Last week, I did a book introduction and orientation to launch Pink and Say by Patricia Polocco with six of my students. Not only does the Civil War content of the book overlap with our study of people in social studies, but it is also a text that has deep meaning on a variety of levels. These kinds of rich, culturally responsive texts are exactly what we want in the hands our our kids as often as possible. Then give them the chance to flag their thoughts and discuss the text with one another and the experience becomes even more powerful. I have goosebumps just typing about it.
Today I met with students to facilitate their discussion of the first half of the book. I gave students a purpose for reading prior to our first meeting and that was for them to flag examples of loyalty and to write a response (using their flagged thoughts as their guide) in their Thoughtful Logs. What's great is that other than calling the group together at our side table with their materials (Pink and Say text and Thoughtful Logs) and saying, "Let's start our LDG by focusing on our theme of loyalty. Who would like to start the discussion?" - I really had to do nothing more. The group ran itself, and I could sit back and take anecdotal notes on the kinds of contributions my students made with one another about the text. Although the discussion started on the topic of loyalty, it opened doors for the kids to talk about a variety of inferences, wonderings, and connections on a variety of topics and levels. What's great is that students were problem-solving together, and I just got to take notes and smile.
After about 10 minutes of discussion, I finally had to stop the group because I was convinced they would have talked for another half hour had I let them. I had never been so happy to hear moans of disappointment from my students in my whole life! :) It was my turn to briefly introduce the second half of the book, locate a few potential problem areas, and establish their purpose for reading. This time, I wanted students to flag some of the challenges Pink and Say went through both individually and as a pair. You'll see in the picture below, I put a post-it on the inside back cover of each student's book. Our district calls this a 'common focus flag'. It reminds students what to flag for (that will lead our discussion later on). Because it's on the inside back cover, the focus flag never gets lost on a page. It just stares kids in the face the whole time to ensure students have a common focus for reading (in addition to their other thoughts). This post-it below reminds kids to 1.) flag challenges they find in the text (goal = find at least 3), 2. Write a two paragraph response in their Thoughtful Log after they've finished reading that includes a one-paragraph summary and one-paragraph about the challenges Pink and Say faced.
Here is another student's flagged text. On the left is her own flag for a challenge she discovered while reading. On the right, you can see the 'common focus flag' I stuck in the inside back cover of each student's book to remind them of their task/s.