Joy Kirr is a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. Her 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of their learning experiences... Want to have her speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is Joy's PORTFOLIO.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Close Reading using Paraphrasing

At a curriculum planning day today in our district, I thought I'd reblog my paraphrasing activity from last year's class blog to this current one... So this is re-blogged from February of 2013 of my "old" class blog...

Since we will be doing more of this particular close-reading activity throughout the year, it was time to blog about it, as it has "success" written all over it...

This week, we read a NewYorkTimes article about the teenage brain to accompany Phineas Gage and get us ready for The Outsiders. We read it aloud first, discussed any questions students had, and then tried a couple of close-reading activities. One of the activities we completed was a seemingly simple paraphrase of one sentence. We took the following sentence:

     "These (studies) show that the brain systems providing for impulse control are still maturing during adolescence."

Students looked at this sentence for a minute, then they were asked to put this sentence into their own words.  After a few minutes, I collected a few samples, and put them on the board, under the original sentence.

One class looked like this:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1                                             2                                              3                                         4
closest to the 
author's meaning

     "These (studies) show that the brain systems providing for impulse control are still maturing during adolescence."

A = During adolescence, your brain is still maturing and the way 
       you react during adolescence will not be the same reaction 
       as an adult.
B = During maturing of the brain, impulse control isn't developed.
C = Teens aren't fully developed when it comes to making social 
       decisions.
D = These studies show why teenagers are impulsive.

What did we do with these? Looking at one answer at a time, students took turns discussing where they would place it on the line and explain why. Students listened to each other, commented on each other's comments, along with adding their own, and we came up with a number range for each one that they were satisfied with. By the time we reached the fourth response, "D", students were demonstrating deep understanding of the original sentence. They knew which parts were the most important ("impulse control," and "still maturing during adolescence"), and they had strong discussions about the true meaning of the words "impulse" and "adolescence." Some expressed that their brains hurt when we were finished. Mission accomplished...


We did this as a class today, and will be doing this again as a class, in small groups, and students will also rate their own words on a similar scale.

This activity was adapted from Wireless Generation's lessons on The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. We use Wireless Generation / Writers' Express as a writing curriculum, which closely aligns with the Common Core Standards.

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