Independent Reading: Personal History Project

If you visited my classroom on the Friday of EduCon, you saw students working on the final version of this project — aka peer editing their Prezis.

That was the tail end of a two-phase project, where students first had to write detailed annotations of their current independent reading book, as well as a few scenes of their “reading history.” Then, we used Prezi, a dynamic presentation program, to style the material.

The goal was to link together some of the close reading they were already doing in their weekly reading trackers, as well as tap into their own triumphs and struggles with reading over time.

Posted below is the (lengthy) project instructions. Students were not responsible for every prompt — the idea was to give them many springboards for their own thinking. I will post some final projects and reflections on the process in my next post.

Personal Reading HIstory

Reading is something we do all the time — so much so, that we rarely really think about how and why we read.

Your task with this benchmark is to take a close look at your reading — the personal history behind your readership, and also your skills as reader today.

Notice what you read and why those were the choices you made.

Here are the pieces to the benchmark:

1. Three Scenes from your Personal Reading History

First, it is your job to go into the past and share three scenes from your development as a reader. These stories can be stories of triumph or struggle–and should probably be some combination of both. Here are some prompts to help you identify important scenes from your life:

– When do you first remember reading? How did it feel?
– What’s the first book you read? Why was that important to you?
– How is reading treated in your house? Does your approach to reading “match” what your family does?
– How is reading treated by your friends? Does your approach to reading “match” what they do?
– How do you feel about reading in school? Is there a teacher who was made reading amazing, or awful? How did they do that?
– How do you feel about choosing a book vs. assigned reading? How have these options influenced your reading in school vs. in your free time?
– How do you feel compared to other readers? (As a teacher, I don’t want you to compare yourself to anybody, but I know this happens.)
– Have you ever been labeled a “struggling” reader? How about an “advanced” reader? What did this do to your reading?
– What’s the last book that you read that you enjoyed? What’s been going on with your reading since then?
– What do you read in secret? Why has that been a secret (until now)?
– Any other key moments where you saw a development or shift in your mindset about reading.

2. Eight Annotations for your Independent Reading Book

Next, it is your job to illustrate your current skills as a reader by describing what your brain does while you read. Pick a few pages from a book you’ve read during the Independent Reading Unit, and create written annotations in eight different ways. Annotations could be as short as a couple of sentences, or as long as a couple of paragraphs, or even a drawing or visual annotation — it depends on what you’re writing about. It just needs to be thorough, and that means explaining WHY this annotation is relevant to understanding the book.

Here’s a PARTIAL list of what you could annotate:

o   Identify and apply the meaning of new vocabulary.
What does that new word mean, how did you figure it out? Why is this word relevant to the book?

o   Identify and apply word recognition skills
What unusual word did you already know, and how did you know it? Why is this  word relevant to the book?

o   Make inferences and conclusions about what’s happening in the text
Refer to the text on the page, previous parts of the book, and your own knowledge. How do you know what you know?

o   Identify and explain main ideas and relevant details
What’s going on in the book? Why does it matter?

o   Identify, describe, and analyze genre of text
What qualifies this book as historical fiction, fantasy, mystery, politics, how-to, etc.? Has to be more than just the title!

o   Interpret, compare, describe, analyze, and evaluate components of fiction and literary nonfiction For example: Character, Setting, Plot, Theme, Tone, Symbol, Mood, Symbolism. More types available on the literary devices website.

o   Make connections between texts.

What books, movies, TV shows, other texts relate to this book? How does that enrich your understanding?

o   Identify, interpret, describe, and analyze figurative language and literary structures in fiction and nonfiction: For Example: Personification, Simile, Metaphor, Hyperbole, Satire, Imagery, Foreshadow, Flashback, Irony.  More types available on the literary devices website.

o   Identify, interpret, describe, and analyze the point of view and effectiveness of the point of view used in the text.

First, second, or third person? Maybe a combination of both? How do you know, and how does it influence the reader?

o   Interpret, describe, and analyze the characteristics and uses of facts and opinions in the text.

If it’s fictional, you can analyze the feelings and opinions of the characters. If it’s non-fiction, focus on the text itself and what it’s presenting.

o   Identify, compare, explain, interpret, describe, and analyze how text organization influences the text.

Look at the structure of the chapters, each section, different categories, or other organizational methods. How do they help the reader understand what’s going on?

3. Concluding Reflection

Lastly, you will need some closing reflection on everything you have done. By doing this project, what deep understandings have you gained about your attitude and approach towards reading? What did you learn that you didn’t know before? And what skills do you need to work on in the future? Where do you think our reading history is going?

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5 thoughts on “Independent Reading: Personal History Project

  1. Dorothy Rice

    This is so impressive. It is thorough. It is engaging. How do you get the students to buy into this? How do you get them to merge process into a worthy product?

    Reply
  2. lpahomov Post author

    The short answer is that it builds off of skills we’ve been using all quarter, and they actually had fun learning to use Prezi — the novelty of something better than Powerpoint! I will be doing a write-up of how the project production went as well, so watch for that blog post soon.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Exploring Fiction | Manu Kurup

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