"Reading is Thinking" - A Carousel Activity

This is one of my all-time favorite activities to do with my students!  It's a "Reading is Thinking" carousel activity and students love it. ("Carousel" because students are moving in a circular pattern from, in this case,  poster to poster.) I like to save this one for the end of the year, you know...when testing is done, summer is looming over our shoulders and the kids are going a bit stir crazy.  The best part about this activity... it's SILENT!

This past year I worked with 5th and 6th graders, but I've also done this with third and fourth graders. This is what you'll need... short poems or book excerpts of varying levels, each one taped to a large piece of light colored construction paper, chart paper, marker(s) and various colored pens or pencils.

Chart paper, poems and excerpts taped onto large construction paper, colored pens
Here is how it goes...  In a whole group setting (I always pull them to the carpet), I explain that reading is more than just reading the words on the page, reading is THINKING!  When we are engaged with the text and thinking about the text, that is when we are truly reading.  Some things that readers do while reading are (list a couple of strategies) ask questions & make predictions. I then ask them to think about other things readers think about as they read.  As students share their thoughts, I jot them down on the chart paper. Writing down their thoughts allows them to SEE the various strategies. It also sets them up with ideas about what they can be thinking about during the reading portion of the activity, as well as serves as a reference. (This part of the activity supports your struggling readers, and it sets them up for success.)

Next I explain the activity. I show them an example of a poem. I tell them that they will be going around the room with a small group to each poem or excerpt. When they get to the poem they are to read it silently (read it twice if you want/need to), then they will jot down their thinking anywhere on the piece of construction paper. They can ask a question, make a connection, describe or "quick sketch" a visualization, make a prediction, describe a character trait, etc.  BUT, they MUST do it silently!  There is absolutely zero talking during this activity, only reading and thinking. ;)

I choose texts that I believe my students will enjoy, relate to and/or find interesting. Wonder, the higher level text, was a read-aloud book in our class this year, so even though the text is high for some, they've listened to it being read aloud.
Then, I count them off so that no more than 4 students are at a poster. I had 24 students, so I made 6 posters. Students count off 1 - 6.  I tell the class, "Remember your number, because I won't!"  I then walk around the room placing the posters as I go. As I lay down each poster in a different part of the room I explain, "This is poster #1." Then I walk a few steps and lay down the next poster... "This is poster 2." Once all 6 posters are laid around the room I tell them that all of the number ones will start at poster #1. All of the number twos will start at poster 2." Etc. "You'll have a couple of minutes at each poster. Don't move though until I give the signal. When I give the signal you will move with your group to the next numbered poster. For example, if you start at poster 3 you will move next to poster 4. If you start at poster 6, you will move next to poster 1. Once you have finished writing on the poster, you will wait quietly. Remember, there is no talking, and you must wait for my signal to move on to the next poster. You may go to your first poster now!"

I must say, every year that I do this activity, the kids really enjoy it. They are so engaged and so focused on their thinking!  I LOVE it! 

The colored pens... a few years ago I started giving each student a colored pen so that when I am walking around, observing their thinking, I can simply see the color pen a student has and find his/her thinking pretty quickly.  Also, several years ago, before the colored pens, there was an inappropriate comment written, so with the colored pens, that has not been an issue. I can easily spot who wrote what;)

Choosing poems... In this year's class I had students at the beginning stages of learning English and students reading well above grade level, with every level sprinkled in between.  I choose a variety of poems and book excerpts so that there was something that spoke to everyone. I also think that when my lower readers see what their classmates are thinking about, it helps them gain a better understanding of the text and the process; it serves as a great model.

As the students are reading and thinking, I am walking around reading their "thinking" comments. I engage with them minimally, but I do like to give them praise about their thinking as they go along. For my beginning English language learners, I do not read the text to them, but I may tell them that this poem is about the beach and ask, "What do you think about the beach?" "Have you been to a beach?" "How did it make you feel?" 

Once everyone has made it through each poster I pull the students back to the carpet for a quick 3-4 minute reflection.  I ask them to share some of their thinking about the various texts. The kids always have great thoughts. If I see some comments that really show deep thinking on a poster, I will share it with the group also.

I hope that you get the chance to do this activity with your students. I think it'll become one of your favorites as well. Even though this would be appropriate anytime of the year, I really like saving this one for the end of the year. If you are able to do this with your students, I'd love to hear how it goes!

Note...As an ESOL teacher who pushes in & co-teaches with classroom teachers, I am extremely fortunate in that I am able to watch and learn from so many amazing teachers.  I first saw this activity done in a 4th grade classroom that I supported. The awesome teacher who first shared this with me was Miss Privateer. I want to thank her for this one. It's a goody, and every year since then my students have enjoyed doing it, so thank you Miss P!!

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