"I Can’t Remember or Understand What I Just Read!"
Here’s a teaching strategy to improve recall and overall comprehension of a text:
Begin by asking the students to visualize (imagine, picture) what they read in their heads as they read, stopping periodically to first, model what you are visualizing (“I’m picturing her face looking angry. It’s red and her fists are clenched…”). Ask the students what they are picturing. Stop after each part of the story (beginning, middle, end). At each stopping point, ask the students to verbalize the part (beg., mid., end) as they visualize it. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the story’s beginning, middle, and end. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. In the beginning, ___.)
The text can be read round robin style of reading with a small group or as a mini-lesson with the whole class.
Scaffold the approach by gradually releasing responsibility (i.e. allow the student to identify the beginning, middle and end, instead of explicitly stating it and determining it for students).
You can also use this approach with non-fiction. Vary the strategy by stopping after reading each section, and model what you visualized (i.e. “I pictured the frog in my head changing from an egg to a…”). Ask the students what they pictured. Then, have them draw what they visualized. After reading the whole text, ask students to use their drawings to retell the main idea and supporting details. Lastly, write a sentence or two next to each picture in order to produce a complete retelling. (Tip: For added support, give students sentence frames… i.e. Frogs change from ___.)
Check out my "See & Say" Reading Comprehension Strategy:
AND compatible graphic organizer for retellings...
Tip: I have my students complete retelling sheets after each book we read ...BUT... since paper is a hot commodity along with a teacher's time which can be saved from copying, I place my retelling sheets inside these pockets so I can have them for the ENTIRE school year... yes, you read that correctly!
Mentors serve as good examples of skills for our students. Teachers are mentors. Parents are mentors. Books are mentors. No, you did not read that incorrectly!
For centuries, we have been reading aloud to kids. These books serve as mentors for all types of skills.
Mentor texts entered educational lingo as a way to refer to the books that we read aloud to students as models for good writing. Today, we are learning to write non-fiction pieces. First, we will begin by looking at the way good non-fiction writers write by reading one of Gail Gibbons’ science texts! Later, we will practice writing as non-fiction writers. We will share and discuss our trials as we draft!
A few years ago mentor texts reinvigorated as a way to teach students reading skills too. Today, we will be learning about summarizing. We will begin by reading the text Where The Wild Things Are aloud. We will then summarize the story using a graphic organizer. We will do this as a whole group, and then, you will practice the skill using your independent reading books. After that, we will gather together as a group and summarize (no pun intended) what we learned while practicing our skill.
This sounds like an ideal lesson, right?! If I were looking to get observed, this may be the lesson plan I use, right?! Hmmm...but what about Tommy? There is no way he will sit for that long and only have 2 possible movement breaks! And what about Janey? She hates when I read aloud because she can’t sit still and always asks to use the bathroom during read alouds. And now that I think about it, there are always 3 of them that ask for a bathroom break whenever I read. Plus, these days I can only seem to hold their attention for less than five minutes?
Sound like every teacher in the world?
There are always those classes that cause you to let out an audible sigh at the end of every day as you flop your tired body and mind into your chair, only to become quickly overwhelmed by the stacks of to-do’s on your desk!
Today’s learners require a circus act to hold their attention. They have grown up with technology at their fingertips; a world that moves faster than any superhero they have ever known!
Visual mentor texts are a great tool for these learners! They provide a concise context for targeting literacy skills in the form of a visual mentor text which means they hold our students ATTENTION!
Visual Mentor Texts in READING…
You can teach all reading skills from inferencing to theme using Pixar short films.
For example, the Pixar Short Films For the Birds (2000) is a great visual mentor text to teach theme.
A large dopey bird who wants to join in with a group of smaller birds. When he sits on their wire, the smaller birds become angry, pecking the larger bird’s feet. He drops, causing the wire to slingshot. The large bird falls to the ground intact while the smaller birds land minus some feathers! What is the message (Trick: THE MEssage) or theme?
Want to teach the skill of inferencing? One Man Band (2005) is a Pixar Short Films that can be used to teach inferencing AND has the most adorable little girl.
Visual Mentor Texts in WRITING…
Commercials can be another form of visual texts. Watch "Unsung Hero" (Official HD) TVC Thai Life Insurance 2014. The commercial profiles a seemingly poor man who fills his life with good deeds, changing the lives of others and making him rich with happiness! Tell the unsung hero’s story!
AND use visual WORDLESS mentor texts in writing as prompts!
Use visual mentor texts in writing that are lacking a conclusion and write one!
Visual Mentor Texts in SCIENCE…
Use these animations in science! Watch a short and ask: how many simple machines did you notice? What would be impossible in real life?
Watch a portion of the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) to prompt a discussion about scientists or hypothesis!
Visual Mentor Texts in HISTORY…
Use visual mentor texts in history class. Relate the stories to concepts and people of our past to help make connections.
The Pixar Short Films La Luna (2011) tells the story of a young boy who reaches for the moon. He is unsure of the lead to follow - his father’s or his grandfather’s. The film demonstrates the theme of finding one’s own path and can be related to many great historical leaders (MLK, Amelia Earhart…) and movements (the Underground Railroad, colonization).
Visual Mentor Texts in SEL…
Social Emotional Learning has become a core curriculum for today’s classrooms. As a result, SEL needs to be explicitly taught in isolation AND infused across the curriculum.
Many of the Pixar Short Films examples I have shared have an SEL component.
For the Birds prompts a discussion around bullying, differences, following the crowd, and the list goes on.
One Man Band can incite a discussion around competition.
The perseverance of the main character in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs demonstrates grit!
La Luna is a great example of learning from the past.
Warning! This does NOT mean I want you to throw out your picture books! One of my favorite moments is watching a middle schooler melt into a pile of sweet innocence as a teacher reads aloud one of their childhood favorites!
However, there are those times, when you need a stronger strategy! Because unlike technology, teachers DO have superpowers!
By Miss Rae
Hi! I'm Miss Rae! I'm a Special Education Coordinator with a passion for creating research-based resources for DiVeRSe learners and helping teachers make their lives easier! #teacherrealtalk #missraesroom