By Constance Foland | April 06, 2011 at 07:19 PM EDT | No Comments
I recently wrote about linking small group reading to NJASK reading. Here's another idea for preparing students for the test while working on authentic reading.
At one of the schools I work in we analyzed the data and found out that many students, in general, were having trouble understanding author's purpose and why an author would use a particular literary device. So we formed a group--four fourth graders on the cusp. Close to being proficient, but not quite there. These students struggled with really understanding author's purpose, or could only say the most surface level things about why an author might have written a piece.
I used an article on spiders, in which the author was trying to make the point that spiders are amazing and interesting creatures. I started my teaching asking the students to name each of the paragraphs in the article, since there were no sub-headings. I asked students to find a topic sentence in each paragraph to see if that might point to what the author was trying to say in each paragraph. Three of four students did this easily.
Next, I asked students to think about the author's purpose for writing this article. What did the author really want us to know and believe about spiders? The students hadn't picked up that each topic sentence, in some way or other, stated that spiders are amazing. So I asked them to go back and reread each topic sentence and think about the language the author used. Then students saw the connection. So that's the ongoing work for them--noticing how an author uses language, how an author might repeat an idea. I also showed the students how the author had, in fact, stated how amazing she thinks spiders are in both the opening and closing paragraph.
Getting students to think a little more deeply as they read, answering the questions, What is this author really trying to say? and Why did this author write this piece? is teaching students to be better readers. It will certainly come in handy on the NJASK. There is often a question that asks students to name an author's purpose, and to state how they know.
More NJASK tips tomorrow!