Using Highlighters to Find Text Evidence

When Common Core came along, it became much more important to answer text dependent questions in first grade.  I immediately started trying out the best, most developmentally appropriate ways to do this with first graders.  Many ideas were blah and not so great.  But a few stuck.  Maybe it’s because I like color coding, or maybe it’s because first graders like using anything that’s not a No. 2 pencil…But either way it was highlighters for the win with text dependent questions!

Here’s a look at how I use reading passages in reading small groups to help first graders answer text dependent questions.

Why Text Dependent Passages in First Grade?

As a general rule, I start using reading passages once a week in small reading groups around January.  I use them with any groups beginning to move past decoding just CVC words. 

Part of my reasoning for this January routine change is because of state testing that comes in April.  First grade is the first year for that in our state and I want my kiddos to be familiar with the format.  The other reason (and especially the reason I start them earlier with my higher groups) is to show diversity in texts.  We can read fiction and non-fiction, but we can also read passages (like magazine or newspaper articles in the real world) or recipes, or poems.  It’s important to me that my first graders don’t “box in” what reading looks like.

What Does A Passage Routine Look Like For Guided Reading?

When I first introduce passages in guided reading, I model it.  I show them what it looks like for me to silently read the passage.  This is familiar to them because we do close readings throughout the year as a whole group (read details about close reading in first grade here.)  During a close read, students must circle sight words they see during the first read.  During a passage reading in guided reading groups, I tell my first graders that they can read and circle sight words or just read for comprehension.

After modeling this once, they are usually ready to go!  The next time they come to guided reading for passages, they have their passages set out at the table and know to sit down and immediately start reading.  If they finish reading early, they read over the questions and answers quietly while they are waiting.  No one answers any questions yet…I don’t even let them have pencils or highlighters yet! 😉  They can also go back and reread the passage.  But they are to quietly read the entire time.  Depending on the passage length and level of my kids, I may give up to 5 minutes for this.

Once we are finished reading, we go over the questions together.  Most of them should have had time to read over the questions, but now we are ready to answer.  We read the questions together.  I will tell them after we read the question if “the proof is in the passage” on this one or not.  If it is a text dependent question, we highlight the question number in green.  Yes, I always go in stoplight order…green – yellow – red.  Call me crazy, call me OCD, that’s just how I roll! 🙂  Then I ask them to put their finger on the part of the passage that proves the answer.  Once we agree on the answer and the proof, we highlight the proof in green–the same color we highlighted the question in and fill in the bubble with our pencil.

So, ideally, when we are finished, we can look back and see all of the “proof in the passage” and which question that evidence answered, just by our color coding.

Yes, you can do this with crayons, but highlighters are just like magic.  I’m talking immediate engagement.  You would think those things inked pure gold!

As my groups get confident with this, I may start to gradually release the responsibility to them by having them answer the first question and highlight the proof on their own.  And then 2 questions.  And then 3… But honestly, I don’t really even consider making this completely independent until they are at least on a level I/J (dra 16/18) and have had lots of practice with text dependent questions.  Let’s face it…this is hard stuff we are asking 6 and 7 year old babies to do.  And while they can rise to the challenge, I believe that letting go of our support too soon can hurt many kiddos.  (Side note: the week before state tests, I do make all of my groups try this on their own and then we go over it… just because of state testing realities. #boo)

How Do You Differentiate Text Dependent Passages?

In my Rock That Read passages resource, you will notice that I have 3 levels for every passage.  That is to give access to a range of kids in our first grade classrooms who need practice with text dependent questions.  Before I made my own, I was always frustrated with finding passages on multiple levels for my firsties.  And as a BONUS, these passages each have 3 levels and the same questions (for the most part) …which means I can use these whole group as a close read and go over the comprehension questions together.  The content is the same…the reading level is differentiated!  It also means, I could pull a multi-level guided reading group for my kids that need extra practice on comprehension and we could focus on comprehension skills without having to worry about finding a text that everyone can read!

Want to try a sample for FREE first?  Go download the freebie here!

All of the passages from this blog post came from my Patriotic Rock That Read Passages Resource.  You can also get the entire year 20% off in my Rock That Read Bundle!

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