Embedded Readings

This is the fourth activity write-up for Wooly Week 2019, go read that post to find out what other amazing activities we tried in our class over the past two weeks.

Let me just start with telling you how much I love embedded reading. I adore it. I love starting off with something so easy the kids almost write it off, but making sure they understand every part. I love how confident they are when we go into the second reading, and they are just ready to barrel through it. I absolutely love how they are always stunned by the last version, being so much longer than the others, but then they read it and master it so simply. In my opinion no other activity makes success as transparent as embedded readings. I also have come to appreciate the straight up translation aspect of this, which I shied away from initially. Although I like the way I do my embedded readings, I went all in and followed the instructions provided with the readings for Wooly Week. While five readings were provided at each level, the instructions (and my standard practices) only use three.

How I used to teach with embedded reading:

  1. Project the shortest version of the story. Add pictures to express the meaning, and use motions (TPR) to introduce any words that might be new. (As the readings from Sr. Wooly generally have five versions for each level, I sometimes start my second years on the second version.)
  2. Move to the middle version of the story. For my first year students this is the second version, for my second year students this is usually the third of five versions. Highlight the new text, add pictures, read with TPR actions and enthusiasm.
  3. Move to the longest version. For first years, this is generally the third version, second year will be fourth or fifth. Basically repeat step 2.

My new favorite way:

  1. Project the simplest version being read. Read it out loud, sentence by sentence, stopping after every period to have the students tell you in English what the sentence meant. If they stumble on anything then draw pictures, TPR, whatever to get the idea right. Then, do it again to make sure everyone is tracking properly.
  2. Move to the middle version, but this time pass out printed versions. (I gave each pair of students a copy with all three versions on it.) Have students read in pairs twice: the first read student A reads in Spanish while student B repeats in English, then student B reads in Spanish while student A repeats in English. Travel around to ensure that translations are accurate and students are on task.
  3. Have pairs pair up to form teams of four. Student A reads the first sentence of the hardest version in Spanish then chooses student B. Student B reads the first sentence in English, the second sentence in Spanish and chooses student C. Student C reads the second sentence in English, the third sentence in Spanish and chooses student D. This continues until the story is read and translated in it’s entirety. You travel around making sure that every team is using every member in its rotations and that they are tracking correctly.

If I had additional time, I would ask the students to illustrate a 4-square retell in their groups. This would reinforce their general language requirement of learning how to summarize, while also adding in pictures for students who are less engaged by text. But, as we had never done it this way before, we did not have that kind of time. Having done it both ways, and needing them to recall the information the next day, I can say confidently that they retained more of the story this way than my way. Plus, they were so engaged at every stage. I also like how the individual cognitive demand increased by level as well. It wasn’t just what they had to read that got harder, it was how they had to complete the task. The illustrated wrap-up seems logical to me, and we will probably try to do it in the future because now they know how the activity works.

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