, then come back to share with the group. I had a few pairs finish reading early though, so I gave each student a coding sheet for them to record their thinking. They had to choose one or two ideas from the text that went with each code.
We did come back together at the end and shared some of our coding ideas. I asked my kiddos to explain how this helped them as a reader and we charted some ideas. I know they loved this strategy because the next day I had two kiddos ask for "one of those coding sheets and sticky notes" so they could record what they were thinking while they read independently! Made my teacher heart smile!