4 Square Story Map

My school district is a plc (professional learning community) district.  The idea is that teachers of common courses work together to improve instruction.  Much of this work is centered around data derived from common formative assessments.  It looks a bit different for my department as we have a plc of 2 French teachers, the German teacher, the Chinese teacher and the Latin teacher.  As we look for purposeful meaning to our work together, we spent some time considering reading.

A general question was asked, “How do we move students to infer meaning from decoding when reading?”  Our plc dove into some meaningful discussion which centered around what you might expect.  Pre-teach vocabulary.  Ask questions that require inference to be answered.  Engage in post reading activities to review the text.

Part of the discussion that stuck with me was centered around keeping reading about reading.  Sometimes we overuse activities around reading.  I am guilty of this often times.  Without realizing it, we lead students to see reading as a task to complete to get through the activities.  When this happens and a reader starts seeking to move past the activity we’ve lost the battle we fight everyday to influence students to read.

Sometimes we just need to let them read.  But how does that fit into a plc world driven by common formative assessments?  I frequently question the validity of the data we (in a royal sense, we as teachers) collect.  Recently, I’ve sensed this in my own teaching.  Tomorrow I’m going to use a 4 square story map to read a story with my level 1s and 2s.

As often happens for me, I discovered this idea via Martina Bex.  My plan is to put student into groups of 4.  1 Student will be the reader and the other students will have a role related to the 4 square map.  1 – Quid est primum?  (What is first?) 2 – Quid tu intellegis? (What do you understand?) 3 – Quid est novum?  (What is new?).  While the reader reads the story, each student will take notes on their question.  After reading, all students will work together and discuss their quaestiones (questions) for the last box.  While students read and consider I will mingle throughout the groups and pay attention to the vocabulary with which I think they are struggling.  I will put some of those words on the board and establishing meaning with them as a whole group after they read.

But the best part of the 4-square story map is what happens after students read the story.  Each box from each group offers a discussion topic.  I will use students’ answers and see where the discussion and PQA takes us.  Lastly, I will be able to do some pop up grammar and circling of structures based on their quaestiones.  Depending on what I see from students, I may simply move on from this next week or I will use what I find on the 4 square story maps to drive the input I deliver at the beginning of next week.

I love this activity because I can use it with any reading.  I won’t use it often.  This is the 2nd time I’ve used it with level 1 this year, but when I do use it, it will provide a ton of data for me while allowing me to interact with students in a different way.  When finished, there will be the potential for low prep input derived from students.  Their responses will create communicative context for the next day.

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