Saturday, November 1, 2014

Quick Idea for a Reader's Workshop Strategy Group

After talking with my kiddos at their reading conferences over the last few weeks I've started to notice that a good portion of them have trouble pointing out the main idea for a piece of non-fiction writing. I have to admit, this surprised me. A lot of the time I noticed they would latch on to one of the first details mentioned in the piece, and not take in the information from the entire piece to make their claim about what the main idea actually was. 

Even my strongest students needed practice with citing evidence from the text to back up why they had made their claim about what the main idea was for the piece they were reading. They could usually find one piece of evidence, but that was it. But again, they would often get hung up on one small detail that was mentioned in the piece. 

I was already aware of this Freebie my friend Jivey has in her store, and it seemed like a great resource to use to address the strategy of drawing conclusions about main idea by citing evidence. I figured I'd also be able to throw in a little "comparing information from different texts" and the idea of footnotes (text feature) while I was at it. 

One thing I liked about this freebie is that one of the passages is actually about epidemics, but begins by engaging the kids with talk about a zombie outbreak. I figured it'd be perfect to see if kids latch on to the zombies or if they get the overall ideas of epidemics and preparedness. 

I chose to copy the passages side by side, half-sized, to save paper and to make it easier for the kids to look between them. I wish I had flipped them because I wanted to do "Are You Prepared?" second! Aargh! But the size was perfect.

So, after doing a close read of the "Germs" passage, I asked my kids if they were familiar with the concept of hashtags. They were, but I reviewed briefly by showing them a picture on my phone, and asking them if different words/phrases would be appropriate hashtags for that image. Once we were all definitely on board...and the kids were thoroughly confused as to why I was showing them a beach vacation photo and talking about instagram... I asked them to hashtag the passage they had just read. It was funny to see the kids' faces go "Aaaaaah...Mr. Reitz wasn't just being off task..."

Here are the hashtags on one of my kids' "Germs" passage:

The kids came up with clever hashtags that were totally on point! After sharing a couple of their hashtags as a group, we talked about how we could boil down their hashtags to make a claim about what the main idea of any passage might be. 

I DIDN'T show them this image because I
didn't want to thoroughly confuse them.
When we moved on to the passage about epidemics, I knew that some kids would want to hashtag "zombies" or something like that. We talked about how in my original photo there was a guy in the background wearing a t-shirt, and while this is related to the idea of it being summer and me being at the's not important enough for me to say #appropriatetimetoweartshirts because that's not what the photo is about. 

In the end, the kids were able to make the exact claims that I hoped they'd make. This piece is about what epidemics are, and how you can prepare for them. Success!

The downside? For an entire afternoon my kids made this hand symbol and said things like, "Hashtag: yessity yes" when I tried to get their attention or "Hashtag: stamina" when I sent them off to Read to Self.  :) Eh...let's just call that a by-product of Whole Brain Teaching and call it a day!

I'll be revisiting the passages this week to talk about how to annotate a text, and to look at the idea of footnotes as a text feature. I plan to ask my kids to practice making a few footnotes of their own. While doing this week's activities, I wasn't surprised to find that 95% of my kids had never even heard of the word footnote! I hope that the different annotations we make will help us further understand the text and make answering the included comprehension questions a breeze.

Whether you use this freebie this way, or another way, it's definitely worth a look. Jivey also has a paid set of paired texts in her store for $5 about Owls, Bats, and Spiders. I have this product as well, and am looking forward to using the passages with different groups in different ways in the future! I'd love to hear from you guys about other ideas and ways to use paired texts like this!

#funreadingplan #effective #easytodifferentiate #mainidea


  1. #funidea #whydidntithinkofthat

    You are awesome! Love it! And I'm so glad you got the intention of my starting NOT with the main idea in Are You Prepared- that was totally a conversation in my class too! Thanks for the shout-out!

  2. Great idea! My students would love the idea of using a hashtag
    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

  3. LOVE the idea of tying hashtags in with main idea! Thanks for sharing!


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