- PRE-LESSON DAY -- If the topic is one that the students would normally have some first hand knowledge about this step may not be necessary. But if it is an event in history, or a topic not normally in their background provide them with the topic, and say, "Tomorrow we will be discussing the Titanic." (or whatever the topic, spiders [a topic such as WWII is probably too broad as is a topic such as jungle animals] -- keep the topic narrow to the focus on the book that you all will be reading). "If you know anything about the Titanic make a mental list in your head; and tonight you might want to see what others in your household know about the Titanic." (I'm always careful NOT to say parents as many of my students do not have parents in the household - grandparents maybe, step parents, foster, etc.) "Don't tell me now but be ready for our discussion tomorrow."
- FIRST DAY OF LESSON - FIRST STEP: --Put up a large (very large) sheet of butcher paper (white board doesn't work well because this is something you want up over the next several days ALL the time). Have fat magic markers available and write large enough that the writing can be seen from the back of the room. Good idea to number the facts as you go and to keep them in a linear fashion [columns perhaps] rather than a hodge podge web type presentation) NOTE: if you have a picture of your FACT Chart I'd love to use it on a revision of this blog post.
(As students contribute -- condense their sentence into a phrase such as "The book sunk in the Atlantic Ocean" becomes "Sank-Atlantic Ocean." We are not teaching sentence writing here. We are gathering facts.)
You will be surprised at the multitude of facts that the students give you and eventually someone will say "no, that's not right." To which you respond. "Right now we are only gathering what we think are facts. Do you have a different idea of what the fact is?" (They might say something like "it sank in the Pacific Ocean" so now you put up "Sank-Pacific Ocean.") Gather as many facts as possible and exhaust every possibility.
- FIRST DAY OF LESSON - SECOND STEP: Take out a different colored marker and say, "Now we are going to go back through this list and see if we can figure out which ones are actual facts or which statements may be questionable." One by one go through the facts asking:
- Is this a fact that we all agree is actually a fact? (If it is mark with a star, if not put a ? in front of the statement.)
- If there is a fact that YOU think is questionable, press for a total commitment, and ask, "Do you think you could prove to me that this is a fact?"
- Any student who is especially adamant about a fact being right or wrong put his/her initials at the end of the statement.
- Be careful not to let one student dominate ... you know your students best.
FIRST DAY OF LESSON - THIRD STEP: Observe and comment regarding the facts that all accept, and those statements that are in question. Divide the class into groups - giving each member in the group a copy of the text you want them to read. Everyone could be given the same book; or each member of group 1 given the same book and the members of group 2 could be given another title on the same topic. Ask each group to read their books carefully - together, out-loud, independently -- however they wish. But in their reading they should be looking for information that proves or disproves one of the questionable facts. Give each group a pad of post-it notes so that students can mark their pages for later discussion. This is where the numbered facts come in -- student can just put the number of the fact on the post-it and use it as a book mark for the page where the information is located.
If you are not able to complete this entire lesson in one block of time - call a halt to the reading after giving enough time for the students to read/but not enough time that they have finished. Leave them eager to find out other facts. Make a transition to another activity or subject and promise more time tomorrow.
- SECOND DAY OF LESSON - FIRST STEP: Ask groups to reconvene and to reveal what they had discovered yesterday and give them 10-15 minutes more. At this point call the group back together for the discussion phase of the exercise.
- SECOND DAY OF LESSON - SECOND STEP: During this phase the total group will read each questionable statement and either disprove the fact or prove the fact by citing (and reading) convincing evidence from their book. Passages should be read from their source, passages that prove or disprove the statement. Make revisions to the statement as necessary and when it is finally accurate mark it appropriately.
As you go through the list, if the class is satisfied that the fact is correct a star (different color than from the original stars) should be added to the front of the fact. In the end you will have some statements that have not been proved or disproved. At this time, each group can choose facts for further reading and research. Using the library and credible sources on the internet (may be a good time to slip in a "What is a credible internet site?" lesson.) each group will research their statements in order to prove, disprove, or modify so the statement is accurate.
- THIRD DAY OF LESSON - FIRST STEP: Reconvene groups - research time. Students will need access to the library, computers for research in the library's databases etc.
- FOURTH DAY OF LESSON - FIRST STEP: Culminate by finishing up with the found facts. Make a new chart paper list of all the facts we know -- as you re-list the facts you might want to categorize them into groups/columns.
- FOURTH DAY OF LESSON - SECOND STEP: Recap and discuss what students found out about reading -- Did they find it helpful to use the index? table of contents? Did the section and chapter headings help them? Did they read the book from front to back?
Using the chart of information ask students to write an essay about the Titanic (perhaps with the goal of publishing the article in a periodical of historical events). Incorporate whatever lesson might be appropriate at the particular stage your students are at in terms of writing paragraphs, writing a hook (a sentence that interests others in the writing), and so forth. The categories you created with the list of facts should be able to help the writers group information together in their writing. Encourage members of the smaller groups to share particular elements of their writing -- perhaps sharing their hook sentences, their best paragraph, or their conclusion.
The Titanic Strategy for Motivating Informational Reading
This strategy works with every level of learner -- just adapt the topic, with appropriate books, for the specific group of learners you are working with. The technique can accommodate a class read, or small group reads. This could also be used as a read aloud / listening activity -- teacher read aloud the material (say the page number of each page before reading). As the listener hears something that might prove or disprove a statement they jot down the page number that the teacher is reading (I often just jot the page number I am reading on the white board -- changing it as I turn pages) and add the number of the fact that I think the page proves or disproves. A discussion is carried out much as it is done on the second day with listeners sharing the fact that they think they have been able to prove or disprove. The teacher then rereads the particular page identified by the student. Class listens for the appropriate information.