These days, everyone almost everywhere is talking about the coming of the Common Core standards and how to incorporate them. We’ve had numerous staff developments on the complexity of text, close reading, text dependent questions, and other ways we can have students dig into text to develop a deeper understanding of what they are reading. Our ultimate goal of course is to help students develop the skills they need to be successful readers who are able to analyze and manipulate content and develop coherent, research based arguments.
Last week in English IV, we read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” In the past, we’ve spent time building schema about the period, about the author, and about the setting to prepare for our reading. I’ve done an entire day’s lesson on the concept of satire and utilized numerous video clips and sketches to further students’ understanding of the subject. We’ve completed the reading and held Socratic Seminars on the topic in the name of reaching higher order thinking skills, and still, students really didn’t seem to get it.
This time I scrapped the schema; I ditched the deluge of satirical instruction. I gave the kids a copy of the text. We set a reading purpose question and began marking the text together using Paperport Notes. For seven minutes, I read aloud and modeled how I would mark the text. When the seven minute “chunk” was up, I had table partners summarize what they had read and repeat back what they heard their partners say. Then, they continued the reading silently for another seven minutes. They repeated the reading chunks (while continuing to mark the text) and partner summations of the reading until they finished the text.
The next day we revisited the text with text dependent questions and the SOAPSTone strategy. When we had a whole group class discussion of the text, kids finally seemed to really “get at” what Swift was implying: he didn’t want the Irish to sell their children for food; he wanted the people of Ireland to make a commitment to serious economic changes if they expected living conditions to get better. Below, you can see some of their work with Paperport and the iPads as well as their thoughts on using these strategies to aid their reading.