This is a fundamentally great question. An embedded reading is a scaffolded series of readings. So, why are we reading all of the versions in the series? It is a question that, once we know the answer, can help us figure out what to do with the readings that we have!!
The base reading is important. That is pretty easy to understand. If students understand this version of the reading, everything else falls into place. It’s the “trailer” or the summary of the piece. As students read the subsequent versions, they will “attach” all of the new details and insights on to this clear and uncomplicated version.
The second version brings the reading to a new level. There will be new details, new information and the story or text becomes a) better understood and b) even more interesting.
But after that???? Now what ?? That is what our students will want to know so we should know as well. So I offer you the TOP ________ REASONS TO READ THE LAST VERSION OF AN EMBEDDED READING !!
Reason #5: Because we have to. (Bear with me, they get better!!)
Not the best reason, but sometimes it’s the most obvious one. Occasionally we are required to have our students “read” a particular piece. The department says so, or the district says so, or maybe even the state we teach in says so. So we make sure they read it. As teachers, using embedded readings to get students to better understand a piece that even we may not see as compelling makes perfect sense. Our students may not be as appreciative, so hopefully we will not have to use this reason too frequently.
Reason # 4: Because it is a beautiful piece of literature.
This is a teacher favorite. We are often well-read and have at our disposal an enormous array of beautiful pieces that we want to share with our students. Prefacing the reading of an entire text with more comprehensible versions can make this literature much more interesting and appealing to our students. We love certain pieces so much that we feel that we are shortchanging our students if we don’t share these pieces with them.
My opinion on this one is only an opinion, but I think that it is worth considering. The best version of beautiful literature is one that students will understand. If the “last” version that we have prepared is above their level, it isn’t valuable yet. The next to last version will be the one that resonates with them, that resides in their hearts and will open the door, down the road, for a deeper and longer-lasting experience reading the original version of the piece.
The one time this does work, is in our upper level classes (usually levels 4 and up) when the final version is lyrics to a song. In beginning classes, even intermediate years, when I use a beautiful but difficult song, we will focus only on the truly comprehensible pieces of the song, usually the chorus and the first verse. However, in upper level classes, the entire song, because it may be hear over and over again afterwards is a worthwhile version to work through.
Reason # 3: Because students wrote the details in this level.
This is a truly compelling reason for students!! One of the delightful uses of an embedded reading is to ask students to suggest embellishments, improvements or information to an existing version. Students LOVE to read their own ideas in a text!!! There are several ways to bring this about. Here are a few:
Provide students with a text electronically and ask them to enter new information or change existing text. Ask them to highlight or change the text color so that their changes are easy to find. This can be done by individual students or pairs. Students then can share their new versions with you. Next, take their suggestions and ideas to combine them with the existing text to make a new and original version !!!
After reading a text with students, ask students to submit ideas for new information, language, or ideas on a slip of paper and collect them. Use these ideas to create a new version of the text.
With a longer text, print one copy and cut it into smaller sections (1-2 paragraphs). Give each section to a small group of students and have them add (by hand) new language or information to their section. Combine the sections and share with students.
Reason # 2: Because without it, the text/story is incomplete.
Sometimes an embedded reading is created so that the true and logical ending of the text doesn’t appear until the last version. Now, this is a great reason to read the “last version” of the story, and one that students will definitely buy into! Just as a trailer to a movie can give the viewer a glimpse of the film, but not the entire picture, an embedded reading can give a great deal of information or the good part of a story without giving away the ending. Reading the last version to see how it ends is very satisfying!!
Reason #1: Because the BEST STUFF IS IN THE LAST VERSION!!
This is the best reason to read the last version!! It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, BOOM!! That’s the really good stuff! Every reader loves a good plot twist and whether or not it is anticipated, keeping the plot twist for the final version is key!!! These already occur in so many “authentic” resources and as writers, it is a wonderful way to motivate students to read!! I want to give a shout out to Justin Slocum Bailey for talking about this in his blog post “Creating Twisted Embedded Readings”
When we know WHY we want students to read a “final version” it becomes so much easier to decide HOW we want to read that version (as well as previous versions) of a text. And that is the topic of the next post….so stay tuned….