An Interactive Strategy for Reading Assignments in All Content Areas
Student: "I don't get it."
Teacher: "What don't you understand?"
Student: "Any of it!"
Sound familiar? When it comes time for class discussion about a reading assignment, teachers are often disappointed by the lack of student participation. The kids don't have a clue what they should say and desperately hope the teacher doesn't call on them.
Just Say Something is an instructional strategy that addresses these issues in any classroom by engaging students in the reading process through peer interaction. Here's how it works:
- Students pair up and designate themselves Partner A or Partner B.
- Together, they chunk up the reading by placing stop signs (stickies) along the way. Or, the teacher can decide ahead of time where students will stop.
- Students read silently and stop at the stop signs. At the first stop, Partner A "says something" about the text:
- What she thinks it said
- What she thinks about it
- What interests her
- What she has questions about
- What new thoughts she has
- What she might not have understood
- How it connects with something else.
- Partner B responds. He may comment on something Partner A said or make a comment of his own.
- Partners resume reading and stop at the next stickie/stop sign. This time Partner B gets to "say something" first and Partner A responds.
- Partners continue until they finish.
- The teacher roves around, listening to the conversations between the partners. He might step in to help students figure out a difficult passage.
When it's time to bring the class together for a class discussion, students have had time to ask questions, think about what they read, and rehearse comments they might make in a class discussion.
Differentiating the Strategy
Teachers can differentiate this strategy in a variety of ways. Here are some ideas:
Reading Readiness: Use two or three texts of different reading levels that address the same subject. The purpose for reading is the same no matter which text the students are assigned. After the students have talked about the text using the Just Say Something strategy with their partners, group the students who read the same article. Each group identifies three important ideas from their reading to share with the entire class.
Gifted & Talented: Pick a text that everyone in the class can read independently. Pair up students so the GT students are working with one another; partner other students in more heterogeneous groups. Don't put the most fragile readers together because they need to see how other students think about and respond to text. Walk around the room and listen to the conversations, coaching the students as needed.
Interest: Sometimes a single piece of text is complex and students must take in many details and concepts. For example, a chapter about geological time may include information about geological changes, weather, flora and fauna, and where the period or era fits on the geological timeline.
Establish several purposes for reading: read to find out what geological changes occurred and how they affected the weather; read to find out about the period's animals, their characteristics, and habitats; and read to find out about the plant life at this time. Allow students to choose which reading purpose they wish to focus on and have them pair up accordingly.
At the conclusion of the Just Say Something strategy, structure an opportunity for students to share their new knowledge and take notes on shared information from others who had a different purpose for reading.
Mining for Ideas
Middle grades teachers have implemented this strategy in many other ways. Google "Say Something + reading" for more ideas.
Jill Spencer is a teacher, consultant, senior partner in Learning Capacity Unlimited, and author of
Teaming Rocks, published by AMLE. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org