If you used any of the articles of the week I posted this year (just to be clear, Kelly Gallagher is the originator of the Article of the Week strategy), you definitely noticed some changes to the format. I’ve written elsewhere about why I use Graff/Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say strategy with AoWs (here and here), but I haven’t said much about the “Reading for Meaning” (RFM) statements I now include on many articles (see screen shot below).
In this post, I’ll be explaining what’s up with those.
Reading for Meaning, brought to me by The Core Six
I first learned of Reading for Meaning statements when I picked up a copy of Silver, Dewing, and Perini’s The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core. As the title implies, the book shares six research-based strategies teachers can use to help students grapple with the demands of the Common Core. For my curious readers, here are the six, along with a mini-synopsis of each (let me know if you’d appreciate a post on my experiences with strategies other than Reading for Meaning — also, pick up the book if these appeal to you):
- Reading for Meaning — gives practice in the basic skills readers use when grappling with complex texts.
- Compare & Contrast — “teaches students to conduct a thorough comparative analysis” (p. 3)
- Inductive Learning — “helps students find patterns and structures built into content through… analyzing specifics to form generalizations” (p. 3)
- Circle of Knowledge — “a strategic framework for planning and conducting classroom discussions that engage all students in deeper thinking and thoughtful communication” (p. 3)
- Write to Learn — “helps teachers integrate writing into daily instruction and develop students’ writing skills in key text types associated with college and career readiness” (p. 3)
- Vocabulary’s CODE — “a strategic approach to vocab instruction that improves students’ ability to retain and use crucial vocab terms” (p. 3)
I implemented pieces of all of the above strategies during this past school year, so again, if you’d like further treatment of any of them by a layman, let me know in the comments, and if you’d prefer to hear it straight from the pros, grab the book.
How do I use the Reading for Meaning strategy, in 250 words or less?
- Pick a complex text.
- Create statement(s) about the text (see AoW screen capture above for a few examples).
- Important: Make sure the statements are supported or refuted by the text.
- Pro tips:
- Use Figure 1.2 on this page to create statements to address specific standards.
- Create thought-provoking statements, so as to engage student interest before reading.
- Before reading, have students preview the statements, and use this opportunity to include any other activity that might “hook” students into the reading. (E.g., I might use the efficient “take a stand” strategy to have them show me whether they agree or disagree with some element of controversy presented in the text.)
- Show students how to “record evidence for and against each statement while (or after) they read” (p. 10)
- After reading, students can discuss their evidence in pairs or small groups, seeking to reach an agreement on which statements are supported or refuted by the text. This can be extended to a whole-class discussion “in which students share and justify their positions” (p. 10), which provides the teacher with an opportunity to “help students clarify their thinking and call their attention to evidence they might have missed or misinterpreted” (p. 10).
- Use student responses, both in their recorded Reading for Meaning statements and in their discussions, as formative data in evaluating how well they understood the text.
RFM develops three moves readers do when grappling with text complexity
In my last post, I mentioned Harvard’s “thinking-intensive reading”; to save you a click, below you’ll find the outline of that framework:
- Previewing: Look “around” the text before you start reading.
- Annotating: Make your reading thinking-intensive from start to finish.
- Outline, summarize, analyze: Take the information apart, look at its parts, and then try to put it back together again in language that is meaningful to you.
- Look for repetitions and patterns.
- Contextualize: Take stock and put the text in perspective.
- Compare and Contrast: Set course readings against each other to determine their relationships (hidden or explicit).
Notice how this aligns with the three phases of the Reading for Meaning strategy:
- Previewing and predicting before reading (which lines up with the first bullet point above)
- Actively searching for relevant info during reading (which is involved in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th bullet points above)
- Reflecting on learning after reading (emphasized in the final two bullet points above)
In short, RFM can serve as a great scaffold for those shorter, complex texts you give your readers.
Scaffolding readers and helping teachers
If the Common Core simply results in teachers chucking complex texts at classes of kids without any support or instruction, then, indeed, the Common Core will have been something worth freaking out about. However, with simple, efficient strategies like Reading for Meaning, teachers can get closer to that sweet spot between under- and over-teaching, and students will end up with the win as more of them enter the college and career world as functionally literate folks.
Have you used RFM statements before? Do you have any further questions I can answer? Holler at your boy below.