In my last post, I showed you a variety of ways that Science Reading Passages could be used for teaching. This week, I want to focus on how to use them for small group interventions. Before we get started, I think it’s important that you know why small groups work best. They’re personal, customized, and extremely focused.
Students are held accountable when they’re in small groups because they feel important in this intimate setting with their teachers and peers. If you aren’t doing small groups yet, I encourage you to continue reading and give it a try.
When I taught third grade, I created 61 science reading passages so that I could squeeze in science with my ELA standards. It worked. One of my most favorite ways to use science reading passages was in small groups.
Here’s how I used the science reading passages in small groups.
Before we read anything, I would look through the passage for 5 – 6 science vocabulary words. I would write these words on index cards and have them displayed for the students to see. As we would discuss each word, I would illustrate the word and model using it in a sentence. Sometimes, I would ask my students to model using it in a sentence depending on how familiar they were with the word.
Doing this helped my English language learners by teaching them new words, and it helped my English speaking students to put the word in context. These are cognitive academic learning proficiency (CALP) words that are seen in specific content areas. In summary, this activity closed gaps and helped all my students start reading with the same prior knowledge.
After learning vocabulary, I would explicitly teach the reading comprehension strategy. I do this by telling a short, relatable, story and then model. It doesn’t take anymore than 2 minutes. I might say for example:
“I’m trying to learn how to make slime. I have all the ingredients, but I don’t have a clue how to do it. I tried mixing everything together all at once, but that didn’t work. I got food coloring all over my hands. So, I had to break it down in steps. Sometimes, the author does the same thing when writing. They break down the topic in steps so that you can easily understand it.” Today as we’re reading, I want you to ask yourself, what happens first, second, and third? When you notice this, I want you to write a 1, 2, 3 like this (model it).”
Following the mini-lesson, I let my students independently read the passage. I may call on a student or two to read it to me so that I can take a quick running record and give feedback or coaching. I’m also constantly checking to see that all my students are using the strategy mentioned from the mini-lesson.
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Once we’ve completed the reading, we talk together about what we learned. An easy discussion starter is a 3 – 2 – 1. I ask the group to give me three things they learned, two things they thought were interesting, and one question they still have. I write this on a simple whiteboard and display it for the students. Again, this supports student understanding. Next, students complete the comprehension questions independently.
At last, I have students write or draw the summary of what they learned on the back of the reading comprehension paper. This allows me to assess their thinking and understanding. Now, do you think you could use this as a science grade?
BONUS: Find examples of phonics rules or grammar rules in the text. Sometimes, you need a mentor text to teach your students specific grammar or writing techniques. If you have extra time, teach the grammar or writing technique and have your students highlight these from the text.