Quads, Pairs, Then Solo

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Oct
  • 24
  • 2006

We’re near the end of The Scarlet Letter and I realize, once again, that I take entirely too long with novels. This makes week 5 of the unit and we’ll likely keep these books for yet another week. It’s difficult to forge ahead with a novel, though, when only 5 students have read. And so I slow down and give people a chance to catch up. Some of them just need an excuse to even begin. In slowing down this time, I stumbled upon something that might work for you.

First Y’all Do It

In groups of 4, students read chapters 16 and 17 of the novel in class on Tuesday and Thursday. They took turns reading aloud and stopped at the end of each page. The person sitting to the left of whoever read worked up a summary of what just happened. The group then wrote that summary on their “TSL notes” page, a piece of paper I had students take out early in the novel to jot down ideas or questions or summaries. Secure with a summary of the events that just transpired, the person who summarized now reads a page.

Abstract – Person A reads one page out loud; person B summarizes that page; everyone writes the summary down. Then, person B reads one page out loud; person C summarizes that page; everyone writes the summary down. And on it goes, circling through the group of 4 (or whatever the size of the group). Before you know it, the chapter’s finished and everyone has a nice summary of each page in the chapter to look back on later.

Then Pairs Do It

Class on Friday saw students in pairs reading through chapter 18 in a similar fashion. This time, the catch was that they’d trade off at the paragraph, not writing, but discussing what happened in that paragraph. At the end of the page, that’s when they’d write a brief summary of events.

Abstract – Person 1 reads a paragraph; person 2 summarizes the main points and they talk about any questions or uncertainties. Person 2 reads a paragraph; person 1 summarizes the main points and they talk about any questions or uncertainties. At the end of a page, persons 1 and 2 decide on a short summary for that page and they both write that summary down in their notes. Each person gets a chance to read and to process the information by summarizing. Their discussion after each paragraph should go a long way toward comprehension of what was read and should build the tools each of them need in order to use this strategy when reading on their own.

Then You Do It

Homework for Monday night was to read chapter 19 and go through the same process of writing a short summary at the end of each page. Today, I stamped papers that were titled “Chapter 19 Notes” and that had at least 7 sentences since there are 7 pages in chapter 19 in my book.

Abstract – For homework, stop at the bottom of each page of reading to write a brief summary of what happened on that page. Notes from the previous days of reading should provide examples of what’s needed. Use the amount of pages in the teacher’s book to set a bare minimum of summary sentences just for consistency sake.

How’d It Go?

Listening in on conversations last week, I heard students asking questions, correctly summarizing what happened, and reading aloud in different voices for each character. A few students missed key points and next time I do this I’ll try to involve myself in the summaries a bit more just to clarify things, but for the most part was happy with students actually taking the time to attempt the journey through the rest of the novel. Maybe I need to hold their hand a bit more. And bouncing interpretations off their peers is a good way for many students to begin to struggle with the text.

Today was a test on chapters 17-19. Grading the questions from chapters 17 and 18, I was happy to see many correct answers. So maybe reading in class is the way to go about this.

After a quick glance at responses to the questions for chapter 19, I still have that nagging feeling that no one is reading at home. Wrong answers on the chapter assigned for homework and correct answers on the chapters we read in class. Hmmm…

These chapters in TSL present the largest amount of cliffhanger moments in the novel and I suspect that’s what kept them reading. But what if we went through the first 6-10 chapters this way? I wonder if that would have built up enough momentum to keep the ball rolling all the way through. And if we periodically at least began reading the latest chapter in class this way, maybe that’d encourage more people to read.


1. Ben says:

[10/25/2006 - 5:04 am]

That’s a tall order (trying to get kids to read on their own at home that is), but it sounds like you’ve done an excellent job of getting them to model ffor each other and read in class. I even struggled with that myself while reading The Scarlet Letter; I found myself spacing out from time to time during large group readings. I think the small groups is the key, putting a lot more responsibility on the students.

I know you’re probably too busy for this, but what about setting up a reading party at a local coffee shop or hangout over the weekend? You could meet the students at the library too, modelling a bookclub. Not sure if that sounds like too much, but it might be interesting to see how many were up for the idea.

2. Todd says:

[10/25/2006 - 10:07 am]

Tomorrow is another day to read in class, so I’ll think about it over the next 24. If anyone has any ideas, let me know here. It’s tedious to get through a novel like this, though. We only read 20 pages all last week.

I like the idea, even if I am too busy. 2:00 or 3:00 would probably work well and it sounds like Saturdays are the more commonly available day. I can’t do it this weekend, but maybe I can next weekend. We should be reading the last few chapters next weekend. I wonder how many would show up…

Small group size is certainly a key component. I just need to build a variety of ways those small groups can interact and still complete the reading, otherwise it’s repetitive.

3. Ben says:

[10/27/2006 - 5:18 pm]

Now that you mention it, the variety would be key. I really didn’t enjoy small group reading until I got to college and my literature courses required us to meet outside of class. Each time we met, another person was in charge of leading the group, so we had lots of different takes on how the discussion was led.

4. Todd says:

[11/4/2006 - 10:33 am]

I’m reminded of literature circles for this kind of thing. There are at least 4 different roles and those roles could constantly rotate through the group so everyone has a different thing to do each night. I do something similar with a novel my juniors read later in the year.

I ended up changing our group reading just slightly. For the last few chapters, they wrote down predictions instead of summaries. My thinking is that they need to summarize in their heads a bit before they are able to predict anything.

And now we’re to the point where those summaries and predictions can come in handy. They are writing about the book and having those things already written should help them keep a handle on what went on in the story. I want to see what I can do to make these summariez/predicitons useful during and after reading. That’s something I didn’t do this time around and I have no way of knowing whether or not they even helped students out (test scores went up on the final quiz, but I don’t think this stuff helped as much as I want to believe).