ATL: Communication Skills – Read Critically and for Comprehension

So many things to teach and so little time!  The eternal dilemma when planning a unit. For the first unit of my English-Humanities MYP Year 1 class (Phases 4-5), we chose Read Critically and for Comprehension as the ATL skill to teach this unit. This is an incredibly broad skill, so deciding on what aspects to focus our efforts given the time available was no easy feat. In the end, we agreed that teaching the students how to be metacognitive about their reading was they way to go.

So, why metacognition, you say? Well, with our ATL skill being so broad, and this being the first unit of the year, we agreed that metacognition is the underlying process that allows the students to become effective and critical readers.  If students are not aware of their own thinking, how can they know when they are not comprehending? If the students are not making connections and being aware of how they are making meaning of what they are reading, how can they become critical readers?

Having agreed on our area of focus, I adapted some of the activities from Tanny Mcgregor’s book Comprehension Connections to introduce the students to the concept of metacognition and the ideas of fake and real reading. I used the reading salad activity with age-appropriate texts because I believe in the power of modelling thought processes to the students.

I created this anchor chart as we carried out the discussions about fake and real reading.

We also talked explicitly about what to do when while monitoring our comprehension, by being metacognitive about our reading, we realise we have not understood what we have read.

What should we do when we don't understand what we are reading?
What should we do when we don’t understand what we are reading?

Next, I introduced the thinking stems for talking about metacognition.

Metacognition thinking stems.
Metacognition thinking stems.

With the foundation laid out, throughout the unit I used several activities for practicing being metacognitive when reading from Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis’s Strategies that Work. Sticky notes will become your students’ best friend!

A student recording his thinking on a sticky note.

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