Text Marking Word Clouds For Visual Learners

By
Lisa Shumaker

Editor's note: Lisa Shumaker from St. Charles, Illinois, is one of our secret weapons at Storyworks Jr. She is not only tech-savvy, she is a remarkably gifted teacher. We think your students will love this super-simple but high-impact activity to practice main idea and supporting details. Please share how it works in your classroom this spring.

  • Lesson length: 4 Days
  • Grade: 3
  • Text: "How to Save a Baby Elephant" from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.
  • Technology: can be as high-tech or low-tech as you want it to be
  • Instruction type: Small group/independent/Partners

Day 1: Pre-Reading

Small group: Begin by introducing key vocabulary in small group by showing students the Vocabulary Slideshow. Have them hunt for the vocabulary words in the text and read them in context to a partner. Next, prompt students to pay close attention to the headline, subhead, and photos on pages 4-5. Ask students to make observations about the photos and draw upon their background knowledge to make predictions about the setting of the story. After that, read through the headings and have students pause to predict what  each section will be about. Finally, set a purpose for reading: “As you go back to your work spaces, listen to the story read aloud and think about how the photographs and images helped you to comprehend the story.”

Independent work: Students go back to their work spaces and complete the vocabulary organizer and watch the video read aloud as their first read.

Day 2: Active Reading

Partner work: In partners, have students complete a “second” read of the text. Have students use text marking to actively engage with the text. Here are the symbols my students use to text mark, courtesy of Upper Elementary Fun:

Set the purpose for reading: “Today as you read the text, use the text marking strategy to practice active reading to enhance your comprehension.” As they read, they should be answering the Pause and Think questions verbally with their partners to monitor comprehension. 

Day 3: Close Read

Small group: To check for comprehension and understanding, have students share their reactions to the text by giving an example of one place in the text they marked and why. Then, establish the purpose of today’s read: “Today when we read, we will be focusing on finding evidence that shows how humans can affect elephants.” Next, conduct a think-aloud by reading the first section of text. “I notice that the authors have used some pretty bold/powerful word choices to describe what poachers do and how they affect elephants.” Model highlighting some of those strong words in the text (ex: killed, illegally, dies, orphans). Inform students that these words help the reader to visualize the negative affect that poachers have on elephants. Have students read through the next section with a partner, reminding them that they are highlighting words that show how poachers affect elephants. Have students share out the words they highlighted.

Partner work: Send pairs of students back to their work spaces to read through the rest of the article highlighting the positive and negative affects humans can have on elephants.

Day 4: Skill Building

Small Group: Begin by setting the purpose for learning: "Today we are going to be working on finding the main idea of this article." Pass out the Main Idea Reading Kit to students. Have students read aloud the definition of main idea provided on the Reading Kit. Next, explain to students that they will be generating word clouds to help them visually represent the main idea of the text. Model for students how to create a word cloud using this website. Have students contribute to the creation of the word cloud by suggesting words that should be included. Below is an example from our lesson:

Lastly, as a small group, use the visual word cloud as an aid to fill in part of the Main Idea Reading Kit. 

Independent Work: Share the link with students so that they can create their own word cloud. Have students import the words they highlighted that show ways humans can positively affect elephants. Students can choose whatever symbol/shape for their word cloud that they feel best represents the main idea of their word cloud.

Have them use their word cloud to independently fill in the remainder of the Reading Kit.

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