Graphic Organizers for Literacy

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I highly recommend the use of graphic organizers. The purpose is to help students organize information with regard to different text structures:  

  • Compare and contrast
  • Cause and effect
  • Details / Descriptive
  • Problem and solution
  • Sequence

Graphic organizers are also helpful with standards such as:

  • Main idea
  • Summarizing
  • Character analysis
  • Story elements

Graphic organizers help organize the student’s thinking, and assist with note-taking. The visual pictures created help the student “see” the text structure, recall details, state the main idea, and summarize the selection.

Here are links to some sites I think provide good quality graphic organizers which can be utilized with a variety of situations:

  1. This one is more primary oriented: https://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/
  2. This one is oriented more for 3rd and above: http://www.educationoasis.com/printables/graphic-organizers/
  3. This one is a FREE resource at TPT (as pictured above) that supports each of the 5 text structures: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Non-Fiction-Text-Structures-Flip-Flap-and-Graphic-Organizers-Freebie-1777102

I have also linked these in “Instructional Resources” and in the categories list on my blog.  Enjoy!!

Text Structures Part 3: Sequence and Descriptive

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to the third text structure post.  Today’s focus will be on sequence / chronological order and descriptive text structures. Here are some graphic organizers to keep in mind.

Sequence / Chronological Order

1. Sequence refers to a particular order in time. This can be:

  • Information presented minute by minute, hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.
  • Providing information by dates (a timeline)
  • Steps of how to complete something (first, second, third, etc.)
  • A retelling of events in the order they happened: First, next, then, finally or beginning / middle / end.  It may be helpful to use a “retelling rope”.   Use a section of rope or nylon cord (approx. 1 foot long). Tie several knots along the length of it (3-5). At each knot, retell part of the story or events in sequence.
  • Observing how things / people have changed over time
  • Non-fiction and fiction selections
  • Arranging events in order using pictures

2. Connecting sequence to strategies:

  • Predict what will happen next in the sequence.
  • Visualize the steps involved.
  • Make personal connections regarding your own experience with the sequenced topic.

3. Sequence / Chronological order main idea / summarizing sentence frames:  Suppose I read an article telling about the seasonal journey of a pod of whales.  Again, the topic is whales — but this is NOT the main idea.

  • (Main idea):  Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate.
  • How to ________ step by step.
  • The timeline of _________________.
  • There are several steps to ______________. First, _________. Then, ___________. Last, ________.
  • The life cycle of __________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life.
  • (Summarize): Whales travel to different locations each season to find food and a mate. In the spring, they ________. In the summer, ______________.  In the fall, _____________. In the winter, _________.
  • To make ________, follow these steps: ________________.
  • The life cycle of a ___________ includes these stages: _______________.
  • Many things happened during _____________’s life. In (year), he/she_____________. After that, _____________. Then, ________________. Finally, ___________________.

Descriptive Text Structure

1. Descriptive structures give details.  These can be:

  • Details or descriptions about a person, a place, a thing, an idea, an animal, an event, etc.
  • A web graphic organizer is a good model to visualize, with the topic in the center and the supporting details branching outwards.

2. Connecting to strategies:

  • Visualize what is being described, especially if there are no pictures or photos in the text.
  • Ask questions about the topic such as:  “I wonder . . .”
  • Analyze the point of view:  What is the author’s point of view. Is he/she presenting a one-sided view of the details presented?
  • Make connections to the topic.

Continue reading

Text Structures Part 2: Cause and Effect + Problem / Solution

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Welcome back to part 2 regarding Text Structure.  As I mentioned before, pairing a text with a graphic organizer to help highlight the structure can be very helpful to frame the main idea and summary. When a graphic organizer is used often, then students begin to visualize them and organize their thoughts mentally as well.  And still better . . . combining text structure instruction with reading strategies such as visualizing, questioning, making connections, and predicting will lead to higher comprehension.

Today’s focus will be on two other text structures:  Cause / Effect and Problem / Solution.  These two are related, but often confusing to students. Look for some resources at the end of this post.

Cause and Effect:

Cause:  The reason why something happened.

Effect:  The result — what happened?

A cause / effect text structure can show 1 cause and several effects.  Example: An earthquake can be the cause of many events (damaged structures, ruptured pipes, injuries, accidents, tsunami, etc.).  When this is the case, it may be simpler to identify the cause first, then identify all of the effects.

On the other hand, a cause / effect text structure can show several causes for 1 effect.  Example: Some animals are endangered (effect) due to these causes: pollution, loss of home environment due to destruction of their habitat, weather, disease. When this is the case, it may be simpler to identify the effect first, then identify all of the causes.

Other notes about teaching cause / effect:

  • This text structure can apply to non-fiction as well as fiction texts.
  • Because many cause / effect relationships require defining the problem (which could be the cause and sometimes the effect as well), students often get confused and identify the structure as problem / solution.
  • Not all cause / effect relationships are about problems. Example:  I love my grandson’s drawings (cause), so I hang them on the refrigerator (the result / effect). No problem here!
  • While most anchor charts posted online provide key words for the cause / effect structure (because, reason, since, as a result, etc.), I would suggest limited use of them especially when first analyzing the structure. I have found when mentioning them first, students often just start looking for those key words and are not truly reading the text.  And . . . those words can also be found in almost any text anyway.  You don’t want kids to reduce this to a competition: “How many time did I find the word because?” Those words don’t even have to be there for there to be a cause / effect relationship.
  • Use a graphic organizer with an arrow connecting the cause to the effect.
  • Even young students can understand simple cause / effect relationships presented in stories.  Discuss the causes and effects and/or write them as a shared writing experience. See some resources below for great books on this structure.

Combining with strategy work:

  • Visualize actions of the subjects in the text to picture the causes and results.
  • Make connections to things, places, events in the text you have experienced. Make predictions based on those experiences regarding why things happened.
  • Help students ask questions about the text.  They should be wondering why certain things happen, or what caused what. Learn to read on (or check other resources) to see if those questions get answered.
  • Make inferences about the causes in the text. Read between the lines.

Connecting to main idea and summary. Supply some sentence frames so students are using compare/contrast language. Suppose an article describes the causes of beached whales. The topic is whales — but that’s NOT the main idea:

  • (Main Idea): There are many reasons a whale becomes beached.
  • (Summary):  There are many reasons a whale becomes beached such as low tide, changes in ocean currents, chemicals in ocean water, and disorientation due to man-made sonar devices.
  • (Main Idea):  There are many causes for _________________________.
  • (Main Idea): The main cause for ____________ is _______________.
  • (Main Idea): There are several reasons why __________ decided to ___________.
  • (Summary):  There are many causes for __________________ such as _________________.
  • (Summary):  When _______________ happens, the result(s) are ___________________.

Continue reading

Text Structures Part 1: Compare and Contrast

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I have come to realize just how important knowledge of text structures is to almost all of the other comprehension skills and strategies. So that will be my focus for the next few posts — how this text structure connection relates to main idea, summarizing, note-taking, and writing. This post will feature the compare and contrast text structure (and some resources at the end of this post).

What are the text structures? Most sources consider the following 5: (Picture from Mrs. M’s Style. Here’s the link on Pinterest:  Text Structure Mini Anchor Chart)

  1. Compare and Contrast
  2. Cause / Effect
  3. Sequence
  4. Details / Description
  5. Problem / Solution

When I see reading texts that indicate the week’s skill is text structure, I cringe a little bit.  Why? Well, if you are teaching all 5 of them – that’s too much to digest in one week.  Here’s what I think is much more practical:  Teaching about text structures should occur with each and every reading selection — and refer to the structure that is most evident regarding that selection.

Here’s an example of what the teacher might say:  “This week we are reading an article titled Whales and Dolphins.  This article will compare and contrast whales with dolphins. Compare and contrast is a text structure in which the author will tell ways the whales and dolphins are alike and different from each other.”

How can I further connect this to comprehension and text structure?

  • Venn Diagrams or T-charts are helpful graphic organizers regarding compare/contrast text structure. Student can take notes using the graphic organizer. The idea is that with frequent use, students can eventually visualize this graphic organizer model in their head. Then this visual model serves as a thought organizer when they are not able to physically utilize one.
  • I can direct my questions to focus on this text structure such as: “On page 37, can you find one way the author compared whales to dolphins?”  “On page 39, the author told 3 ways the whales and dolphins are different. What did he say?”

How can I further connect this to help students with the main idea and/or a summary of a compare/contrast article?  Using information from notes on the Venn Diagram, students can use sentence frames like these:

  • This article compared _____________ to ______________.  (main idea)
  • This article compared ___________ to _____________.  Whales and dolphins are alike because _____________ and they are different because ___________________. (summary)

Continue reading

Comprehension Strategies (2nd-5th and above)

by C. Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

I have been doing some research about the difference between reading skills and reading strategies.  There seems to be a variance of opinions, but basically a reading skill is described as a path to answering certain kinds of questions (cause-effect, compare-contrast, sequence, etc.), while a strategy involves a higher meta-cognitive process which leads to deeper thinking about a text (visualize, question, summarize).  Another way to put it is this:  When reading, I need a strategy to help me understand when and where to apply the skills I have learned.

It probably can be illustrated more clearly using mathematics:  A skill might be adding two double-digit numbers, while different strategies might be these:  using base ten manipulatives, using an open number line, or the partial sums method.  Or soccer:  A skill would be the dribbling the ball (how to position the foot, how close/far to keep it to the player), while a strategy would be how to keep dribbling while keeping it away from the opposing team.

There are also varying opinions about which reading practices are considered strategies.  I like to think of strategies as those that can be applied to any reading text such as: summarize, visualize, question, make connections, predict, infer, author’s purpose & point of view. I need a strategy to help me understand when and where to apply the skills I have learned. Keep reading for more ideas and FREE resources.

Skills seem to be more dependent on the text structure (meaning they only apply to certain texts) such as sequence, compare/contrast, cause/effect, main idea / detail, problem-solution, identify story elements, etc. 

  • To help me visualize (strategy), I might use skills about character analysis such as paying attention to their words and actions to help me “see” what is really going on. Another example:  I might use skills about noting details while reading a passage to make the details “come alive” as I try to picture them in my mind. (See link to strategy posters at the end of this post.)

To help me summarize (strategy) an article, I need to analyze the text structure (skill) and then use that information to help me summarize. 

  • Is it in sequence? Then my summary will use words such as first, then, next, last.
  • Is it comparing and contrasting something? Then my summary will need to use words such as alike or different.
  • Is it informational? Then my summary will list facts or details.
  • Is it fictional? Then my summary will tell the characters, setting, and events.

Continue reading

Meaningful Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Teachers often ask me for suggestions on ways to engage students more, especially during whole class reading lessons. Student engagement is vital, isn’t it? Robert Marzano is a well-known educator/speaker whose research shows that students in highly engaging classrooms outperform their peers by an average  of almost 30 percentile points.  Students today have a higher need for interaction or they check out. What does engagement look like? The student . . .

  • participates in discussion
  • stays on task
  • listens to others
  • shares ideas
  • is aware of what is going on / alert
  • follows directions
  • reflects on learning
  • helps others
  • does more work than the teacher
  • enjoys the process
  • committed
  • applies new strategies
  • and . . . learns!!

What does lack of engagement look like? The student . . .

  • looks bored, sleepy, uninterested
  • can’t keep up
  • talks to their neighbor
  • is apathetic
  • gets confused
  • lacks understanding
  • fiddles with items in their desk
  • has a wandering mind
  • misbehaves
  • has a tired, frustrated teacher (because he/she is doing most of the work)
  • misses important information
  • hears the teacher do all the talking
  • has to be reminded to pay attention / follow along

I read an interesting article titled The Eight C’s of Engagement: How Learning Styles and Instructional Design Increase Students’ Commitment to Learning by Harvey F. Silver & Matthew J. Perini (linked here:The Eight C’s of Engagement).  They are:  Competition, Challenge, Cooperation, Connections, Curiosity, Controversy, Choice and Creativity (pages 9-11).

Cindy’s Top 20 Reading Engagement Ideas / Activities: These are based on personal experience, observation, and research. Get your free pdf copy here: Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

    1. All students respond:
      • Thumbs up / down
      • Yes / No cards
      • Stand up / Sit down
      • Individual white boards (having specific procedures ensures productive use)
      • Multiple choice hand signals positioned in front of the student’s chest (1, 2, 3 or 4 fingers or finger-spelling sign language for a, b, c, d)
    2. Partner share: This takes modeling, observation, and practice to make it productive so students know quickly who their sharing partner is, what voice level to use, how to listen, how to take turns, how to summarize or recall what your partner said, how to help properly, etc.
    3. Sorting activities: Prepare cards which can be grouped according to your specs such as…
      • Sort the verbs (or adjectives) according to the character who exhibits these actions (or qualities).
      • Sort words to emphasize story elements: the characters, the setting, problems, actions, etc.
      • Sort words into a Venn diagram template while reading a compare / contrast article.
    4. Complete a graphic organizer together as you read and discuss the story. Notice that different text structures require a different way to organize the information.
    5. Fold it note taking: Students fold a blank sheet of paper into 4-8 sections to take notes, show examples, or illustrate desired elements. Teacher directs note-taking by modeling or telling what to put in each section.
    6. Technology – video – interactive Smartboard activities or tools
    7. Post-it-notes:  Students use post-it-notes to mark critical parts in the story. Focus on one objective at a time. Even more powerful — connect to a skill you are working on.
      • when new characters are introduced
      • on a confusing part or a question
      • to mark an “A-ha!” moment
      • on the part that shows a problem in the story, plus write what it is
      • to mark changes in time, indicating a sequential structure
      • to recall who and what periodically throughout the selection
      • to write an important detail, especially with a descriptive structure
    8. Teach students to ask thoughtful questions about the text instead of always waiting for the teacher to ask. Asking a question is much like having a conversation with yourself. Students can write questions on post its, a book mark, an index card, or on a piece of butcher paper hung in the classroom (for multiple questions).
      • Is there a word you don’t understand?
      • Are you confused or curious about something?
      • Do you have a question about the author’s purpose?
      • What is something you wonder about?
      • Do you need more background information?
      • Can you turn a heading or subheading into a question?
    9. Instead of questioning students after reading, give then a purpose to read a paragraph, page, or set of pages before reading. (Example:  Read ahead to find out ______).
    10. STOP ROUND ROBIN READING! What can be done instead?
      • Partner read: Teach how to do this properly. For example if partner A doesn’t know a word, how can partner B help without always just telling them the word? How much does each partner read? How to ask each other questions, or summarize as they read? How to stay engaged with your partner? How to share a book if needed?
      • Project the story on the screen.
      • For a story heavy with conversation, read the characters speaking parts. (I love the books Freckle Juice and Snot Stew for this!)
      • Read short specific excerpts. Example:  “Find the part which tells how _____.”
      • For poetry, find poems that can be read in two voices. Partner 1 reads 1st line, couplet, or stanza, Partner 2 reads next set. This is also great fluency practice!
      • In small group, students read silently while teacher “taps in” to listen to one read at a time.
      • If there is patterned text (ex: Gingerbread Man), choral read those parts.
    11. Provide more than one option for the assignment – – students are likely to be more engaged if they have a choice.
    12. Make a “scoot” activity in which students move around the room to answer posted questions.
    13. Matching:  Students each have a card and must walk around the room to find their matching partner. Switch cards with someone else and repeat. Connect to the story you are reading.
      • word – definition
      • synonym – antonym
      • sentence – missing verb
      • fact – opinion
      • character – quote
      • affix – root word
    14. Become a vocabulary expert (get free pdf attachment click here):Each student thoroughly researches one word from the vocabulary list (definition, synonym, antonym, use in sentence, pronunciation, part of speech, and illustration). They become the expert about that word and teach it to others.
    15. Cooperative groups – each person should have a role:
      • Summarize a page, set of pages, or chapter.
      • Give an opinion.
      • Sequence main events.
      • Illustrate the story elements of a fictional selection.
      • Search for a specific number of interesting details (they get a choice in what details to include, plus they must debate or rate how interesting the detail is). Let class vote on which detail was the most interesting.
    16. Prepare work stations (learning centers) to review, expand concepts in a game or interactive format.
    17. Four corners:  Pose an open-ended question with 4 possible scenarios. Post each in a different corner. Students go to the corner that matches their opinion and discuss with others who think the same way they do. Then meet with group with opposing opinion for a friendly debate.
    18. Connect phonics, spelling, or word work lessons to the story by searching for one of these categories of words:
      • nouns
      • verbs (you can even specify past tense, present tense, past participles, action, etc.)
      • contractions / compound words
      • by number of syllables
      • vowel sounds
      • opinion words
      • sequence words
      • words with embedded little words (ex: yesterday)
    19. Make a poster of text features to go along with a story or article that didn’t have any.
    20. For stories with very few illustrations, describe a mental picture of what could be going on. Compare and contrast those mental pictures (by illustration if needed).

    Graphics provided via Microsoft Office clipart (creative commons)

    See www.teachertrap.com for this engagement poster:

 

 

Literacy Stations

by Cindy Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

What is the purpose of having literacy work stations in your classroom? If you answered, “To provide meaningful, engaging, rigorous, differentiated opportunities for students to learn” then you are on the right track!! Aside from the task of deciding on the literacy station procedures and routines you want for your classroom is the problem of actually providing and organizing those quality activities.

Literacy Station Activity

Literacy Station Activity

I know most of you regularly visit the TPT store and Pinterest for ideas.  There are a TON of great things out there. However, not everyone has a color printer or has the means to drain their bank account to pay for these items.

So, here is a resource I think you will like which is FREE, does not require a color printer, and addresses pretty much every literacy skill you need to teach and/or provide practice for (KG-5th grade). It is the Florida Center for Reading Research (www.fcrr.org). Click on this link: Student center activities which takes you directly to the K-5 reading center activities page.  The following are available — all for FREE!!

  • Sections clearly labeled Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension — with multiple activities for each sub-skill
  • One page overview for each activity (objective, materials list, and directions with illustration showing the activity in use)
  • Flexibility options to use materials as a teaching tool and/or as a practice or review activity

These are some of the types of activities:

  • Tons of letter and picture cards for sorting, matching, pocket charts, concentration, rhyming, word work, etc.
  • Game boards
  • Recording sheets – to record results of activities when appropriate
  • Graphic organizers – especially for grades 3 and up. These can be used with any book.

A teacher’s guide is also available with more detailed directions, background information, and literacy station organizational ideas.

I also bookmarked this site in my Resources section (top of the blog in the black band) should you need to refer to this site often. Enjoy!!! Let us know about your favorite FCRR activity or how you are using them in your classroom! Just click on the comment speech bubble.