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Friday 21 January 2022

Taking our ‘Spotting VIP Words’ strategy to the next level.

Johnny Suttle writes: This term we have been focusing on the next two ‘in the moment of reading’ strategies to ensure our students are becoming active readers. These are ‘Spotting VIP words’ and ‘Use them to build meaning’.

How should we think about this strategy?

Reading can be a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. One jigsaw piece does not usually give enough information to tell what the big picture is going to be. To get the big picture you have to put several pieces together.

Reading is often like doing a jigsaw. When you read you have to be able to spot the important words or phrases and connect them together.

Keep thinking about the puzzle analogy as you consider the 'read aloud think aloud' strategy:
 - When you do a puzzle there will be certain pieces you will be on the lookout for (corners, edge pieces, certain colours).
 - There are certain parts of the text where you are likely to find VIP information to help you build meaning.

Fiction Text

Non-Fiction Text

  • Title

  • Specific descriptions of things

  • Start and ends of paragraphs

  • When a character says or thinks something

  • Titles

  • Sub headings

  • Glossaries

  • Fact Boxes

  • Specific descriptions

So what is 'Read aloud, think aloud'?

This is us essentially modelling what this strategy looks like in action. This is currently being used to excellent effect in mentoring. This is us showing the students what the strategy looks like. Teacher Actions that lead the Read Aloud Think Aloud include:

1. Look at a text you are going to read with a class - Find the key puzzle pieces:
2. What is the layout like? Are there titles? Subheadings?
3. Which words are vital to an understanding of the passage / question?
4. Script some questions to help your students spot the VIP words -they could annotate the text (see example below) to help keep these VIP words in view. Encourage them to use the strategy sentence starter “This word is important because…”
5. Script some questions to help them put these VIP puzzle pieces together - Get them to use the strategy sentence starter “This links back to….”
6. Read aloud the first paragraph and model picking out the VIP words or phrases and ask your scripted questions to help students put these words together.
7. Get students to bullet point in the margin the gist of that paragraph

So what are examples of scripted questions?

a. Why has the writer used the word….
b. Why does the writer want us to think about…..
c. Which word tells us…..
d. How can you link that VIP word to the earlier one that Jimmy identified?

How can we apply this strategy to an exam ‘problem’ based question?

A text does not have to be long to benefit from this strategy. Take a look at the exam question below:

In this case the ‘Steps’ box is the equivalent of the ‘gist’. Students need to spot the key words in the problem using this scaffold - They then need to work out the steps they need to take to reach the goal based on the VIP words.

So over to you:

1. Try to spot the key words based on this scaffold
2. What questions would you ask to help students use this VIP information to come up with steps to answer the problem?

For departments who teach problem based questions similar to the above, spend some time thinking about how you could adapt this scaffold to fit the problems that students are likely to encounter.

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