Teaching reading fluency and comprehension can be complex to say the least. You may feel your students aren’t fluent enough read complex texts on grade level, let alone think deeply about multiple texts.
And as you struggle with reaching all your levels (particularly with reading), you may never even be able to meet with all your small groups!
Back in my first year teaching reading, my students displayed negative growth according to their state standardized tests. How is that even possible? Not only did I not grow them, they lost ground.
The next year, I discovered grouping. It felt like a miracle strategy! That next class of students, taught using these strategies, grew not just one year but three—all of them. Every student. Three years. So now, I use those same grouping strategies every single day in reading (and all subjects, really).
Each strategy I’m going to describe is basically the same: a structure for your students to engage in collaborative discussion about a text. After reading a text (read aloud, read to self, or partner read), these simple and effective strategies will help you to reach all your levels too!
Step 1. Pose a question. All students need to be held accountable for answering questions about a text. That practice grows all their brains, no matter where the question falls on Bloom’s taxonomy. And realize that accountable talk is essential for all these strategies, so review those procedures and model that behavior as necessary.
Step 2. Engage students in one of the following strategies to answer the question.
- SU HU PU- It sounds like an exotic dish but SU stands for Stand Up, Hands Up, and Partner Up. You designate who begins to answer the question (shortest hair, darkest eyes, etc.). Students use accountable talk after listening to their partner.
- Pod Talk (Round Robin)- I use this strategy almost for every lesson—students go around their group, pod, or table in an order you designate and answer the question.
- Think Pair Share (timed) – Many curriculum materials have a “Turn and Talk” or a “Think, Pair, Share” built in. The most important component of this structure is the use of private think time. It doesn’t have to be long—but just long enough for a student to think of the answer –or a possible answer. You can then time how long each person speaks designating a longer time for when you want them to really think about a question.
You can use a variety of strategies as you get used to each one. You’ll notice your students—even your strugglers—have deep and rich discussions about text. Within a few short weeks, you’ll be amazed with your students’ thinking.
Once you master procedures for collaborative discussions, you’ll feel confident in your ability as a teacher. How awesome is that?