Reading is a puzzle: putting it all together!

I pull out three small groups of struggling students: third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Throughout the year, I’ve used a guided reading structure to work with students and  improve their decoding and comprehension. But in the last two weeks before the test, I decided to change it up and try out something different.

I took a Scholastic News article and I cut it all up! I cut up six sets of each article. I put each set in a paper bag and labeled the outside with the title and grade level.
It took much longer than I thought. I cut out each text feature, and separated them. For example, I cut the captions off of photos and I cut out the headings, subtitles, and title. I also cut each paragraph out separately.

This was my intent: I wanted students to reconstruct the whole article based on what they know about making meaning out of nonfiction text. The fourth graders I work with tend to move their eyes across the page and pretend to read when no one is prompting them. I wanted to focus on “making meaning” because I feel like this is the whole point to reading! 
We started out by putting the captions together with the photos and making decisions about what the title was and which were the headings. As we attacked the pieces, I charted out our strategy.
After we had the features connected and understood, we looked at the paragraphs. This was the tricky part. Kids had to read each paragraph and sort them under the heading they belonged to.

Then, we looked at each section and sequenced the paragraphs. This was great, because it spurred a real conversation and critical thought about the content of each paragraph and the relationship of the ideas in that paragraph to other paragraphs. 
For example, in the pictures below about feral cats, we decided that the paragraph that starts with “One of America’s…” was an introduction to the cat issue. The next paragraph expects the reader to have been introduced to the idea of “domestic cats” because it mentions it, but doesn’t explain much about it. It also uses this previously explained idea to explain the new term, “feral” cats, so the feral cat paragraph must come after the domestic cat paragraph. 

This strategy could also be great to support text structures, as students have to understand how ideas relate to each other to identify the text structures of cause-effect, sequencing, etc. I would probably use a shorter text, maybe a paragraph, and cut it apart by sentence to have students rebuild that. 
We enjoyed it. Have you done this with your kids? Do you think you might?

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