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Incremental Comprehension

Description 

Through this activity, students focus intently on the craft and meaning of a relatively short piece of text.  They read through the text multiple times, each time focusing on a larger unit of language.  This close reading process helps students to develop a rich appreciation of the craft behind writing, and the way in which multiple levels of writing work together to create meaning

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Metacognition
  • Synthesizing

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers

Preparation 

  • Identify the text or portion of a text that you want students to read.  You should select something relatively short, that is fairly challenging, and that is well-written.  Decide text features you want students to look for at the word, phrase, sentence and paragraph levels
Activity Steps 
  1. Teacher briefly review the concept of close reading. Teacher models setting up 2-column notes, and models reading from a short text and creating entries in 2-column note format.
    It can be helpful to model using a familiar text, or else a text that precedes or that is related to the one the students will be reading. 
    Think aloud as you are modeling, and explicitly explain how the word(s) that you read spark your thought or observation.
    For the 2 column notes, put the interesting word(s) from the text in the left column,  and briefly put what you are noticing/thinking about this quotation in the right column.
  2. Students read the text once all the way through, and try to get a general gist of meaning, and generally engage with the content.
    Students can read alone or in pairs.
    As students are reading, circulate among them, briefly checking in and asking them what they are noticing and thinking.
  3. Students set up note pages with 2-column notes. They label the first page “Words.” Students read the text a second time, this time looking for interesting and notable words in the text. Students circle the words they find in the text. Students write t
    You may want to provide students will ideas for ways in which words may be significant.  For example:
    Do certain words reappear frequently?
    Are certain words associated with particular characters?
    Do any words surprise you?  Is their use novel or unexpected?
    Do any words seem to capture big ideas in the text?
    Does the sound of any words reflect meaning in the text?
    Do any words strongly evoke particular emotions?
    Are words used figuratively?   
    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially interesting words, and asking what they are noticing. 
  4. Students label the second page of 2-column notes “Phrases.” Students read through the text a third time, this time looking for phrases or clauses that are notable or important. Students underline the phrases in the text. They record these quotations in
    You may want to provide students will ideas for ways in which phrases may be significant.  For example:
    Do certain phrases reappear frequently?
    Are certain phrases associated with particular characters?
    Do any phrases surprise you?  Is their use novel or unexpected?  Do they combine words in an unexpected or interesting way?
    Do any phrases seem to capture big ideas in the text?
    Does the sound of any phrases reflect meaning in the text?
    Do any phrases strongly evoke particular emotions or ideas?
    Are there uses of figurative language?  Similes or metaphors? 
    Do phrases reflect wordplay?  Alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyming, puns?  
    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially interesting phrases, and asking what they are noticing. 
  5. Students label the third page of notes “Lines.” They reread the text again, this time looking for important sentences. Students highlight important sentences, and then write them in the left column of their note pages. Students record their responses t
    Encourage students to identify both single sentences and sets of sentences, but not entire paragraphs at this point. 
    You may want to provide students will ideas for ways in which sentences may be significant.  For example:
    Do any lines reappear or repeat?
    Are certain lines associated with particular characters?
    Do any sentences surprise you?  Is their use novel or unexpected?  Do they combine words in an unexpected or interesting way?
    Which sentences capture big ideas in the text?
    Does the sound of any sentence reflect meaning in the text?
    Do any sentences strongly evoke particular emotions or ideas?
    Do any sentences use figurative language in a particular way?
    Do any sentences reflect wordplay? :Alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyming, puns?  
    Do sentences use an interesting or unusual structure/syntax?
    Do any sentences use words in an uncommon or interesting way?
    Does the structure of any sentence reflect meaning?
    Does the sound or rhythm of a sentence reflect or create meaning?
    Circulate as students are working, helping to draw their attention toward potentially interesting phrases, and asking what they are noticing. 
  6. Students label the last page of notes either “Paragraphs” (for prose) or “Stanzas” (for poetry). Students reread the text again, this time looking for entire paragraphs or stanzas that are particularly important or interesting.
    This step is optional, and depends on the length of the text you are using.  This is appropriate for longer texts in which entire paragraphs or stanzas might be particularly important.
    Usually, it is appropriate to identify just 1 or 2 stanzas/paragraphs as particularly important.  These stanzas/paragraphs generally express the big ideas  of the text, or narrate a key event/turning point/realization. 
  7. Students get into pairs, and share some of the words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that they identified in the text. Students discuss the meaning of the text.

    Circulate as students are working, sitting with each pair for several minutes.  Listen to their ideas, and help them to consider ideas they may not yet have considered. 

  8. Students reflect on their learning alone or individually, orally or in writing.

    Students should respond to questions including:

    • How does this process help you to understand the meaning of a text? 
    • What is the value of rereading?
    • How does the form of a text contribute to its meaning?
    •  When might this activity be most useful for you?  When would it not be helpful?
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