Collaborative Reading Exercise

Whenever I have a lesson planning mental block, I pull out my trustworthy NYCWP Satellite Institute binder.


A few weeks back, I had on the syllabus that I would go over the text the students had read in Summerbridge: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Saffron Foer. We were to talk about the idea of theme (as a literary element) and work on how to back up thematic statements with evidence from the text. The students were to have read the first half of the novel while practicing their skills of annotation.

I felt the class was still new…This is the weird thing about college to me. After years of teaching high school and seeing the kids EVERY DAY (for better or for worse), seeing them twice a week seems too distant at times. We are in week six now of our semester and I have *just* learned their names. With this in mind, I wanted to do something in class that would foster community but still be academically rigorous.

That’s when I pulled out my NYCWP binder, (for more of me singing the praises of the NYCWP read here) and I came to the lesson on Collaborative Reading.


You can see the lesson above. I had the students select one quotes from their texts that backed up the concept of SURVIVAL and that supported the many thematic statements we had brainstormed on the whiteboard about survival. We then followed steps two and three = each student first read their quote aloud in the order of the desks (which were arranged in a circle for this lesson), each student then read their quote in a random order a second time so that the words could sink in better. I had the read the page number first and last so that the other students would know where to find the quote. Of course I participated, too. My quote sounded like this:

Page 132. “I’m sorry. That’s what I’ve been trying to say to you, I’m sorry for everything. For having said goodbye to Anna when maybe I could have saved her and our idea, or at least died with them. Page 132.

But I added another step. I asked the students to choose the one word that was the essence of their quote. We then completed steps two and three again, saying our word aloud in order and then yelling our word out, randomly, to the class.

Saved. Saved!

It was a pretty beautiful exercise. There were moments of pause during which we all sat there stunned by each others’ selected words.

Just a little something to do in class if you’re stumped at how to engage with a text. I also used it in my film class to break down gender roles in The Great Gatsby and it worked again.