Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

How to Practice Writing While Reading [Upper Elementary]

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

Prompting upper-elementary and middle school students to practice important strategies that involve inferential thinking is a great way to help them become better readers and writers. This can include learning new vocabulary and phrases, identifying points of view, tracing arguments, and evaluating claims that are proved by reason and evidence. In today's blog post, I'll explain how you can use the topic of paranormal activity to engage kids in reading and writing practice. There will also be questions that will help you self-assess your effectiveness of combining reading and writing practice.

The use of a writing journal can allow students to extend reading and speaking about narrative and nonfiction content in an engaging leveled book like The Paranormal. Narrative writing is emphasized, and students could write original narratives, or share personal experiences, as they write about the book’s topic.

Introducing an Engaging Book

After passing out copies of The Paranormal, ask if anyone sees a word they recognize inside the title. Have them write that word in their journals. Have them write about what normal means in their life. Then encourage students to read aloud some of their examples.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Talk to students about the prefix in paranormal. Have them underline the prefix para and explain that the prefix means unusual or abnormal. Have students open the book to the table of contents to look for unusual entries. Have them write two or three of these in their journals and label “not normal or proven” by each entry.

Activating Prior Knowledge

Share the importance of using what is already known or prior knowledge to motivate students to understand what they are reading. For example, have them write two or three questions about ghosts that they would like to have answered in their journals. When they've done this, compile a list of questions on the board for use as you start the next session. Prior knowledge and anticipated outcomes are essential to efficient readers.

Teaching Ideas for Sections in The Paranormal

Pages 10–11: Have students explain the meanings of medium with the glossary and force, both of which are words with multiple meanings, using prior knowledge.
Pages 12–15: Guide students to draw conclusions about each dowser by writing things they know about each item using prior knowledge. This could be a group or paired activity.
Pages 16–23: Draw upon new words and phrases that students may not be familiar with and encourage kids to make inferences based on images in the nonfiction book for kids. There is a map with labels that kids can use for support when answering questions too.
Pages 24–25: Understanding the feelings and emotions of characters in the narrative text portion of this book can be a fun way to engage students. Ask students to read the page orally with you and with an expression for the voices of each character. Then, have students study the woman's picture and write a sentence using the picture and the description of her in the story.
Pages 30–31: There are examples of figurative language, so you can have students copy what the woman told the family in their journals. Then you can have a discussion about possible meanings after students read this portion.


Questions That Assess Student Participation

  • Did most students work independently as they wrote? Did they work cooperatively with a partner?
  • How did they respond to you as you moved among them during writing time? Are you doing enough of this support help as you observe students?
  • Did most of the students participate in group discussions? Were most of them good listeners? What could you do to encourage better listening and oral language development?
  • Do your observations of the students during reading and writing reveal excitement or enjoyment? When was this the most obvious, and what might you do to create more of this classroom climate?

Questions for Teacher Evaluation

  • Did I use modeling, guided practice, and independent practice of important strategies? Did I see some growth in these areas? Are there strategies for which I need to provide more teacher guidance?
  • Did I provide writing activities of various lengths? Have I studied the writing samples to determine strengths and weaknesses?
  • Did I provide opportunities for students to do a silent reading after the introduction of this nonfiction leveled guided reading book? Did I also include oral reading to develop fluent reading practice? Did I demonstrate and encourage oral expression in reading that indicates an understanding of the characters’ emotions?
  • Did I suggest some extra reading from the ideas in the text? Are there books in my classroom library or online resources that might encourage more reading on the topic?

These are only a few ways to engage upper-elementary and middle school students with reading about an interesting topic during October. There are several other topics that engage striving readers within the Download Series because they all include narrative content that draws upon informational text within the same book. Be sure to visit our blog again soon for more tips to use with your students!

Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.