In chapters 6 and 7, Tovani explores the ideas of retention and group work. She begins by discussing how challenging it is for teachers to know whether or not kids are thinking while reading since we can’t see it. We can’t see what their brains are doing. She suggests an idea that echoes her previous book- marking the text. Students can start by watching their teacher model good thinking while reading through annotations. Some beginning suggestions to get your students started:
- Mark one quote in the text and have a conversation about the quote
- Write a question that doesn’t have a simple answer
- Ask your partner’s opinion about your ideas
- Are you copying information from the text or sharing your thinking? Share your thinking.
- Make a statement or recommendation based on what you’ve read. Don’t be wishy-washy.
She also gives suggestions to her students on what to do when marking text:
- Write the thinking next to words on the page that cause you to have the thought.
- If there isn’t room on the text to write, draw a line showing the teacher where the thinking is written
- Don’t copy the text; respond to it
- Merely underlining text is not enough. Thinking about the text must accompany underlining.
- There is no one way to respond to text: ask a question, make a connection to something familiar, given an opinion, draw a conclusion, make a statement
“ Because it is new to students, we have to spend a lot of time and energy on a small amount of text. Yet it is worth the time and effort. Thinking held on paper not only informs our instruction and can be sued as an alternative assessment tool for a more accurate picture of student learning, but also helps students rehearse their thinking before they begin a writing assignment.”
Tovani explains the importance of modeling thinking and marking text over and over as well as using student models as examples for others to follow. This is such a powerful practice because not only does it give another visual to support the kids of work you want kids to emulate, it also gives a positive affirmation to the reader who’s work was selected that he can do they work. Additionally, it shows the other students in class, “Hey, I want to have my work showcased by the teacher.” What a powerful motivator!
Tovani gives tips to kids who get stuck while reading:
- Trust the author. Don’t panic at first if the text doesn’t make sense. The author will slowly reveal clues.
- Ask questions. Quite likely someone else may have the same question. Someone else may be able to clear up the confusion.
- Slow down. Give yourself time to read, reread, and paraphrase what you’ve read.
- It’s ok to go back. Sometimes readers go back and reread confusing parts of texts.
Tovani then goes into detail about a few strategies she uses to mark the text in order to hold her thinking or her student’s thinking: (She often has everyone in class at the beginning of the school year bring in highlighters and sticky notes to share)
- flag a page
- mark a line
- find a part quickly
- make a confusing part to get clarification
- hold thinking to share later
- give students a yellow highlighter to mark confusing places
- give students a pink highlighter to mark places they understand well enough to explain to someone else
- use a highlighter to emphasize the reader’s purpose
- a line that causes the reader to ask a question
- a line the reader can relate to
- a line that strikes the reader
- a word or term that is unknown
- a section that is well written
Additionally, Tovani create Comprehension Constructors which help her struggling readers through tough passages and enable them to still be successful by getting their thinking and confusion down on paper. The constructors differ each time she creates one but they always focus on one or two different reading strategies. Sometimes she wants them to focus on background knowledge, other times, connections and patterns, or even sometimes on just the sensory images the author is trying to create in the reader’s head.
Tovani is also quick to point out that it isn’t just questions teachers are after but also after answers to those questions as well. She comments, “ asking questions is a signal that you are constructing meaning. Readers who don’t ask questions are often disengaged and unable to remember what they’ve read. We pointed out that we also want them to find answers to their questions.”
Tovani closes the chapter relaying the importance of kids working together to create meaning. She quotes from a classroom poster, “Individually we are smart. Collectively, we are brilliant.” This is a great transition into the next chapter in the book stressing how integral it is for students to share what they are reading, what they are thinking about their reading (patterns, connections, etc...), and what questions they are creating as a result of their reading.
Tovani like small groups for discussion as do I in my classroom. She points out that small group discussion:
- stimulates higher levels of thinking
- develops social skills
- develops listening skills
- encourages articulation of thinking
- honors all learners
- holds kids accountable
- helps students remember
- allows students to make connections
- allows others to see different perspectives
- promotes deeper understanding
Tovani begins group work by creating a few norms groups must follow. These aren’t teacher generated norms, but norms built as a class: teachers and students together. The students give their suggestions about what makes good groups and good group work time.
- Student Action: If I am in a group that doesn’t work for me, I will tough it out and request a different group next time.
- Teacher Action: I agree to honor group requests as best I can. However, as the person responsible for classroom instruction, I get the final say about group composition.
- Student Action: I recognize that I can’t force anyone but myself to do something and I agree to do my part.
- Teacher Action: I won’t expect students to police each other’s behavior. I won’t give group grades. Instead I will notice who is contributing and who isn’t and respond accordingly.
Help in groups:
- Student Action: I will help members of my group if I can. If I am the one who is stu8ck, I will ask my group members to help me first. If that doesn’t work, I will seek help elsewhere- through the teacher, another group or a text resource.
- Teacher Action: I will model how the group is supposed to do something. I will also observe groups and share what is going well and what isn’t working in order to help groups run smoothly. I will be available whenever possible to answer questions
Tovani also discusses what interferes with group work:
- Someone hasn’t read the material or completed the task.
- Suggestion: this person goes to a designated quiet spot to finish the reading and writing before he or she joins the group. If the whole class hasn’t read the assignment, maybe the text is too hard, or maybe class time needs to be used for silent reading before discussion groups can meet.
- Someone talks all the time
- Suggestion: give this person a job. Have the student record thoughts on a chart of in a group double entry diary. Provide some waords that other group members could use to politely remind the culprit that he or she is monopolizing the conversation.
- Someone doesn’t talk
- Suggestion: I think it okay to honor someone’s decision to listen. It is important thought that this person have a chance to be heard. Sometimes people don’t talk because they don’t want to break in and seem rude.
Tovani suggests the value of providing feedback throughout all processes especially in group discussions. Letting kids know what they have done well, what can be improved upon and where they can go to take the discussion further, are all valuable to the students individually and to the class as a whole. She says, “over time I notice that students not only have their reading material, but are citing textual evidence. After a few weeks, I notice that they are listening more closely to their group members as well as acknowledging their thinking by asking a question or sharing additional thoughts. They seem to raise the standard of their talk because they want to be quoted in my notes and during debriefing sessions. Students feel comfortable with pauses and return in their notes to continue the discussion. I can’t expect students to get better at discussion if I don’t give them specific and immediate feedback.”
She closes giving some suggestions for guiding students in group discussions:
- give an overview of what’s been read so far
- share something interesting from the book
- a character action
- an opinion about something that has happened
- a question
- a provocative part
- a confusing part
- share your thinking about a quote
- consider questions that don’t have simple answers
- ask your group members their opinion
- ask yourself, “Am I just retelling or sharing my thinking?”
- make a statement or recommendation, and use textual evidence to support what you are saying.