Sunday, April 1, 2012

Testing Genre: Make a Reading Plan

Standardized tests combine many different genres. Knowing the characteristics of each genre will enable the student to adjust their thinking and approach to each new passage. So, at the start of this unit, I teach my students how to do this - deciding between fiction and non-fiction, in order to make a plan for reading. See the chart below.

I teach my kiddos how to SKIM and SCAN, as I use the passage, Two Goats on a Mountain to show “clues” that reveal the genre of this passage.  In the beginning I just want students to think of the two general genres, fiction and non-fiction – for the purpose of keeping things simple. 

I show my kiddos how quickly I can look for quotation marks, indicating dialogue, as a major clue that the text is fictional. I do point out how quotation marks are used in non-fiction, to show words or word phrases that are meant to gain more attention - not as commonly used however in text appropriate for 3rd graders. Nevertheless, I do tell them to determine if the quotes are for dialogue; if yes, the passage is most likely fiction.
Certain genres of fiction passages begin with some similar words or phrases:
once upon a time,
long ago,
in land far away,
once there lived,
many years ago,
in a far off place...

Lastly, I have my students consider the character. If it is an animal, I ask them to decide if what is happening in the text would really happen in real life, at their home or at a zoo. My students would say that animals do think and try to find solutions to problems (i.e. trying to find food to solve a hunger pain) - of course this is more instinct that thinking. However, I point out that animals do not have conversational thoughts.

Here is a photo of my copy of Two Goats on a Mountain.  Notice the writing on the left margin.  I do this with my students on the smart board and tell them it's call Text Coding.  This has a double purpose. First, if the key info. is listed in the margin, it won't take as long to identify what part of the text to find answers to questions pertaining to those elements.  Second, it keeps kids thinking about their reading since they are actively engaged making judgments and writing.

I will add more to this blog topic as I continue teaching this unit.  I hope some of this will be beneficial to you as well.

Share your test-taking preparation ideas in the comment section below.   

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