“Talking to the Text”
What is talking to the text? Simply stated, it is must having a conversation with the text. Giving your thoughts right back to the words on the page. Leaving your thoughts, ideas, questions, comments, and light bulb moments all over the passage. This is very similar to text annotations and is an integral part of teaching those close reading strategies.
By making notes about their thinking as they are reading, students make their thinking visible to themselves and then have written notes to discuss later with a partner or the whole class. Many students feel safer and better prepared to discuss texts and their reading process after having had time to record their thoughts on paper. I explain the importance of talking to the text to my middle and high school students by using the following real life example (this is the dialogue I give to my students):
“When I went to college, I believed that I KNEW EVERYTHING! I was a good student-in my opinion- and I knew how to study for tests. I believed I was a good reader as well! I felt that I had all of the skills to be successful in that first semester at college. I was determined to do well; I went to all of my classes and read all of the required material. (Trust me, you will want to do this and so much more.)”
I hold up one of my college textbooks...
“In college, the professor will often assign several chapters a week, and then test you several weeks or even months later on all of the material you read. It sounds overwhelming, but I knew I had it covered. As I read, I highlighted all of the important information! I was ready for this test! Then, the day for the test came near. I sat down to study all of my highlighted material (thinking I was so smart to do so) and then I realized…”
Open the book that shows the pages that are mostly highlighted…
“…that I had highlighted nearly the entire section of text. So, as I sat down to study, I found myself rereading ALL OF THE ASSIGNED PAGES! I knew then that I had to learn a new method of reading and annotating very quickly if I wanted to survive college!”
For this, I did use an old Chemistry book that I had from college, but any old college textbook from Half-Priced Books will do. Simply highlight some pages (A LOT) and you are ready to teach this lesson!
- I find that a document camera works best for this process. Most schools will have at least one available for checkout if you do not have your own. I display a copy of a poem under the document camera. I use the “Old Man” poem by Ricardo Sanchez- you can grab this poem in the links at the bottom of the post. I also make sure that each student has a copy of the poem.
- Explain that talking to the text is simply a written think aloud that follows the voice in our heads while we read. By practicing talking to the text, students will get in the habit of talking to the text in their heads—something that good readers do to help them stay interested in the text and solve problems in understanding.
- At the projector or document camera, model thinking aloud, marking the text as you go with underlines, arrows, questions, comments, thoughts, insights, etc. Stop after the first stanza. Ask students to reflect on your annotations. Ask them to reflect on your thought process/think aloud. Complete a think-pair-share with students on their reflections.
- Ask students to try ‘talking to the text’ with the next stanza.
- Have partners share their text annotations with one another, and discuss how they worked to understand the text and how they cleared up any reading roadblocks.
- Invite volunteers to share with the class some of their ‘talking to the text’ annotations. Ask them to explain:
o What did you write down?
o What questions did you ask?
o Where you able to answer your own questions at any point?
o How did that help your reading?
o How did talking with a partner help?
- As students share their annotations, note them on your document (under the document camera) and label them-if you can- “visualizing, predicting, asking questions” etc.
- Continue modeling with the remaining stanza, focusing on building strategies and skills with text annotations in the areas that your students seemed confused on- or did not address enough.
- At the close of the lesson, I will explain that it is through these text annotations that I survived college! By writing down key ideas, facts, details, questions, understandings, etc. I was able to study much more quickly for the tests!
After the Lesson:
1. Have students practice further with short reading passages. (I have provided several in my Close Reading Strategies Unit- or in the Close Reading Passages FREEBIE!) I like to have students complete this text with a partner, and they can draft their ‘talking to the text’ annotations together. Then I ask students to share their thoughts back with the class so we can discuss this further!
2. Continue to scaffold this process, releasing responsibility with longer, more challenging texts. Throughout the entire school year, I can be heard telling my students to fill up the page with their thoughts as they read.
Read on to my next article to find out how I use close reading strategies with novels, textbooks, or any text that cannot be written on by students as they “Talk to the Text!”
Click on the images to learn more about each unit!