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Text Talk and Nonfiction Summary

For those of you keeping count, I'm on the eve of yet another snow day. The Weather Channel is predicting 8 to 12 inches and the number keeps climbing. Don't forget..... spring is on Wednesday!!!!
Last week I had one of those weeks where I'm just so happy I am a teacher. I launched one of my favorite units on the foreign affairs of America under the first five presidents and again, the kids loved it. To better align myself to state standards, last year I started organizing my curriculum thematically as opposed to chronologically and it has really freed me up to accomplish the things kids really need to be successful. To help me organize myself, I first started to to use the History Alive! Series from TCI. I had the old resources from a teachers pack ( they actually don't offer the plans I use in the newest textbook and resources) and they do a great job of organizing these problems by giving students the information and then asking what they would do if the were the president. The unit focuses on Adams and the XYZ Affair, Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates, Madison and the War of 1812 and Monroe and the Monroe Doctrine. The activites have the kiddos working in groups to negotiate to make a decision much like the presidents. I would totally share the unit with everyone but I use the History Alive! Reading so that would probably be not so legal. This is my second year doing this unit and I have totally gutted it and reworked it to really make it my own. One of the things I need to do, to make the unit run smoothly, is to have students do the background reading at home. I assign the reading daily and have them do a "quick text map" (i.e. circle the names, highlight the vocabulary and box places). I was really trying to think of the best way to have kids come in the next class and summarize what they have read. If you have taught middle school for any length of time, you know that means that one great and ambitious kids summarizes while twenty five kids space out. My last snow day journeys on the Teaching Channel led me to this.

I loooooved the idea of "Text Talk" and knew that I had to modify it for my age group and as a first time activity at an age where they already feel self conscious. I would have loved for them to sit on the floor because I really do think that the desks sometimes create a wall, but my floors are dirty and my kiddos are too cool for school.
I came up with the "Non Negotiables". I went through the text and found the keywords.
I explained the idea of a "Non Negotiable" with the kids and I explained that in order to summarize the sections they had been working on, the HAD to use these words or the summary was incomplete. These were the Non Negotiables. I would show them the words and then put one minute on the timer. Each group was to discuss the summary with the non negotiables. I then took volunteers to give an oral summary. The volunteer received bonus tickets (the currency I use in my class to bribe children) And their groups also received bonus because they were integral to the process.
This was a success! I heard amazing conversations from my kids on how to find the connections between these lists of singular words. I saw a lot of kids use various annotation techniques to mark up their reading for these words. I will definitely add this as part of my repertoire and I am really excited because it is the perfect lead in to an activity called "Keep It or Junk It".

I had planned on using this activity in my class as soon as it made sense and unwittingly I had created the perfect tie in with the non negotiables. My next step will be to have them create the non negotiables and use the Keep It or Junk It activity to come up with the best list of words.
Do you have any great reading techniques for middle schoolers?


  1. Your posts are great! I teach Middle School Literacy and have been able to take several of your ideas and put them to use in my classroom. I get so excited when I see a new post! Keep them coming!

  2. Awwwwww..... You are so sweet! Thanks for the love! After teaching, my favorite thing is sharing so this blog makes me giddy when I think other people might find something they can use. If I get another snow day tomorrow, I'm pitting up another post so stay tuned!

  3. So you have a lengthy article and you want to learn how to summarize your article in an effective manner. You can write a summary in just five minutes. summarizer


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