Friday, April 5, 2013

April 5 Crumble: Q-Charts

This week I have had an incredibly positive experience in our seventh grade reading intervention class as we began a biography project.  During one of our collaboration times, the idea came up of using some sort of questioning strategy to give students a purpose for their reading as they worked through a biography - many of them for the first time.  Ironically, while at the IRC convention, I had encountered the Q-Chart, and I wanted to give it a try.

CCSS expects our students to analyze craft and structure of selections of texts, and one of Project CRISS's Principles and Philosophy is Author's Craft, so I thought that combining those ideas with the Q-Chart would be a perfect way to hit a variety of essential skills at the same time. 

Here's how it can work:

  • Show students a piece of nonfiction text and ask them to preview it by coming up with ideas of how the author informs the reader.  Give a few examples, for example chapter titles, bulleted lists, etc.
  • Give students some time to look at the piece of text (we did it on the projector under a document camera).  Then allow students about thirty seconds to share a few ideas with at least one person in their area.  Monitor.
  • Do a popcorn response and have students quickly give one way that they saw the author inform the readers.
  • Demonstrate how to use the Q-chart and the cues from the author of the biography to write some questions. 
  • Use one word from the verticle and one from the horizontal and put them together to create a question.  I looked at pictures, captions, titles of chapters and bulleted lists, charts, graphs, and I wrote questions like "How did music keep the Jackson family safe?" based from a chapter title.  "When did Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie first meet?" came from a full-page photograph of the two together. 
  • Students should then be given a chance to help with asking a few together before set off to do their own.  Constant monitoring is important, and I will expain that below.
  • Once students finish writing their thirty-six questions, they are pretty amazed that they have written that much, and then their job becomes reading with their questions in mind.  (Stay tuned for next week's blog for a continuation of this process!)
In retrospect, I see a few changes that I will certainly make the next time I use the Q-Chart in this way.  The first change I will make is to establish some rules about question-writing. 
  1. Questions should be based on information students find in the book (based upon something they can cite if asked). 
  2. Only 2 questions should be written about one topic.
  3. Reading while writing questions should be minimal to start.
  4. More questions can be written once reading has begun.
  5. Q-Chart must be complete before reading can begin.
What happened with some of our students is that they took a topic and wrote six questions across, changing the wording slightly, and wrote the same question or variances six times.  Another problem we encountered is that some students looked for an easy way out, and they asked circumstantial questions like "What would so-and-so do if he broke his leg?".  Unless this question stemmed from a photo or an incident in the life of the person researched, there is no way the answer can be found and cited.  The question becomes irrelevant for research.  Finally, we had one student who looked at a page and got so into it that he's spent three periods on it and has little to show for the time he has spent reading.  Our fear is that he will continue this trend and not complete the project if he doesn't follow the steps.  He loves to read, but he chooses reading over completing work and practicing things that are difficult for him, such as writing. 

As our students move into engaged reading, we remind them to keep their Q-Charts on their desks or next to them as they read so that if they find answers or come up with more questions, they have it close.  Today was the first day some of them started reading, and its pretty neat to see them so actively engaged in reading a piece of non-fiction text!  What has also been interesting is the care that some students took in creating their questions and the thoughtfulness in their pre-reading.  Questions such as "Why was Devin Hester's junior year in college such a bad year for him?" and "Where did Michael Jackson learn how to do the moonwalk?" were asked.  Now those are great questions! 

I see the Q-Chart as being something that can be adapted to any fiction or non-fiction setting with a little tweaking.  Although I have seen only this same chart posted time after time after time, through a collaborative discussion we also considered changing some of the words across the top to fit the project.  One example of a change we will make next year is exchanging some of the verbs across the top with past tense verbs because this project focuses on life events that happened in the past.  I'm always up for tweaking things to make them fit the goal.

I'm looking forward to my continuous work with this group over the next few weeks and will keep you all updated on their progress!  Happy weekend, all!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so excited about this addition to this project. It helped the students expand their thinking and will really guide the reading and give it purpose. I think it will also help them take more ownership of their learning. Thanks for all of your help and guidance on this. I can't wait to make changes and try it again.