Last year our school implemented a targeted writing program based on the concept of Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) to encourage our students to become stronger writers and more careful readers. I’m happy to play a role in supporting the curriculum, especially when I can offer students an opportunity to analyze and answer questions about some award-winning picture books, and to incorporate some media literacy instruction as well.
I always do an author/illustrator study on Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, so I knew this year that I wanted to use the book Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by this extremely talented duo. I typed up the text of the book on a one-page handout and made copies for each student, and wrote three simple TDA questions (since this is their first time doing TDA with me) for them to answer.
Students are shown the questions before being given the typed copy of the story so they have some guidance on what to look for as they read. We answer a sample question on the board together, emphasizing the need to restate the question as part of the answer and write in complete sentences. We also discuss the fact the students sometimes must read carefully and study the clues in the writing so they can infer the answers if the author doesn’t state the information directly.
The beauty of using Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is that the story is ultimately incomplete without the illustrations. Barnett’s text does tell a complete story, but the punchlines (and impact) are all dependent on Klassen’s illustrations. Students are able to answer the TDA questions, but they usually have a slight feeling of letdown because the events seem rather mundane and the ending is quite anticlimactic. That sets the stage for part 2 of the lesson when I share the book as a read-aloud and show them the illustrations.
It literally gives me goosebumps to hear the shouts of amazement and the groans of frustration when the kids see the pictures and realize what is actually going on in the story! And it’s the perfect opening to discuss the concept of media literacy with them, and to emphasize how – in good picture books – the text and illustrations work together to tell the whole story.
We conclude with some information about Barnett and Klassen, and the promise that I’ll share more of their books with the students later in the year.
What other picture books do you think would make good TDA texts? Please leave a comment and share your suggestions!