Sunday, November 14, 2010

Probable Passage

This is a graphic organizer that I had never seen before, and was really reluctant to try. It seemed too easy on the surface, way too teacher directed; as a reader I resented the sheet for not allowing me to just get on with it and begin reading, and for requiring me to interact with my fellow students in a group.

However, once I tried it I could really see how it forced me to interact with the text MUCH more deeply. So I am passing it along.

Probable Passage templates are available online for both fiction and nonfiction texts, pdf and word doc.

Directions for Probable Passage:
Read the words provided and then decide where to place each on this page. Words you don't know should be placed in the "Unknown Words" box. Once you have placed all the words, write a brief statement that explains what you think the selection will be about. We will do the "To Discover" section together.

I should point out that once you have placed a word in a box, you are not allowed to place it in another box. For example, "boy" can't be both a problem and a character.

This is done in a group of 4 children. The point of it is to create discussion.

The boxes are Characters, Setting, Problem, Outcomes and Unknown Words.

You don't tell the children the name of the text or anything about it. Choose 10-15 words and write them on the board. If kids need extra scaffolding, you can write common names with a lowercase letter and start your proper nouns with a capital letter, otherwise, make them all start with uppercase or all start with lowercase. If there's a main character, don't put their name, put the common noun for them (like teacher). Here are the words we were given.

Jagged ivory bones
Sounds of sorrow

Within the group we were to discuss which words we thought would go in which boxes. Then silently, each person write a sentence stating what they think the piece will be about. Finally, you talk as a group about specifically what you want to discover as you read (not just "I want to know what happens" but "What causes the sounds of sorrow").

Then you read it.

The poem was "Forgive My Guilt" by Robert P. Tristram Coffin. And I can say from experience that the act of reading it was more intense because I had just finished this long discussion about the text -- before I had ever encountered it!

When you have kids share their words, write them up on the board in two colors of chalk (or on your smartboard with two colors of marker). Blue, for example, means most people put the word in that box. Green might mean not a lot put it there. So everyone's ideas are up there but you can see what direction the majority was heading in. We had a discussion in my group about whether Sins were Problem or Outcomes. Quicksilver... Character? Plovers.... Character or Setting? It was a very interesting exercise. Finally, you can ask the children (after reading it), where do you think the author would have placed these words? Which gets kids thinking from the author's point of view.

At the end of it, they taught us how to write a SWBS statement. SWBS is a kind of summary statement. It provides kids with a structure, however, instead of someone just saying, give me one sentence that tells me what happened in the story.


For example....

The boy wanted to rescue the plovers and help them heal but they swam away so he lives with the guilt to this day and wrote the poem as part of asking for forgiveness and perhaps to share his experience with others.

This scaffold for writing a summary provides for point of view, character, plot, conflict, and resolution. All in one sentence. To do this you have to reread the text. Working with someone to do this gets children talking about what they read -- the second best way to improve comprehension.

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