After we complete our close read of a text (which, remember, might just be a portion of the text, I give the students a task, which is a more in-depth, text-centered question or activity for students to complete. I find that this might take students 15-30 minutes depending on focus, skill level (though often the more skilled students take longer), so I usually use this as a lead-in to my student’s independent work time. The important (and difficult) part of creating the task is that I try to make it accessible to ALL students. The way someone described this idea to me (though, admittedly, they were talking about math) was “multiple entry and exit points”.
Many of my tasks fall short of this, but I’m spending some time this summer coming up with tasks for different texts I know I want to use this next year. Here’s an example of a task that embodies this. We used this task after reading about the migration of loggerhead turtles:
Create a poster or brochure that could teach people what they could do to help save loggerhead turtles. Include details from the text as support.
Struggling readers will find that the text says people shouldn’t swim near the turtles and will use that as the basis of their poster. They accomplished the task, albeit at a very low level. Mid-level readers might pick up a couple more details, like how turtles lay eggs on the beach, and incorporate that into their poster as well, explaining that beach-goers should watch out for sea turtle nests and leave them alone. Your more advanced readers might draw conclusions from the details given about sea turtle migration and refer beach-goers to a website that tells when turtles are predicted to be at what beaches.
All of these students complete the task, and all of them are engaging with the text to draw conclusions and find support. Moreover, all of them are using and creating a cause and effect text structure to complete the task. All students have something to do that is exactly at their level (remember that the text is read aloud through the close reading process).
Generally speaking, the first day we read a text, the task will be pretty simplistic, focusing on a specific standard and usually at a pretty low level on blooms. I try to move the students towards higher levels of blooms as we continue working with the text. The rationale behind this is that the first read of the text (especially since this is usually a grade level text which is challenging for so many kids) is hard enough for the kids. As the kids read and reread (and remember I’m supporting this by reading aloud), they’re able to go deeper in their understanding, so stretching them to higher levels of blooms is more realistic.
When students begin their task, I begin pulling students for small groups. As they finish, they can begin their assigned independent work. Because of this, it is incredibly important that a task be something students can complete on their own. I frequently allow students to work in partners during tasks more for them to get their social needs met than anything else. If students aren’t responsible enough for this, they work on their own. This works for us… most of the time.