Tuesday, August 29, 2017

5 steps to teaching reading strategies with the gradual release model

Have you ever taught an amazing lesson one day, but the next day you ask the kids to recall something about it, they look at you as if to say, "We never learned that. You never taught us that. Who are you, anyway?"

Yeah, it's happened to all of us. Taught does not equal learned. Sometimes this happens when we feel so much pressure from a curriculum or program to move quickly through reading instruction. 

We throw so much stuff at kids that they don't really have time to master anything through to independence. My friend used to call these "fly-by" lessons. They really don't work. 

Instead, if something is important enough for us to teach it, we really need to take the time to make sure that kids actually learn it.  So that's why I use the gradual release model. I've made a few specific adjustments to best reach students, and this is what I use to teach students reading strategies.

When we start our teaching with something hands-on, or concrete, it gives us an anchor activity to
come back to. Kids remember things they've done actively.

I tend to use a lot of pictures and cards to get kids thinking  about the strategy I'm introducing. I design the activity to mirror the kinds of thinking they'll need to do to use the strategy.

For example, if students will have to gather clues in text, I'll have them gather clues from pictures. If students will have to sequence information in text, I'll have them sequence pictures or sequence short lines of text so it's not overwhelming.

In the picture to the right, we analyzed the picture from A Bad Case of Stripes by completing a three-column table: Clue I See, What I Know, and I Can Tell. This is the same though process I'll want kids to follow when they analyze characters, but they'll be using text.

This is also a good time to start building your anchor chart. Instead of having something already posted, build it as you go, reflecting the thought process that students use to complete the strategy.

The danger here is thinking that kids have actually learned the strategy just because they did a hands-on activity with it. These serve the purpose of providing an anchor activity; they are not in-depth enough, nor do they have enough practice time, to actually become part of your students' toolboxes.

For the model, I choose a text that has lots of opportunities to practice the strategy. I want it to be very clear that I'm responding to the text, not just making pulling thoughts out of midair.

So many students get lost when we move too fast for them to keep up. They feel like we're performing some sort of magic when we make a prediction (how did she know that would happen?) or an inference (The book didn't say that!). This is the time to take the mystery out of reading! Slow your thinking down enough so that students can follow the path from A to B.

I use post-its to mark my stopping points on the book pages. This is such a helpful tip! During a read aloud, I'll already have the pages marked, and as I get to that spot, I know it's a good place to practice my strategy. In this case, once I got to the evidence in the text, I made an inference about the character and wrote it down. This is a good way to model to students how to notice evidence, pause, practice the strategy, and respond.

This is another good time to build or add to your anchor chart.

There are several different ways to do this part. Students need to actively participate in sharing their thinking. They also need to get guidance from you, their reading model. So getting students participating is a number one priority here!

Your role here is to scaffold and guide. Here are a few ways to scaffold students in using the strategy and then encourage them to respond. with their thinking. Groups and partners are especially helpful for this step.

Spend as much time here as you need to! Rushing the You do with my help step is an easy mistake to make, but kids really need the practice.
This step requires a little more independence! Students are still practicing the same strategy, but they are receiving a little less support. I tend to use shorter texts here, especially at first, so students can try out the strategy without being overwhelmed. One great way to do this is to use task cards. The text is short enough and focused enough that students can try out the strategy quickly and then you can see how they're doing before they practice it incorrectly for too long.

Again, the text needs to have several opportunities for students to practice the strategy at first. Over time, using more complex texts is important, but we want our students to be successful at first so they learn the process that they can later apply to complex texts.

At this point, you may notice that some students are ready to move on and some aren't. That's ok! You can differentiate here by pulling some in for a small group. Take them back to whatever step in the process you believe is where their thinking got muddled. The kids who are ready to move on can!
Once students have had enough practice, it's time to bridge to their independent reading. This should be a self-selected text that students read on their own.  At this time, you set the purpose for reading. The purpose is to practice the strategy that you've been working on. Then, you'll need a response to see if students are applying the strategy well. I like to use graphic organizers with a brief reading response to see that students are using the strategy. Because this is the whole point of teaching reading strategies, it's important that we actually read what kids write and really see if they're able to use the strategy effectively! If not, it's time to approach it in a different way.  
 A few helpful tools:

I made a handy dandy video to show the process I follow when teaching students reading strategies. Check it out!

You can also sign up a useful gradual release freebie in your inbox!

Or grab my Reading Strategy MiniPacks on TpT! They're full of the tools you'll need to follow the gradual release model to teach reading strategies!



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