Reading Salad: Making Sense of Reading

So. I'm going to get real for a minute. We follow Lucy Calkin's Readers and Writers Workshop. And it is a struggle. The language she uses and the strategies she suggests are just a little unattainable for my 3rd graders. This year over half of my class are ELs. Scaffolding is huge and necessary. And although the idea of her work seems great, I just don't find that it translates very well into my room... but I've gotta do it so I'm trying to do it well and modify along the way.

Ok confession over.

Now moving on.

We've started our workshop and I've been trying to balance the Lucy and Me. The plus sides: my students are feeling successful. I'm trying to praise the crap out of everything they do so that they want to keep doing it. And I have to say, it's working. I even had a parent at our first ever parent night say, "I don't know how you did it, but you turned this girl into an avid reader in less than 3 weeks. I couldn't even get her to open a book this summer without a struggle." That is music to my little teacher ears. So I'm doing something right. But- now that we have a start on some positive reading habits (which I do like how Lucy starts with that), now comes the complicated thinking, genre studies, and of course-preparation for the state test (sad face).

So when we were approaching our lesson on jotting and holding onto mean, I felt a little lost. Until this magical post popped up on my bloglovin' feed:

Before you read my post any further, I highly suggest you cruise over to Lori's blog (click either picture above) and read about her lesson. I adapted it to fit my needs but the concept pretty much remained the same.

Here's how I did it.

During our read aloud of Stone Fox, I told students that whenever they were really picturing something, to raise their hand and share. We had been talking a lot about envisioning, so that is why I went with this route. I also said that if they noticed they were thinking at all about the text, to raise their hand and share. At first, I don't think they realized how they naturally think during reading (which is why I like this lesson- it made their thinking "more concrete"). Once I modeled, they started to notice their own thinking more and bam, we came up with this after reading only 2 pages:

Don't judge my chicken scratch. When I'm scribing what the students say on the board during a lesson, I rush. Do as I say, not as I do, right kids??
They didn't know why I had a lettuce leaf and tomato slice yet. But after this, I grabbed my big salad bowl. And I made the connection. It went a little something like this:

Me: "Who likes to eat plain ol' lettuce?"

Students: Only one raised his hand. Many groaned.

Me: "But if we are making a salad, would you say lettuce is an important ingredient?"

Students: "Ya!!!"

Me: "I agree. But on my salad, I enjoy other toppings to really make it juicy and to make it taste good. Reading is the same way. We need the author's words (the text aka the lettuce) to tell the story. But our thoughts are what makes the reading so exciting... it makes the story juicy. Let's take a look at your thinking during our read aloud."

Me: "What type of thought was this first thought?" (note- the red words weren't on the board yet).

Students: New tricky word.

Me: I grabbed some ripped up brown paper and called them croutons and mixed them into our salad bowl with our lettuce.

We repeated this with each of their thoughts... I was so impressed that they naturally came up with different types of thinking while reading and we continued to add "cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and ranch" to our salad.

They got it. They got the connection. We need the text to help create our juicy ideas. So we started with this chart

And they helped me build it to really hit it home.

Instead of saying lettuce is the text, we said it was what we envisioned. The text helps you envision, and it's important that you are able to picture what your book is about.

We came up with some other words that meant about the same thing. Those are supposed to be lettuce leaves. Did I tell you I kinda whipped this altogether over my lunch that day?

Then for our tomatoes, we wrote down the different types of thoughts we might have while reading the text.

Here's the best part. That day, I put out lettuce leaves and tomato slices on their desks at reading time and had students write what they were picturing on the lettuce leaves and any thoughts they had on a tomato slice. The last two years, whenever we started jotting on post-its all I got was retell moments. And it seemed to take forever for students to see the difference between the authors words and their thoughts. This helped nip that problem right in the butt. I looked over the lettuce and tomato jottings and sure enough, students used them in the correct way! And those that didn't, my amazing coteacher pulled right away and worked with them in a strategy group to clarify. I can't wait for out next lesson on merging the two... we're going to call them "letatoes"...onto a post-it (text evidence plus idea). I can't wait to see how it transfers over.

And the cherry on top- students were so proud when we "mixed" up their lettuce and tomatoes into the salad bowl after their reading that day and saw their awesome reading salad. They were so proud and asked if we could do it everyday. Lucky for them...

Thanks Lori for the perfect post at the perfect time to help make this concept more attainable for my kiddos (not to mention more fun)!



  1. What a great way to do the Reading Salad activity! I love how relating it to salad makes the lesson concrete for the students. Your idea to put the lettuce and tomato on their desks to use is wonderful! Thank you for the link back to my post! I appreciate that!
    Conversations in Literacy

  2. This is awesome!!! I love how this lesson takes a very abstract concept and makes it concrete for the students!!!

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I am planning a reading salad lesson for next week. This post was very helpful.

    Fit to be Fourth


Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top