Using Grids to Help Students Think Across Texts

by Diane Powell

Assistant Director and Primary Trainer, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

One of our goals in developing highly proficient readers is for them to connect one text to another and engage in the kind of analysis that deepens their understandings of a single text or collections of texts (text sets) such as texts in a particular genre, texts by the same author or  illustrator, or texts of the same topic. You might create a group grid with your students, filling in a section when you finish thinking and talking about a book together.  When you finish reading several books, you can create some summary statements of what you learned when you thought together across several texts.

Creating the Grid

Think about listing several titles across the top of the grid and several particular features to notice along the side of the grid. For example you might list Kevin Henkes’ titles such as Chrysanthemum, Lily’s Plastic Purse, and Julius, the Baby of the World and Wemberly Worried across the top and characters, setting, problem and solution along the side.  In this way your students can compare the problem, the character and the other features across texts and begin to notice more about the author’s craft.

Chrysanthemum

Lily’s Plastic Purse

Julius

Baby of the World

Wemberly Worried

Characters
Setting
Problem
Solution

Notice how the grid serves as an organizer for thinking that allows you to look across books and categories. You might vary the features to include categories such as interesting language or words or the writer’s message.

With students in the intermediate grades, consider grids that include more sophisticated categories that you have taught your students how to think about in a variety of books by authors such as Katherine Paterson, Jerry Spinelli, Gary Soto, Lois Lowry, Ralph Fletcher. You might include features such as: lead and ending, high point in the story, words that grab our attention, theme, passage of time, role of dialogue.

I hope you will try working with several texts and create a grid to expand your students’ ability to think across texts. Once you try out the tool, you will surely be able to use it in a variety of ways that you and your students will find interesting and powerful in deepening the understanding of texts.

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