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6 Tips for Teaching Students To Respond to Text

In math, 1+1 equals 2 every time. The same is not true when students respond to texts. Why? Because everyone interprets a text differently even when you are in elementary school. One of the amazing and most frustrating things about reading questions is the answer is not always black and white. Every student’s ideas, thoughts, and experiences can impact the answer. So, how do you teach students to respond to the text? Follow these great five tips to get better responses from your students!

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Tip 1: Understand Question Types

When you are teaching reading response you’ll want to make sure you talk about the different types of questions there are. There are a few ways to talk about them but I like thin and thick. A thin question is a question that just scratches the surface of the texts. The answers to thin questions can be found in the text itself without having to think too hard, and therefore, is all about comprehension.

A thick question is more about digging deeper into the text asking the big question: why. Whenever you have to answer a thick question, you have to explain your answer with evidence from the text. Because of this, you can have great conversations about citing and use sentence starters to promote a good explanation. You can even use the different steps in literacy centers.

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Tip 2: Differentiate Passages to Help Students Respond to Text

Another big step when you’re talking about responding to a text is differentiating for your students. If you differentiate reading passages for your students, you are giving them a chance to practice asking both types of questions and therefore building their skills.

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If the text is too easy or too difficult, they will not be challenged or they will be so challenged they can’t learn. A great way to differentiate is to purposefully pair students together or to utilize your learning centers. You can also turn a writing workshop into a reading workshop.

Tip 3: Use Graphic Organizers for Responding to Text

If your students are really struggling with responding to text, you can always add graphic organizers to the mix to help them process through the texts.

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Graphic organizers can serve as reading response sheets to help students think through and have a better understanding of fictional and nonfiction texts. Not only can these texts be used in centers, but they can also be used if you are working with a distance learning situation.

Tip 4: Practice Close Reading

Close readings are vital to creating strong responses to text. Why? When you do a close reading, you are teaching important reading skills that help your students understand how to use comprehension strategies.

These comprehension strategies will help your students respond to texts more accurately when you start working on this skill. When you do close readings, introduce graphic organizers to your students to help them understand what you’re focusing on while you’re doing your close reading.

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Tip 5: Respond to Text with Guided Reading

If graphic organizers aren’t helping your students respond to text, you can always go through a guided reading practice with a close reading passage. When you do a guided reading activity, you are in charge and you are explicitly explaining your teaching.

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This can be effective when teaching text response because it shows the exact process to your students. You can differentiate by using learning centers with guided reading exercises as well.

BONUS Tip 6: Make Responding a Game

If your students are struggling with the idea that you can have more than one right answer, try a visual response game. This visual response game works like this.

  • First show a picture of anything.
  • Ask your students, “What is happening I this picture?”
  • As students answer, never say no and write their responses on the board.
  • The only rule in this game is everyone is right!

This game is very fun for students to play because they come up with several ideas. The more you agree or say, “I like that idea” the more students will offer up. This will translate into reading when you are talking about thick questions.

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Reading can be difficult for students. Responding to a text can be intimidating especially if there is more than one possible answer. Using these six great tips and resources, you can ensure your students will be reading and responding like pros.

Until Next Time…

Keep Being Educational Rockstars,

xoxo Farrah Henley

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