A Little Background
At one point during my career, I tutored 5th grade. When I tutored 5th grade, I realized that many of the students that I tutored lacked basic skills in referencing the text to support their beliefs. It was like pulling needles and threads to get them in the habit of referencing the text to support their ideas and thoughts. When I posed a question, they would pretty much give me something off the top of their heads. In most instances their answers or thoughts pertaining to the passage were incorrect. It’s kind of like they were picking answers out of a hat. I mean, answers that had nothing to do with what I asked or what we were even talking about. I was a bit shocked, to say the least. It was also very frustrating. Granted, some of their inabilities may have stemmed from lack of interest because of the super long and boring passages, but it was evident they had no strategies for completing the task at hand. I began teaching them strategies using super easy passages that incorporated text-dependent questions in order to build their confidence and to show them steps in referencing the text.
After seeing this at the upper level, it prompted me to be proactive in 1st grade. I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to create a step-by-step approach in implementing textual evidence in my small group routine. I began searching for short, leveled passages that I could use to introduce explicit text evidence (students find the answers right in the text). I could not find what I was looking for. I also wanted passages that only focused on drawing conclusions from the text using inferences, clues, and hints from the passage (inferential text evidence). I was not able to find passages that addressed both topics in a way that would be appealing to my group of students and also would also be effective in teaching them the needed skill. When I started Text Evidence for Beginners, the intent was to address this skill for the K-2 grade level in a fun and meaningful way.
The passages needed to be short enough so that students would not lose interest or focus before they got to the “meat” of the lesson. In planning and approach, I knew there had to be lots of modeling and a good introduction to the types of evidence we can find in a text. I must say that when I started to use Text Evidence for Beginners, it made a world of difference in the way the students looked at the text. Now, every time we have a test or we read a story, it’s like a light bulb goes off in their heads. They immediately start circling, underling, or highlighting evidence for the answers they selected. So, here is how I got them looking back.
Use passages that your students can actually read. I know this seems obvious, but it must be said. Reading above the students’ instructional level will frustrate them. They will probably give up before they even begin. They certainly will not enjoy reading and probably will cringe every time they have to attempt it. We all want our students to get to that level where they are reading like rock stars and where they are high readers, but the foundation has to be built before they can get there. You may even want to start out with a passage below their level to kind of “get their feet wet” and build confidence.
You want to grab the attention of your students. Please, please, please…enough with the boring, long, drawn-out stories. I get bored myself as a teacher sitting through our reading circle, reading stories that have very little substance or interest. For introductory purposes and for the purpose of building a strong foundation in reading, the passages need to be short, interesting, and to the point for K-2. For example: When I start with a reading that talks about “chicken legs” or a “bug in my bun,” my students can immediately relate and are more inclined to read. Granted, this will not always be the case. As they grow and progress, yes, the passages become longer, more challenging, and possibly boring, but let’s put our best foot out there and give them a good start in reading. I always get them with an incentive to use colored pencils and crayons to color and highlighters to highlight new vocabulary.
Make them accountable for what they are learning, and monitor their progress. Create a sense of accountability. Whenever you read together, challenge them with questions, and tap into their critical thinking skills. Assess with weekly reading passages, and don’t let them hand it in until they have underlined, circled, or colored in the support for their claim within the text. What we are really wanting them to do is practice and get into the habit of doing these procedures that will help them become successful, critically thinking readers. The procedure is so important, especially as they continue on through the grade levels. We know with our different high-stakes testing they will be challenged. So, they need as much practice as they can get until it sort of becomes second nature.
I use regular folders to organize each seasonal set of text evidence passages.
If you would like to try “Text Evidence for Beginners,” you can check out this freebie and the many other text evidence starter passages from my store, Mrs. Kadeen Teaches.
Kadeen is a 1st grade teacher from Florida. She loves teaching, blogging, and creating fun and useful resources for teachers. When she’s not teaching, you can find her blogging, working on a new project, or hanging out with family and friends. You can learn more about her ideas and tools through her Teachers Pay Teachers store and her blog.