After students practice reading like a writer to create anchor charts for elements of flash fiction,  it’s time to apply their learning to new texts.  Again, I like providing several text selections so students have choice, but this time, I give students a very brief text chat, a shorter version of a book talk, and let them come to the table and choose the story they want to read.  I am sure to include information on text complexity, such as a setting that flashes back and forth in time.  Sometimes this challenges students to try a more complex text; other times students choose a safe, easier text structure.  Regardless of their choices, all students hear information about text complexity in an authentic way, and over time, they start to articulate ways in which a text is complex, too.

As students settle in to their text selections, I instruct them to annotate for the elements on our class anchor chart. Some sample questions to focus their work might include the following:

  • Which elements are present in this new text?
  • How effectively does this author use each element in comparison to your previous text?
  • What new information do you notice with this text?

This is an excellent time to walk around with a clipboard and make notes of students who seem to be struggling or who have naïve misconceptions about the elements or structure of fiction.  During independent work time, I ask these students to join an invitational group to review and to shore up their understanding.

When they have finished reading and annotating, students discuss their findings with their table group. (If you have enough time, students could meet with other students who read the same text to discuss first. If the stories are good, students will want to talk about them!) They each share what they noticed with their new text, and as a group, they decide whether anything should be added, changed, or deleted from the anchor chart.

Why do I spend a whole extra class period reading a second text and continuing work on an anchor chart?

The first day students bring their schema to the task, and until they have time to discuss, they do not have new learning.   By the time they read the second text, most have added at least one or two new ideas or more complex ways of looking at structure to their schema, so their experience reading the second text is richer.  Some will hear the same information a second time, but their understanding of that information is clearer and potentially more nuanced.

In the next blog post, students deepen their understanding of these structural elements again as they begin to apply their learning in writing.