This year, I have been working on completing my reading endorsement. One of the suggested activities for us to look at to enhance discussion in the classroom are Think Dots. There are TONS of iterations of this all over the internet. This isn’t my original idea at all, but I liked it as a support for students to do critical thinking while they are working.
This is not my learner’s first brush with comparing texts, but in order to bring this concept to them, I needed to create some time to model. For fiction texts, we’ve used Freytag’s model to analyze the structure of the text. With non-fiction, the direction I’ve gone is to have students determine the main topic through analyzing the text features quickly and then supporting that with details from the text. We also touch on the author’s perspective vs. our own in this series of lessons. This plan is a combination of articles that a teammate provided and some articles from the IReady book that each of my students already have.
In order for this series of lessons to work, I would suggest choosing articles that immediately illicit an opinion from your learners. Articles around homework, hair cuts, uniforms, and video games will often get students thinking and talking readily! Survey your students early or even look at their reading preferences to get a conversation going around current events that are relevant for them.
Step 1: Read and annotate both texts yourself.
One of the ways that I am able to identify the types of strategies I used to make meaning from text is to do the activities I prescribe for my learners. For these two texts, I also provided them in the Google Classroom so that students who wanted to listen to the text as a support could do that. As I went through the text, I noticed that there were many opinions given from adults and not as many from kids.
This is a ‘noticing’ that I want to kids to consider as they think about bias. What does the author REALLY think. What do they want ME as the reader to be thinking. Can I honestly go along with everything said if there are significant voices missing from the dialog? I look forward to listening to their thinking around these texts! As I went through, I underlined the different opinions and then added them to my organizer. For some of my students, the organizer may be an additional step that is challenging, so, depending on how this goes, I may just make this an anchor chart so that they can SEE how the articles are similar and different.
Step Two: Create a Think Dots Question Sheet
Once I’ve read through the texts and I have an idea of the approach that students will need to take to make meaning, I make a Think Dots page to guide discussion. Need help with question stems? Use Bloom’s or Webb’s Taxonomy! I have two different versions of this document so that I can differentiate in my small groups. We have a foam die that the students roll and based on the face of the die, I ask a question and the student responds. My goal in a 15 minute rotation is that every student would get a chance to answer a question. Rolling the same number twice gives students an opportunity to answer the question with their own opinion, or to affirm something that they heard that they appreciated.
Step Three: Scaffold your instruction and add supports
My final step for lesson prep is to go ahead and lay out how I will break down the lesson over several days. The first thing I do is look at what my assessment will look like, to make sure that the questions support the thinking kids need to be doing. Then I chunk the activities. Which parts will they require partner support for? How am I gradually releasing to independence? What am I evaluating in the small group?
For this set of lessons, I know that many of my kids will accountability in demonstrating what they are thinking while they are reading. That accountability could come from marking the text, from completing a graphic organizer, or though monitoring comprehension with a peer while reading. In small group, my main focus is evaluating their thinking with the Think Dots tool. A lot of times, that looks like pulling out post-it notes and jotting down quick notes on how I want to break apart the lesson. I use the post-its to make my lesson plan. It makes it go a LOT quicker this way for me!
This is a pretty tricky standard, particularly for reluctant or striving readers. If you can engage your readers through your text selection? You’ll have much better longevity in the analysis.
I really enjoy using the Think Dots strategy for collaboration and accountability. I will be trying this again with other standards in the future, for sure!
If you’d like my graphic organizer and the articles that I found for this activity, click HERE to download. Of course, you’ll have to find some other supplemental articles to flesh out a unit, but you’ll have a head start!
What do you think about Think Dots?