Thursday, October 10, 2013

Check Marks to "Stop and Check-In"

Me:  You just read this page.  Can you tell me a little about what you know?
Student: Ummmmm. . . . (Insert wait time here.)
Me:  I know you were really interested in reading this book when you chose it.  Who did you read about on this page?
(Insert more wait time.)
Student:  A boy? (Yes, answered as a question.)
Me:  Hmmm, can you tell me a bit about the boy? What was he doing?
Student: Ummmmm. . . . 
(Insert lots more wait time here to be followed by 
major prompting that led to more answers phrased as questions.)

And, this would be why we revisited the "Stop and Check-In" strategy yet again! I find that my friends (reluctant readers) have a habit of reading straight through without really stopping to check comprehension. This led me back to revisiting the Stop and Check-In strategy.  

It is always amusing to me that I really have to explain why this strategy is so important for reading. In explaining it, I try to find a way to make it relatable to them so it isn't just another thing a teacher tells them they should do when reading.  I asked my friends to imagine that they had broken their favorite game system. They take it to be repaired, but the two repairmen have never fixed one before.  So, they promise they will read up on it and learn how to fix it.  One repair man reads the book but doesn't really understand what he's reading.  He decides to just keep reading and hope he understands at the end.  The other repair man stops every couple of pages to make sure he understands what he read.  Only when he thinks he understands does he keep reading.  The next day, both offer to fix your game system.  Who do you want to fix it?

Without fail, every single student wants the man who stopped and checked-in while he was reading to fix their game system.  When I ask why they tell me all the wonderful reasons that make this strategy so helpful to them  He will remember what he read.  He understands what he read, so he will know how to fix it better.  The other guy will mess it up because he didn't understand anything.  From there, it is so easy for them to connect how this same strategy helps them as readers and test takers. I sort of hate that I have to even mention the latter, but it seems to be our reality these days.

To make the strategy more concrete, I made check marks using two basic questions as found in The Cafe BookWho did I just read about? What just happened? Two short and sweet basic questions that force them to self-monitor and check for comprehension. Here's a link to their Ready Reference Form that explains the strategy in-depth. 

The Cafe sisters had a parent make balsa wood check marks, but seriously? How many of us can do that?!! I don't think I would even want that.  Mine were made using clip art and text boxes.  I just printed them on card stock and laminated them.  The laminating turned out to be especially important.  One of my poor friends has been a sneezing, snuffling, nose-drippy mess all week and my check mark was certainly not spared! I actually took the laminated check mark to the bathroom to wash before using it with the next group! Here's to hoping my little friend is feeling better soon. 

I modeled the strategy with a friend first.  Then, when it came time to practice, we used one of our reading selections in which we marked stopping points.  Then, I paired up each student.  Student A read aloud to student B.  When they reached the stopping point, student B would hold up their check mark and say, "Stop and Check-In!"  Student A would then briefly retell by answering those two questions.  Student B had to listen to make sure student A didn't leave anything important out or misinterpret what was read. If that happened, they helped out. They would then switch roles for the next section of text.

I'm well aware that I'm not sharing anything new here. Many others have blogged about it before this. The strategy has certainly been around forever, but it is well worth mentioning as it is so very effective.  I think that the physical action of holding up the check mark and saying, "Stop and Check-In!" aloud was especially helpful to my friends.  It helped to cement the idea in their minds. 

We then used the strategy independently the next day with their independent reading books which had sticky notes placed at strategic stopping points.  They did a quick jot on the sticky to stop and check-in when they got to that point.  A quick and easy way to assess how well they are using the strategy.

Unfortunately I can't share the bookmark I made because it wasn't until after I made, printed, and laminated them that I saw the check mark had a very, very, very faint watermark.  But, I did search for some that you might like.
If none of these work for you, it really couldn't be easier to make your own. You could even draw one on card stock using colored Sharpies.  Quick and easy!

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