My fondest memories of elementary school include visions of teachers decked out in their ugly Christmas sweaters, gaudy earrings, and necklaces made from string lights that actually flashed on and off. I love holidays, but I’m not as brave as they were. I recognize special occasions in my own way, though: by incorporating their rich, culturally-relevant histories within the context of English/Language Arts through close readings.
Here’s what I do:
1. I have my students partner-read the reading passage, alternating either by sentence or paragraph.
2. I have my students independently read the reading passage. While they do this, they underline up to three key words in each paragraph.
3. After they underline their words in the first paragraph, they write down what they think is the most important word in the paragraph (they write it in the margin next to the paragraph).
4. They repeat these steps for each paragraph – underlining up to three key words and choosing the most important word.
5. Then, paragraph by paragraph, we discuss their “most important words.” This enables me, as the teacher, to gauge whether or not they understand the main idea of each paragraph. We talk about the main idea of each paragraph, and how that concept is reinforced by supporting details.
6. After this discussion, I let my students begin answering the reading comprehension questions. When they do this, they have to support their answers with evidence from the text by highlighting and numbering for each question. They highlight the line or lines where they find their answers and mark those lines with the number of the question they correspond to.
7. Finally, we review the questions and their answers. I have my students finger point to the line or lines in the text in which they highlighted and numbered their evidence. I then ask them why certain answers are correct, and why certain answers are incorrect.
*To modify this assignment for students who need extra support, you can eliminate one or two answer choices for each question by marking through those answer choices before handing out the reading passages.
Halloween couldn’t come sooner! There’s just something about October’s amalgamation of scary movies, spooky stories, and cable-knit sweaters that – simply put – gets me giddy (the fact that the entire month serves as a one giant excuse to sip chai tea and eat chocolate certainly helps). Have you ever really wondered why children dress up as ghouls and goblins and go trick-or-treating, though? It took me longer than I care to admit to develop an understanding of how the past influences the way we celebrate the present. However, I think it’s important that my students know why they do what they do. The same goes for why we get together and gorge on turkey come November.
Click here to to access my Halloween reading passage:
I try to craft my lessons to be not only fun, but rigorous. Personally, I avoid posing my students with “right there” questions because I know they know the answers to those. Instead, I encourage them to develop the stamina to dig deep, analyze, and use evidence to support their conclusions. Our topics of discussion (Halloween, Thanksgiving, football, etc.) might be interesting, but the assessments that mirror those discussions are challenging.
Why not throw in a little bit of pumpkin spice into your instruction, if possible? As is said here in the South: “Happy Fall, Y’all!”
Click here to to access my Thanksgiving reading passage: