Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thinking Like a Thief...

Last week I asked my students to pretend they were robbing a house
(All in the name of improving reading comprehension of course!) Actually, it was part of a fantastic lesson from Chris Tovani's I Read It, But I Don't Get: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers.
  1. I gave my students a one-page reading selection called "The House" about two boys skipping school and going to one of the boy's houses. (The passage can be found on page 25 in the book.)
  2. I asked them to read it and underline with a pencil "the important details".   (How many times have they heard that?)
  3. Then......I asked them to read it again, but this time, use a highlighter to mark the parts that would be important if they were considering buying the house.
  4. Finally....they read it a third time and used a second color to highlight key information if they were going to rob the house.  
I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that my class cheered when I announced that!  I have never seen such thorough reading and attentive highlighting!  However, after we had some great laughs, we also had an eye-opening conversation about making sure the reason for our reading is clear. Students can see with color-coded examples how much difference having that clear purpose makes.
I also like this lesson because it tackles the "highlight everything" problem.  I used to avoid giving students highlighters (even though they love using them) because it seemed like they would just highlight EVERYTHING. And sure...I have a few who still fall back into that habit, but reminding them of this exercise helps nudge most of them toward more thoughtful interactions with the text and more precise note-taking.

Check out Tovani's book - it has tons of other quick lessons and activities - especially for those students who can be tough to connect to reading.


  1. What a great idea! This really helps students think about what is important-and how the things can change depending on the purpose for reading. Thanks for sharing!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  2. Love this idea! I'm sure your kiddos were just a little engaged during this lesson!

    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

  3. Oh, I wish that I would have know about this earlier. My kids just started reading a basal story where a thief is robbing a house. This would have been perfect!

    Fifth in the Middle

  4. You have given me another title that I am going to need to purchase and read. Sounds like an awesome activity... my kiddos would LOVE it!

  5. I did this same activity at a conference this summer and totally forgot about it! Such a good reminder of how important reading with purpouse really is. I will have to dig this one up and use it this week. I have a couple of kids that go a little highlighter crazy, too. Thanks so much for the reminder. :) Lattes and Laughter

  6. Love this idea! I'll have to remember it for next year before the highlighting craziness begins, lol. I'm definitely going to have to buy that book. I'm your newest follower!

    Teaching with a Touch of Twang

  7. I LOVE Cris Tovani-so real and practical! If I teach 6th grade reading(actually all subjects possibly) next year I'll definitely be using this strategy! :)

    I'm your newest follower!



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