In teaching this unit, I start with a pre-reading/writing activity for each text. The previewing activity, also known as a warm-up, is an essential strategy to motivate my students. The choice of effective strategies is the key point of the entire unit. Research says the level of motivation students bring to a task impacts whether and how they will use comprehension strategies. Reading for a reason and creating an environment rich in high-quality texts are equally important. Sometimes an oral preview of stories, which are then turned into discussions and predictions, increases the story comprehension, and a creative variation of the preview by having the students compose a narrative based on key words from the upcoming story triggers a deeper comprehension
Consequently, I use two different activities: a Quick Write activity at the very beginning of the unit and the "Tea Party" strategy (see the details in Lesson Plans) before the reading of each written document, when addressing my weakest students who may be in a regular class. The Tea Party strategy encourages an active participation with the text. This pre-reading strategy allows students to predict what they think will happen in the text while inferring, comparing and contrasting, seeing casual relationships, and using their prior knowledge. It is extremely effective with unmotivated and/or struggling readers
, and it is excellent to achieve the formal-operational stage.
Throughout the unit modeling and scaffolding are recurrent as well as writing prompts. Following both Piaget's and Vygotsky's theories (the details are at the end of the unit), I extensively use Class Discussion, Questioning, Comparing and Contrasting either to move the students from the concrete-operational stage to the formal-operational one, or to bring them to the nearest zone of proximal learning. Actually, I find the Class Discussion strategy, which I usually call Sharing Time, very beneficial because many of my students refrain from saying what they think. In order to overcome their resistance, I usually present this strategy as a celebratory time, in which we share whatever we have done or whatever we think without being or becoming judgmental. It generally works very well because it develops ownership in learning, and it moves the concrete-operational students to the formal-operational stage.