Through the school year, I use the Three Big Questions found in Reading Nonfiction - Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. (What surprised me? What did the author think I know that I do not know? What challenged, or confirmed my thinking?
I use the "Poster" strategy that Kylene Beers mentions in her book, Nonfiction Notice and Note as we read "1975: Year of the Cat" an excerpt from the book Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. I focus on using the question "What does the author think I know that I do not know?"
First, I read aloud the poem to the students. At table groups, I have a copy of the poem in the center of large chart paper. Each student is given a different color marker. Without speaking, students underline and write notes about the poem, noting what the author thinks we know that we don’t know. All notes are written directly on the chart paper. Students are allowed to draw, write, and underline. I also walk around the room with my own color marker. I also do not talk, but try to push the paper conversation along by using words, pictures and phrases on each groups’ posters. Beers suggests giving ten minutes to students, but my students tend to only be able to focus on the activity for about five. I find this activity to be beneficial for my quieter students. Taking away voice allows all students to have more of a voice.
Once the five-minute vow of silence is over, I encourage each group of students to converse about the notes written about the poem. Together, students create questions about what they wonder. I post the charts around the room, to remind us about the powerful use of our written words. I also use this activity to begin our read aloud of the book, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.
Rose Birkhead is a Reading Specialist at Holland Middle School in Warminster, PA. She teaches 7th and 8th grade literacy classes and strives to create a positive learning environment where her students feel successful on a daily basis.