Heather Zimmerman contributed today's post. More of Heather's posts about comprehension focus groups in middle school can be found here.
We finished up the first Comprehension Focus Group (CFG) and are now in full swing of the second CFG. I decided for the second CFG that we would focus on informational texts. I really wanted to tie in another class to this learning, so the students could be frontloaded with new information to come. I had looked at the curriculum for social studies and science and was able to find the most in regards to leveled texts for the social studies curriculum that is covered second quarter.
In 7th grade, students cover the Middle Ages and in 8th grade students learn about about American Revolution. I spent a lot of time trying to find books that would best meet the needs of all of my students, help them learn the curriculum, and also interest them. At the beginning of the unit we looked at text structures (description, sequence and order, compare and contrast, cause and effect, and problem and solution) and practiced using a few articles to see if they could choose an effective text structure to take notes with. I ended up using the text structures as part of our discussion during phase two. We also reviewed text features during the preparing phase to review titles, headings, bold faced words, the glossary, etc. As we know, students know about these features but do not always see the importance in using them.
I also did quite a bit of research to see what graphic organizers I wanted to use. For graphic organizers, I decided to look at Doug Buehl’s work on “Questioning the Author.” Part of the reason for turning to this strategy was because our district literacy coordinator is planning on sharing this with staff during this school year, and I had no experience using it. I figured I would build my knowledge with this strategy for the coaching side of my role. I also looked at Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis’ work in “The Comprehension Toolkit.” I created a graphic organizer for students to hold their thinking through the CFG.
The plan for students was to use the graphic organizer to deepen comprehension and also to keep track of questions they had. This would then be used during the writing phase, as a way to research unanswered questions and create a pamphlet for social studies teachers’ classrooms.
Here is a list of texts I used. Some were certainly better than others, but they all worked. We also, did not read the books cover to cover. We started off together, but I also gave them choice throughout phase one.
Middle Ages (Studied in 7th grade)
- Knights and Samurai by Vicki Tyler Wilt (Mentor text)
- The Black Death by George Capaccio
- The Middle Ages by Allison Lassieur
- The Magnificent Medici by Erin Ash Sullivan (Focused on the Renaissance)
American Revolution (Studied in 8th grade)
- If You Lived at the time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore (Mentor text)
- George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer
- The Revolutionary War by Elizabeth Raum
- Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley