Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Active Reading Strategies - Visual Notes and Character Bodies

We teachers can sometimes forget that just because we are excited about the new challenging but engaging book that we are about to share with the class does not mean all pupils will immediately feel the same way. For some pupils the new class reader will evoke excitement and curiosity, for others it will bring them out in a cold sweat and a feeling of dread will creep through their veins. It is our duty to make any class reader accessible and enjoyable for all our pupils regardless of their ability and reading habits outside of the class. I have tried many things over the year to ensure I engage all pupils with all texts I have taught and now try and mix them all up whenever I read a book with a class. I have found that one of the key things that will help pupils engage with the events and characters fully is active reading strategies. Below are four of the fun ways I keep reading active and engage my pupils when we read together.



As always ground rules, your enthusiasm and clear and full explanations are necessary for these activities to work well. I usually get all pupils in the class to read a page with me taking a few pages after every 3 pupils have read when we have extended reading in class to allow pupils to be involved while still moving the text on with my slightly faster reading.

Visual Notes:
All pupils should have a copy of the book each, and an A4 piece of paper and colour pencils. While you, one pupil or a recording of the novel is being read aloud to the class pupils are asked to draw whatever comes into their mind as they listen. You can change the focus of the images if you choose to do so with a class if you wish. You could ask them to draw images of only literal words that are read aloud that stay in their mind, they feel are important or are repeated. For a higher ability group you could ask them to draw literal words read aloud as well as connotations or implied meanings that are brought about. I often model this for the first two pages being read so the pupils get the idea, while also having an opportunity to laugh at my drawings. It is important to emphasise that it is not about their drawing ability so stick figures are fine etc... I will pause the drawing frequently through the lesson and get a random pupil or two to stand up and show the class their images and talk through why they drew them prompting them to delve deeply into their selections. If your pupils find it difficult to share the reasons with the class you could get them to study buddy up and talk for a minute to one another about what they have drawn to get ideas flowing and build confidence. Once again this has the pupils learning and developing without even realising they are doing so. I have not found a class that does not enjoy this.

Character Bodies:
All pupils should have a copy of the book each, and A4 (or larger if working as a pair or group) piece of paper and colour pencils. This works well with pupils working in a pair or group but can be done individually on smaller paper or in books. I use this with all my students 11 years old to 19 years old and it works really well with all, just up the challenge or change the focus for different age groups and abilities. I usually get the pupils into groups with some large paper in the centre of the table and all pupils holding pens or pencils. I then get the students to write the name or the character I wish their group to focus, different one for each group, on top of the paper and draw a large outline of a body on the page with space to write inside and outside the shape. Then as the novel is being read aloud the groups are asked to write in and around the body shape. They should write any factual information they learn about the character around the outside of the body shape such as events and relationships. They should write any emotions, feelings and internal thoughts they learn about inside the body. We pause a few times during the reading and the groups feed back what they have found and we discuss as a class to develop ideas. We keep these Character Bodies and take them out a number of times to update them. There are many ways you can vary this activity to shape it for your class or topic. Great activity to get students to build up a really detailed understanding of the characters they meet in the text.

 

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