A gifted new teacher tried out Embedded Reading for the first time this week with great success. Andrea gave her students a chance to write an Epilogue to a novel they had read. She didn’t ask them to write the entire thing, just a piece of it. She then combined all of the ideas from one class period to create an Embedded Reading in three levels for her students. She discovered, like most people do, that the students do not get bored reading the “same” story several times!! Their feed back to her was that it was exciting to know that a) they were going to understand each piece b) something new was going to be in each piece and c) something they had written would show up somewhere!
Then…she was able to repeat the reading pieces by switching fourth period’s reading with ninth period’s reading and they got double the input!!
Then….she could lead discussion comparing the two versions.
Her first foray into Embedded Reading was successful because she is a caring and gifted teacher who has worked hard to establish positive relationships with her students. She also followed several important guidelines:
1. Less is more.
The base reading was clean, minimal and right on point for the level of her class. Every student was able to understand it.
Then, she added just enough detail to each succeeding reading that students were interested to discover more without being discouraged by the length or difficulty.
She also kept the reading to three versions: perfect for the reading level and the amount of time that these second-year students can stay focused.
2. Variety is the key.
Andrea added a variety of items to the new levels. Some words and phrases were short and highly familiar. Others were more complex or contained less familiar vocabulary. Information/language was added to the beginning and middle of each level, as well as to the end.
She made sure that each student had contributed to the final piece by taking at least one word, phrase or idea from each student. (This isn’t as challenging as it seems…..)
The students approached each level differently. There were verbal questions for one, illustrations for another, discussion for the third. This is KEY to keeping students from feeling like they are doing the same thing over and over again.
3. Teach For Success
Because Andrea had already laid a foundation for success with steps 1 and 2 above, she could approach the lesson with an extremely positive outlook. This attitude spilled over into her students. Because she had worked hard to create an atmosphere of trust, they were willing to address material that was progressively more challenging.
It doesn’t mean that the readings didn’t require advanced skills. It doesn’t mean that some pieces weren’t challenging. It means that despite increasing difficulty, the scaffolding created the opportunity for students to be highly successful and they believed that they could be.
4. Open Doors for Students to Connect with the Text.
Obviously, being able to comprehend the text is the first, best way to connect students with what they are reading. Without that, nothing else happens!!
This particular exercise allowed students to contribute as authors. That is the beauty of creating a “Bottom Up” reading. As authors, they are infinitely more interested in reading.
Even if the students had not authored the text, they had numerous opportunities to interact with the text on a personal level. The story was a continuation of one that they were already familiar with. The location, some details, and more importantly, the characters were familiar. By illustrating, they were able to create their own visualization of the story.
They also made a number of observations about the piece that Andrea allowed them to “own” for themselves. Their discovery of a story within a story made them feel as if they had uncovered a surprise created for them by their teacher. After that, every new detail was like a new little gift that she had arranged just for them to unwrap.
Four simple guidelines that, when followed, help all of us to create and use Embedded Readings successfully with our students.
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