Engaging reluctant or reserved readers by helping them share their ideas about class texts

by Holly Bloodworth

Grades K-2


Sometimes we think we’re including everyone but we’re not. I noticed that when I was working with the whole class, it seemed as if I was really succeeding in getting a range of participation from the students. It wasn’t until I started working with smaller groups, and especially my struggling readers, that I realized that in fact, many students were not participating at all.

I started looking for strategies that would engage everyone and moreover, require everyone to take part. But before deploying them it’s important to first, get to know all of the kids in your classroom; and second, model your thinking for struggling readers so that they see good reading practice at work.

Then, the two strategies that I use to get everyone engaged are:

-A discussion web where you pose a question and then with a partner, brainstorm ways that they agree and disagree without forming an opinion; then one group repeats the same process with another group to build an even larger matrix of ideas; and

-Sketch-to-Stretch, where students produce a representation of the meaning or central idea of a shared text, then hold up the picture to the rest of the class so that they can try to determine what the student is conveying.

Both of these strategies work well with children who may be shy or reluctant to participate for whatever reason. They enable all students to be successful, resulting in deepened comprehension.


What I did well…

I felt the lesson went well.  I thought it was upbeat, and conveyed my enthusiasm for teaching literacy and reading.  I was inspired by the deep level of thinking and conversation that was happening between the participants.  It was encouraging to hear the teachers making connections to their own classrooms.  I heard one teacher say, “I am going to use this tomorrow!”  After the lesson many of the participants told me they would use all three of the strategies.  The organizers I used were helpful and guided the learners in the use of the strategies.  I used a variety of texts and set the learning up with a shared book experience.  This worked well because we could all discuss the same text.

What I would do more of or differently…

There are several things I would do if I were to do this lesson again.  I think I tried to do too much.  The discussion was very rich around the discussion web strategy and the Sketch to stretch.  I think by trying to do both of those in the first part of the demonstration I short changed them.  I also feel that modeling the use of the discussion web organizer would be helpful.  I think I would use a different question and model the process of keeping both sides of the organizer balanced without coming to a conclusion too fast.  I felt like a rushed discussion, and at times talked on top of some comments.  For the Pop-up Information section, I would start with a real video from the 80’s .  It would be an interesting way to begin that lesson, and make it more memorable.

It would also be good to add samples of student work to this presentation.  I think that would help teachers make connections to their own classrooms.

I still want to grow this practice by…

I would love to find a way to add more technology to the pop-up information strategy.

I would also like to collect more examples at various grade levels of the different strategies.  It would be great for teachers to be able to see and hear children engaged in the discussions fostered by each strategy.


About Holly Bloodworth

Holly Bloodworth is a National Board Certified Teacher and the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. She has taught primary students at Murray Element...

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