Text Breakdown for the Throw Down!

I have a long "To Do" list, but linking with Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit for her Thursday Throw Down is definitely on the top - and way above mowing the backyard.
One of the things that I have been working on is not a product for my TpT store (but if you feel compelled to go over and buy something, go ahead, because this girl needs a gardener:).  Instead, it is something that is a little time consuming, but I believe it will be worth it in the end.

My students are struggling readers.  "Grade-level" textbooks are torture for them.  What the GATE students next door zip through, my boo-boo babies slog through as if they were mired in quicksand.

For example, my kids go for the "obvious" because they feel lost with all of the big words on the page.  This section of our text kills them every year!  I took the liberty of highlighting the words and phrases that my kids would have no idea about or words that are not used in the context they are used to...and you can see why they struggle.

".....Motivated by a desire for trade, the people of Phoenicia became expert sailors. They built one of the world’s finest harbors at the city of Tyre. Fleets of fast Phoenician trading ships sailed to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea.....The Phoenicians’ most important achievement, however, wasn’t a trade good. To record their activities, Phoenician traders developed one of the world’s first alphabets (Holt, p78)."

In an effort to streamline, Holt clumped the bit about trade on the Mediterranean Sea in the paragraph with a transition into the next section about the ALPHABET.  Your students might zip right past that transition and into the next section, not my kids.  In the chapter summary, the "clumping" is even more obvious, and in an effort to be "interactive" they placed a question asking about the Phoenicians greatest achievement to the side.  Well, Mediterranean Sea is in bold print, so that must be the answer.  Seriously!

So, I have started making my own "Interactive" readings for my students.  I have tried to anticipate which words or phrases might trip them up, and have chunk-ed the text with room for them to write.
We spend so much time teaching them to "mark up" what they are reading, then they cannot do it in their textbooks.  And yes, I know they could use sticky notes, but that gets expensive.   I could just give up and let them listen to the audio, do the quizzes together (and we have resorted to that in the past), but the reality is that they will have to deal with "grade level" textbooks and passages for quite a few more years (God willing and the river don't rise...please let them graduate!).  They need to learn to break it down into chunks, and I can help with that:).

It may seem like a lot of work, time, and paper, but I don't think so.  Consider the time and frustration saved from going back over the textbook, again and again.  These will take the place of any worksheet in the grade book, and will be much more meaningful.  These two pages will take us about two days, or three.
Plus, thanks to my mother's insistence on taking typing, I can "type" pretty fast.  And yes, we are just starting Mesopotamia...this is a real class, with real struggling kidsWe spend our days reading, reading, reading, doing math, doing more math, and when we have time...a little Social Studies.  Hopefully, this will help us get caught up a little too.  I would really like to get to Greece this year.  I seem to remember that there is a section about Rome too...I am Spartacus!


  1. Oh WOW! What a big task. You are very brave to do all of that and very sweet to help your struggling readers. Kudos to you!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. I'm not entirely sure what this said about my students, but they REALLY struggled with the texts when I chunked it for them. I honestly confused students by breaking it up because they thought they were reading independent passages. No... I'm not kidding. For them, I would give them the regular text and then draw in footnotes, which coincided with a worksheet for their answers (kinda like what we see in the Teacher's Edition). I'm still not sure why this was so hard for them!

  3. We do this CONSTANTLY. Definitely weekly but usually more than once a week. Sometimes, we only break down a portion of what we're reading, but we continually break them down.
    :) Erin
    I'm Lovin' Lit

  4. What a great teacher you are Susan! Taking the time to really break it down for your students so they feel success! I hope they know how lucky they are! I can definitely see why they'd get confused on that passage-so many multi-syllabic words that are foreign to them! Happy New Year!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  5. Thanks for sharing, Susan. It's neat to read about what others do for content area reading. :)