Tag Archives: Comprehension

Make-Your-Own Trading Cards Using iPads

27 May

photo (2)

Creating Trading Cards


Download the Trading Cards app from ReadWriteThink!

After the app is downloaded to each iPad, students need to create an app username, similar to the other ReadWriteThink apps I blogged about a few months ago. (Check out the post here!)

Once students have a username created, you have to choose what kind of trading card you want your students to make. They can choose from seven different categories: Fictional Person, Real Person, Fictional Place, Real Place, Object, Event, or Vocabulary. If you’re looking for a few ideas, students can create trading cards for book characters, historical events, content vocabulary, and can even create a card for themselves! (Perfect for a fun beginning of the year “Get to Know Me” autobiography project!)


Students will select a category and then will be prompted to add a title. Each trading card has two sides (you have the option just to print the front side if you wish). Students will type information into each of the information sections, so it’s important for students to plan out their writing. I created graphic organizers for students to brainstorm or research, and this really helps with the writing process.

Download the GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS I created here:

Once all the information is input into the sections, students can choose a trading card design and add a picture. If it’s a trading card about themselves, students can take a “selfie.” If it’s a trading card about an object, students can take a picture of the object (use the camera icon on the trading card). You can also upload a picture from your device’s Camera Roll (use the picture icon on the trading card). If you need to upload pictures from the web, save them to your Camera Roll and access the pictures that way.

Just a reminder, make sure the students hit “Keep It” at the bottom of the card to save the draft throughout their project (this will prevent any accidental erasing of trading cards before you get to print or share it). After editing the trading card, students can print or share it by clicking “Share It.” If a printer is directly connected, you can “Send to Printer,” but if it’s not you can “Save to Photos” and upload it using Dropbox or DropItToMe (this allows you to print from another computer).

Make sure you grant the app permission to access your Photos (this will be a pop-up request prompt when the FIRST student using the app clicks “Save to Photos”). If a student accidently hits “no,” you can always change permissions settings under your iPad Settings (click “Privacy” and then go into “Photos” to make sure permission is turned on!).

NOTE: If this project takes a few days, you’ll need to make sure students are using the same iPad each time, since the usernames are connected to a device.

Here are a few student examples for a historical event project we did: 

2014-05-23 13.23.13 2014-05-23 13.37.36 2014-05-23 13.43.24

The pictures above display how each trading card prints (it’s a one-page file). You can cut out each page, fold it down the middle, and then laminate the folded page so it’s a two-sided cards (There are directions right on the page so your students can do this part!). The picture at the top of this post are the trading cards we created (not yet laminated). My students wanted their cards to be larger, but you can print them any size.

I’m already brainstorming the possibilities for using this app next year. There are so many! I would love to hear how you use this app in the classroom. Just leave a comment below! 🙂

Happy Teaching! 


Helping Students Understand Questions

19 Nov

I’ve been working on evidence-based questions with some of my RtI intervention groups…. and yikes. We didn’t even get to the response-writing part when many of my students hit a roadblock. Question words. They could come up with 101 “I wonder…” questions while reading, but when faced with a higher-level thinking question, they didn’t know how to answer it. They couldn’t dissect the question. How could I expect my students to find evidence to support their answers when they didn’t even know what kind of answer they needed? Although the biggest confusion was with “why” and “how,” I decided to spend some time reviewing the question words. All of them.

Teaching Question Words

Questioning is a skill that many students struggle with. Asking questions can be challenging, but answering questions can be even more challenging. Helping students understand question words is the first step. With explicit teaching and reinforcement, students can develop mental associations (using visuals and key words) to help them make connections automatically between questions and the type of answers that go with each. So how can you help your students build mental associations?

Below is a student reference I created for my students’ reading folders. Students can use this sheet throughout the year as a quick reference for question words.

FREE Question Words Student Reference


Also, here are a few activities (below) that I use regularly for teaching question words.

Question Word Activities:

Guess the Question. Read a section of text and have your students come up with a question that could be answered by that section. Students need an understanding of question words to decide which one to use for the section. This ties in many other skills, especially because students need to identify the main idea and important details before coming up with a question. They have to hunt for key words to determine what KIND of question to ask. They can ask themselves questions like, “Does the section describe the steps for a process?” “Does the section provide reasons or an explanation?” I like to use informational texts and cover up the section headings with a post-it note. The Scholastic Question & Answer Series by Melvin & Gilda Berger is great for this activity!


Question Sorts/Matching. Students match question words to visuals and key words. This can be guided or independent, timed or self-paced. My students make their own flash cards from their student-made graphic organizers. They either copy question words, key words, and visuals onto index cards, or I make copies of their graphic organizer for them to cut-out. I usually have them “speed match” the cards and try to beat their time over a few tries. My goal is for them to build QUICK connections between the key words, visuals, and the question words so that when they read questions they have to answer, they know HOW to answer it. (Looking for pre-made flash cards or a graphic organizer template? Check them out in my store here!)

2012-11-06 13.33.35

Fact ↔ Question. Students turn facts into questions and questions into facts. For the questions, I have the students highlight the question word and ask themselves what kind of answer they need. They use their student reference as needed. For the facts, I have them highlight important words and think about key words as they analyze the sentence. They look for reasons, explanations, “time” words, dates, names, etc. and use the clues to come up with a question.

2012-11-06 13.34.11

Question Word “I Have/Who Has.” Students love playing “I Have/Who Has.” Not only is it engaging, but it is a great way to review vocabulary and build fluency (multiplication facts, telling time, word patterns, sight words, etc.). Typically this game involves 20+ cards, but I use less than ten for this one to review the most common question words and their key words. I love to use this game as a 3-minute filler or quick warm-up activity. You can make your own game, or you can find the one I made here!


What do YOU use to teach question words? 

Additional Questioning Resources: 


WHOOOOOO is looking for a ready-to-use packet of materials? Check out my complete 25-page questioning packet called Questioning Owl: A Focus on Understanding & Asking Questions for more question word materials and resources!

Questioning Owl


   Questioning Owl Thumbnails

Gift of Giving Blog Hop

Also, on an unrelated note… next weekend is another BLOG HOP! The literacy specialists who came together for the popular Super Sleuths blog hop last month, have teamed up again. Check out the Gift of Reading blog hop next weekend and you’ll receive over 20 literacy resources for FREE! (Plus, you can enter for another chance to win fabulous prizes and gift cards. Woohoo!)

Promoting Image

Happy Teaching! 


S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!

17 Nov

Earlier this month, I blogged about a mnemonic I use with my 2nd and 3rd graders for teaching story elements. This mnemonic is part of a larger strategy called “Picture It!,” developed by Victoria Naughton (2008). Each letter of S.T.O.R.Y. represents a story element, and students can use the graphic mnemonic for identifying and visualizing the common features of fiction texts. Learn more about this great strategy here!

S.T.O.R.Y. Poem

Many people make up a silly stories or poems to increase retention. I am one of those people. 🙂 According to Brain Training 101‘s article How to Improve Your Memory, “A mnemonic device, such as a poem or a song, can help you retain complex information that normally would be difficult for you to remember.” I use strategy poems and text structure poems a lot with my students to improve their long-term memory, especially for strategies or skills that involve steps or a sequence. I love, love, LOVE Naughton’s acronym of S.T.O.R.Y., so to help my students remember it, I created a poem for S.T.O.R.Y. to help students remember the five story elements.

S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions


In addition to using S.T.O.R.Y. to identify story elements, I also use this great mnemonic for retelling. In the beginning, students can use their individual graphic organizers to guide their story retell, but then I model using just the letters in S.T.O.R.Y. to guide my retell.

The students created prompt cards (using pink index cards) to keep in their take-home reading bags and use with their independent fiction books they take home. The letter representations are listed on the backs, but I encourage them to peek only if completely necessary!

For my kinesthetic learners, I sometimes have them visualize the letters of S.T.O.R.Y. on each of their fingers to guide their retelling of the story, similar to 5 finger retelling but using the S.T.O.R.Y. acronym.

I created this card-stock 5-finger prompt (below) for students to use as a guide, along with the poster (above) that’s in their folders!

NOTE: If you teach younger students, Kindergarten or 1st Grade, you may want to consider putting letter stickers on each of their fingers at first, until they can picture the imaginary letters on their fingers. I use the same glitter stickers that are shown below on the students’ actual fingers!

Text Coding

Once students are independent with using S.T.O.R.Y., I show them how they can use the visual representations of the letters to “code” or mark where story element clues are listed in texts. This is similar to thinking tracks for comprehension, but students record the letters S.T.O.R.Y. instead of comprehension codes. For printable books (like Reading A-Z books), students can record the codes right in the margins of the text. For actual book they can’t right on, students can use sticky notes with the graphic symbols of S.T.O.R.Y. (one letter per sticky note) to mark places it in a book where the story element clues are listed.

Below is a coding example using a Reading A-Z book! Students underline the clues and evidence for each story element in the printable book and use stickies to mark the pages they found clues. Sometimes I’ll have my students just write the S.T.O.R.Y. letters in the margins, but stickies allow them to find the places more easily, acting as markers for each page when the book is closed.

Text Coding helps students with constructing story summaries. Students can follow their S.T.O.R.Y. markers to record all the elements in their summaries. You may even want to consider connecting S.T.O.R.Y. with teaching students how to write book reports, even student book reviews (leaving out the R and the Y of course!).

Connection to Reading Hats

Sometimes, I like to teach S.T.O.R.Y. with my Reading Hats unit, and have the students pretend they are all Reading Chefs who need to gather and mix together the ingredients of a fiction story. Identifying and “mixing up” all the “ingredients” of a story (story elements) helps them comprehend and cook-up a wonderful story. I then love to show all my talented Reading Chefs how they can use their OWN ingredients to write stories of their own! This is a wonderful opportunity to connect their reading and writing skills!

Supplemental Materials

Interested in downloading the poem and retelling poster?

(Click here or on the image below!)

Happy Teaching!

Article Resource: 

Naughton, Victoria M., (2008). The Reading Teacher, 62 (1) pp. 65-68

Want to purchase and read the “Picture It!” article?

If you are interested in reading the research behind the “Picture It!” strategy or want to learn more, the article is available in a few locations.

  • Find it on ERIC here
  • Preview/Purchase it on JSTOR here
  • Purchase the article through the International Reading Association‘s publication’s website (or become a member to access it for free!)

Introducing Fiction Text Structure with S.T.O.R.Y!

7 Nov

Introducing Fiction Text Structure with S.T.O.R.Y (MsJordanReads).

A few years ago, I was looking for a fun and engaging way to teach Fiction Text Structure to my struggling readers, when I came across Victoria Naughton’s strategy, “Picture It!” (2008), in my copy of The Reading Teacher. Naughton was recognized for her hard work in research and publication with the Shaw Fund for Literacy 2009 award by National Louis University (NLU). Although she recommends it for all grade-levels (even high school), I use it with my 2nd and 3rd grade RtI groups.

Essentially, this strategy “uses pictures and other visual elements to enhance comprehension” (Naughton, 2008). Each letter of S.T.O.R.Y. represents an important story element of fiction texts, graphically and mnemonically. Students use this visual story map to support their understanding of a fiction story, picturing the different story elements and sketching them on paper.

S – Setting

T – Talking Characters

O – Oops! A Problem!

R – Attempts to Resolve the Problem

Y – Yes, the Problem is Solved!

(Above is a sample bookmark one of my students made using the schematic representations that Victoria Naughton recommended in her article! See a preview of her suggested sketches here!)

Strategy for Classroom Use

Students are different in their learning styles – some are visual learners, while others are auditory or kinesthetic learners. Since I try to address various learning styles within my intervention groups on a daily basis, I figured this strategy would be perfect for teaching story elements! The mnemonic device is helpful for students who have difficulty remembering the five story elements, and the “picture it” step is perfect for those who need a visual image to support their comprehension of each element.

Introducing S.T.O.R.Y.

I always use the I Do It! – We Do It! – You Do It! teaching model when introducing new decoding or comprehension strategies to students. Struggling readers benefit from the explicit, scaffolded instruction that’s part of this model. During the “You Do It!” stage, I make observations and take anecdotal notes for pieces of the strategy that I may need to reteach. Students try this strategy with their own leveled books and use the teacher and shared models of the graphic organizers as a reference throughout the independent practice.

Teacher Modeling –  “I Do It!”

Last week, to introduce S.T.O.R.Y., I chose the simple and popular I Can Read! series book, Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin. After teaching the visual mnemonic device to my students the day before, we reviewed the different “ingredients” that make up a fiction story. The students then followed along in their copies of the book, actively listening for story “ingredients,” as I read the story aloud all the way through. With a think-aloud, I read the story a second time and modeled  my thinking process as I identified and recorded the story elements from the text.

To bring in the visual element of the “Picture It!” strategy (Naughton, 2008), I then modeled how to draw a quick sketch to go along with each of the story elements. I modeled this visualization sketching process for Marley and the Runaway Pumpkin using information from the story element chart (pictured above). I showed the students how I closed my eyes and tried to picture the setting and “talking characters.” I visualized the problem, resolution, and solution and talked them through my internal thinking process. My visualizations were then recorded using quick sketches on a blank graphic organizer.

(Sample image of my blank student graphic organizers!)

NOTE: For the graphic organizers, I always have the students add the visual component to the letters (S.T.O.R.Y.) on the left column so they can make the graphic connection between the letter and what it represents (i.e., setting, characters, problem, resolution, solution).

The students LOVE this strategy and truly benefit from the mnemonic of S.T.O.R.Y. to help them remember the different story elements. Since learning this strategy, we have used this acronym in so many other ways!

S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!

Check out my follow-up post called “S.T.O.R.Y. Extensions!” where I share additional ideas for using Naughton’s acronym S.T.O.R.Y. with your students. Some examples include text coding, retelling, and a connection to my Reading Hats unit! Feel free to subscribe to my blog using the button on the navigation menu (to the right) so that my posts can be delivered right to your email!

Article Resource: 

Naughton, Victoria M., (2008). The Reading Teacher, 62 (1) pp. 65-68

Want to read the “Picture It!” article?

If you are interested in reading the research behind the “Picture It!” strategy or want to learn more, the article is available in a few locations.

  • Find it on ERIC here
  • Preview/Purchase it on JSTOR here
  • Purchase the article through the International Reading Association‘s publication’s website (or become a member to access The Reading Teacher archived articles it for free!)

Happy Teaching! 

**This post contains affiliate links. Click HERE to learn what that means!

Non-Fiction Text Structures

19 Apr
Non-Fiction Text Structures | A blog post about introducing and teaching Non-Fiction Text Structures. Includes lesson ideas, helpful websites, instructional activities, and free printables.

How are you doing with teaching non-fiction, informational texts? Do you feel you have a good grasp on expository text structures? With the Common Core ELA standards, students are expected to be proficient in reading complex informational texts. State assessments are also becoming more non-fiction focused, to evaluate student abilities in navigating these complex texts. So what can we do to help our students meet these standards?

The purpose of this post is to provide a few resources for teaching non-fiction, in preparation for the higher levels of achievement students are expected to reach! The ideas shared are perfect for upper primary grades, but can be easily adapted for earlier grade-levels. It is never to early to introduce non-fiction, so even if you are Kindergarten teacher you can start exploring the structures and helping your students build a foundation for content-area learning!

The Non-Fiction Text Structures:

What are text structures?

Non-fiction text structures refer to HOW an author organizes information in an expository text. When faced with a new text, students can observe the organizational pattern of the text and look for cues to differentiate and pinpoint which of the text structures was used by the author. Students can then organize their thinking to match the structure of the text, allowing for effective comprehension of the subject matter.

Why are the text structures important?

Understanding non-fiction text structures is critical for “Reading to Learn” (i.e., reading for information). Students should be familiar with the five most common text structures and should be able to identify each structure using signal words and key features. Understanding which text structure is used helps students monitor their understanding, while learning the specific content that is presented. These text structures need to be explicitly taught in the classroom.

Introducing & Reviewing Non Fiction:

It is important to note at this point that students need to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction BEFORE jumping into learning about text structures. Please make sure your students have a good grasp of fiction/non-fiction features and can easily identify both!

Here are a few resources to introduce or review non-fiction with your students:

Introducing Non-Fiction:

Introducing the Text Structures: 


  • Sensory and descriptive details help readers visualize information. It shares the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a topic/subject.

Sequence & Order:

  • Sequence of Events: Chronological texts present events in a sequence from beginning to end.
  • How-To: How-To texts organize the information in a series of directions.

Compare & Contrast:

  • Authors use comparisons to describe ideas to readers. Similarities and differences are shared.

Cause & Effect:

  • Informational texts often describe cause and effect relationships. The text describes events and identifies reasons (causes) for why the event happened.

Problem & Solution:

  • The text introduces and describes a problem and presents one or more solutions.

(FREE Non-Fiction Text Structures Student Reference Sheet)

As with most concepts and skills, students benefit greatly from modeling and practice! Becoming familiar with text structures involves interaction with a variety of informational texts. Perhaps you can begin with a book pass or non-fiction literacy centers to build their schema of non-fiction text structures. With these activities, students preview texts, make observations, and share their findings. To prepare, you will need to select a variety of books ahead of time for each text structure to place among the chairs (book pass) or stations.

Here are a few resources to help you with these two activities:

Book Pass Resources:

Nonfiction Center Resources:


(FREE Building Schema with Non-Fiction Text Structures Student Graphic Organizer)

Once students have interacted with a variety of books exemplifying each of the non-fiction text structures and have had the opportunity to build their schema by making their own observations,  you should then explicitly teach the text structures individually!

Some teachers prefer to teach text structures as ELA units (one day/week/month per structure), whereas some teach these in conjunction with non-fiction writing. It is your choice, so customize the instruction to meet the needs of your classroom! Keep in mind… the resources shared here are resource alone, and do not provide a program for instruction.

Digging Deeper into Text Structures:

After students experience different text structures and organizational patterns, you should introduce one text structure at a time. Introduce each using a mentor text (a great list can be found here!) and by showing students how each text structure will guide them in collecting information. Through modeling and practice, students will learn which graphic organizers correspond to each text structure and how to complete them.

According to AdLit.org, teachers should teach text structures as a strategy for comprehension. A few ideas include:

  • Showing examples of different paragraphs/texts that correspond to each text structure
  • Examining topic sentences and key words that clue the reader in to a certain text structure
  • Modeling using text clues to identify text structure during a text preview
  • Model using graphic organizers to collect information
  • Students use graphic organizers for each text structure to collect information.
  • Model the writing of a paragraph that uses a specific text structure
  • Students write a paragraph using a specific text structure

Analyzing Text Structure:

The ultimate goal is for students to know how to analyze text to identify the text structure and choose the appropriate graphic organizer to go with it. Analyzing text involves previewing a text to observe the organization, features, key words, and any clues that may be helpful in determining text structure. A step-by-step guide may be helpful at first, to walk students through this process!

(FREE Analyzing Non-Fiction Text Structure Student Guide)

Students should also explore the common signal words and topic sentences that correspond with each text structure. Being able to identify signal words quickly during a quick scan of the text will help tremendously in preparing students for information collection. Use this reference sheet (same as above) to remind students of the signal words they may find for each text structure!

Extension — Writing with Text Structures:

To reinforce student understanding of non-fiction text structures, consider bringing an informational text writing unit into your Writing Workshop! Students can study non-fiction as a genre of writing, and use various mentor texts as models for good non-fiction writing. After studying the key features and vocabulary of each text structure, students can practice integrating the structures into their own writing.


Assess their knowledge of text structures using writing and informal assessment activities.

For example, students can complete a sort, matching the definition with the text structures to show their understanding of each of the five text structures. (An example is shared below!)

(FREE Scramble N’ Sort Student Practice/Assessment)

You could also have students complete an “I Can…” assessment in their reading logs or on an exit slip to assess their knowledge of applying text structures as a strategy!

(FREE “I Can…” Strategy/Skill Assessment)

Resources! Resources! Resources!

Here are a bunch of websites, blogs, and direct links to materials that may be of some help! Many are for upper grade-levels, but feel free to adapt materials to meet the needs of your students!




Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR):

Professional Books:

Additional Resources:

If you are looking for additional materials to support your instruction of Non-Fiction Text Structures, check out the resources I have created for each! Each instructional packet includes student posters/reference sheets, an instructional poem, graphic organizers, and student prompt cards.

Happy Teaching!

**This post contains affiliate links. Click HERE to learn what that means!

Teaching Non Fiction Text Structures | This blog post includes instructional tips, ideas, resources, and FREE printables for teaching informational, expository text in the classroom.

Follow Your Thinking Tracks!

19 Jan

Are your students active readers? Do they consistently “Stop & Think” to reflect and comprehend what they’re reading?

“Follow Your Thinking Tracks” is a great strategy for students to record their thinking while reading. Not only does it help students monitor their understanding of text, but it provides a post-reading opportunity for students to share and reflect on their “road map” of recorded thoughts – essentially, their thinking tracks! This strategy is perfect for literacy across the content-areas and can be modified for ALL grade-levels.

What are “Thinking Tracks”?

“Thinking Tracks” are student thoughts and ideas that are recorded before, during, and after reading. Students stop, think, and respond to the text by jotting down their individual questions, connections, reactions, opinions, inferences, and more! It’s a way for students to interact with text and apply multiple comprehension strategies in an open, reflective format. Each student can develop their own unique “inner voice” as they are introduced to new information and texts.

Cracking “The Code”

Students can create their own thinking tracks code or can follow a classroom code established by the teacher.

Everyone has a different system they use for text coding, you just need to find the one that works best for YOU! Check out these resources for other coding suggestions:

Websites/Internet Resources:

Professional Books:

Introducing Thinking Tracks

To introduce coding to students, I typically teach one code at a time using teacher-modeling and think-alouds with a simple text. I explain to the students that following your thinking tracks is “what good readers do,” and we discuss the purpose and urgency for learning to do this. Explicit, direct instruction (i.e., mini-lessons) seems to work best, and it is extremely important to set-aside ample time for guided and independent practice. Like many effective strategies, dedicating the time to teach thinking tracks in the beginning of the year sets your students up for endless opportunities to apply and expand this great strategy!

Recording Thinking Tracks

There are many different methods for recording thinking tracks! Sticky notes are extremely motivating for students, but I’ve found that students do not always know how to use them efficiently and they plow through my entire supply within the first few days! (Yikes!) Having printable text that the students can write on is great for the beginning stages, at least until you can teach students how to be “sticky-note savvy” – using one sticky note for multiple thoughts. Writing space is key, and students need to be taught how to use it! I try to be practical… margins are cheaper than sticky notes. 🙂

Practice & Application

Once students learn coding and the teacher feels comfortable allowing them to choose, students can record their thinking tracks using the method and style that works best for them! If using a printed text, as I mentioned earlier, they can write directly in the margins. If you using a published book or text (which may be often since trade-books, readers, and novels are a large part of most school reading programs!), students can use sticky notes, journals, or graphic organizers.

For graphic organizers, I’ve used a generic, blank “Thinking Tracks” record sheet to document their thoughts as they’re reading.

I’ve also provided guided sheets with specific kinds of thinking tracks students have to come up with (e.g., questions, connections, etc.).

Students can use one graphic organizer per guided reading book, or one per chapter for novel studies and independent reading in the upper grades. For teachers who implement book logs and need accountability measures in place, thinking track notebooks or packets are a great way to document independent reading!

A reference key may be necessary for students who have a hard time remembering the codes. Students can create this, or you as the teacher can create a “Classroom Key” for all students to use as a reminder and keep in their folders or journals!

Here is a FREE thinkmark you can use for students to “stop & think” during independent reading, novel studies, or literature circles. You could also use this as a bookmark “key” for the different codes!


For additional classroom materials, please visit my TpT store (MsJordanReads) for the “Follow Your Thinking Tracks” Classroom Strategy Pack. This 34-page  document includes all the posters, graphic organizers, labels, bookmarks, and student reference sheets necessary for bringing thinking tracks into your classroom!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com or comment below!

Building-Up My Toolbox: Self-Monitoring Strategies

10 Oct

This year, I’m working with a challenging group of second and third-graders who are NOT consistently monitoring their reading and comprehension. Some fail to fix-up their meaning-changing miscues, others aren’t stopping to check for understanding, and many aren’t doing EITHER! I’ve been racking my brain to try and come up with different ways to get the students to notice (in their heads!) that something doesn’t sound right, look right, or make sense.

If only I could climb into their brains and turn on that magic switch!

Of course, I always teach an abundance of decoding and comprehension fix-up strategies, as well as the “Big Three” monitoring questions that students should ask themselves while reading, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re monitoring their reading independently or consistently. A month ago, I noticed they needed another strategy to go with these monitoring questions and the strategies I’ve been trying… and I needed a few more tools in my toolbox!

A sample reference poster I use with my students!

(NOTE: This “Big Three” monitoring questions poster is displayed on the wall behind my teaching table and a copy is placed in their take-home folders. I also have bookmarks to reinforce self-checking for their take-home book-in-a-bags.)

Trying out new tools…

So far, I’ve introduced Click & Clunk, which is a great strategy using small cards to silently signal when they “click” and understand something, or hit a “clunk” and get stuck. However, in order to effectively use this strategy, students need to pay attention and ask themselves the “Big Three” throughout their reading… and not all of them are doing that yet. I’ve modeled, we’ve practiced. I’ve re-modeled, we’ve practiced. It’s still not “clicking.” Maybe in time it will, but when I do my weekly progress monitoring, so many of them are still reading with significant meaning-changing miscues (some of which I can’t believe they don’t notice!).

A presentation I use to teach Click & Clunk (with the cards!).

With the older reading students, I’ve used INSERT – a wonderful comprehension monitoring strategy from Read. Write. Think. Essentially, this strategy involves “inserting your thinking” by placing coded sticky notes or codes in the margins when what you read is: (1) something you already know, (2) something new, (3) something that changed your thinking, or (4) something that is confusing. You can also mark important facts and ideas. This is a great tool to use in conjunction with  Click & Clunk, but I don’t feel the second graders are quite ready to use complex codes and symbols to mark their understanding and thinking.

However, it did get me thinking…

The students love anything having to do with sticky notes, and the older students responded well to placing sticky notes in the margins and “marking up the text,” so… perhaps using sticky notes was my key to unlocking their thinking and monitoring skills! It’s tactile and the students actually have to stop and think to do it.

In an attempt to modify INSERT, I came up with “Show Me Your Thinking!” where I just gave students “happy face” and “sad face” stickies. They didn’t reflect on their knowledge and learning, but instead on their understanding of words, phrases, and pages… similar to Click & Clunk. Each student had to place a “happy face” next to the paragraph they understood (Click!), and a “sad face”  next to the ones they were confused by (Clunk!). This worked even better for the Reading A-Z books that we printed since they could write in the margins and circle/underline their confusions!

Taking it one step further…

Another intervention I later implemented involved a four-step process: (1)  reading to a stopping point (2) recalling text read (3) reflecting on understanding of text, and (4) summarizing understanding of the section. This intervention was an extension to Linda Hoyt’s strategy “I Remember” (Revisit, Reflect, Retell, 2009).

Students in my groups learned Hoyt’s strategy of “I Remember” earlier in the year for practice with story recall and retell. With this strategy, students created stopping points to think back and recall information they just read, and used specific sentence starters to retell what they read. The strategy supports comprehension and reinforces self-monitoring but I added a layer to dig deeper into the process of monitoring our comprehension. For the next step in the process, I asked students to apply the “I Remember” strategy, but to also reflect on their understanding and put it into words. Students were asked to share what they remembered reading and understanding (clicks!) and what they remembered getting stuck on (clunks!). This took the “Show Me Your Thinking!” strategy one step further, as students were asked to put their understanding and confusions into their own words to summarize their thinking. Their “I Remembers…” were recorded on sticky notes or shared with thinking partners. Using Hoyt’s strategy as inspiration, I wrote the following sentence stems on craft sticks for the students to use:

So far, the combination of all three strategies has been working wonders! We’ve been practicing monitoring our comprehension for over 4 weeks now, and I am impressed with the progress that is being made. The students are better able to identify exact points of confusion and exact points of understanding, though some of the second-graders still need significant guidance. The tactile piece of sticky notes or recording in the margins seems more interactive with the text than flipping a Click/Clunk card, and the students seem more engaged. We still use the Click & Clunk cards to indicate when they are stuck on decoding a word, but I have them use “Show Me Your Thinking!” for their comprehension.

What’s next…

My next goal is to build independence with this strategy and have the students internalize the thinking process involved. I eventually want to take away the popsicle sticks and the sticky notes to make the process more automatic. I also would like to see the students bridge this strategy to the classroom and other content-area work. Ambitious for one year? Perhaps… but eventually we’ll get there!

What tools do YOU use for teaching self-monitoring strategies?

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