Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The C: Color of CSI: Color, Symbol, Image

Both my third and fourth grade classes begins each day with our weekly poem. We spend at least one week on a poem, each day discussing our thinking and noticings or completing different routines to push our thinking. There are many purposes for implementing morning poem: First of all, it is one time during the day when oral fluency is emphasized. Secondly, this is one way I can address many different standards while exploring poetry. The new common core standards do not focus on writing poetry, but being able to make meaning of poetry is incredibly important. Also, many literary techniques and skills lessons are reinforced in our discussions.

This particular week we were working on Winter Eyes. 
Each week when planning poem, I think about what skills and standards we need to cover. I have a list of skills I plan to discuss. (This could be considered a very informal version of backward planning.)  In looking at this poem, I wanted students to clarify unknown vocabulary (colbalt, birch, velvet, sleet), notice sensory details, notice the organization, use their background and/or inferences to infer what is meant by the last two lines, and of course make meaning of the poem.

On Mondays students start by tracking their thinking. Then, the remainder of the days are spent discussing student's thinking and noticings. They lead our discussions, but I have an agenda of my own. If by Thursday they haven't addressed a point I wanted to discuss I will ask questions to spark their thinking. 

This happened to be a week where the students worked through these expectations quickly. We still had one day to work with the poem and deepen our understanding, so I decided to use a the Color, Symbol, Image thinking routine to guide us. Although, since it was our first attempt at using the routine, I just started with the color. (We only spend roughly ten minutes on poem each day.) I asked them to determine what color they thought represents the poem and explain what made them think that. The color that they chose was not extremely important, although it was a good measure of comprehension. It was more important to me that they explain their thinking, hopefully using evidence from the text. 

Overall, CSI was an intriguing routine to use because it allowed students to share their thinking in a different way than usual. I feel like I need to use it more consistently in order to get deeper results, but I was pleased with their thinking being it was our first attempt. Below are a few students responses.

The explanation for why this student chose white.


  1. I loved using this activity with my class because students think so differently. They need an outlet for their type of thinking. And it was so interesting to watch the students who need more structure when you ask them to respond really struggle. They need more direction like, "What do you mean? Is there a color IN THE STORY?" It just reminded me how much I love this activity! Great job Salty!

  2. Several things really struck me: planning is so HUGE and I'm always looking for ways to be better organized and keep me on track. Love your "list of skills" which you call informal backwards planning. Just curious, is that list in your head, written down for you, or written so students can see? Just trying to see what is working for you so I can try it! Also, as in 1st grade, CCSS does not cover poetry, but we think it is so important, and one of the most fun units to teach! We are really diving into nonfiction reading and writing now, so determining importance through NF is a great way to help kids make meaning of poetry at the end of the year, since it can be so abstract for 6-7 year olds. Thanks, Jamie!

    1. Deb, my list of skills is currently in my head, but I'd love to get it down on paper! ;) It has grown a little more formal with the implementation of the common core standards. I feel more comfortable with what exactly the kids need to know because of the language and skills portion of the standards.

  3. I have used this thinking strategy in the past when I was doing a read-aloud and I found that the deeper we went into the short story the easier it was for students to come up with a support for their choice of color. We recorded our colors on a grid and at the end it was fascinating to see that students had some of the same ideas, but chose a different color because of past experiences with a specific color. Learning how to explain and justify their color choice was the most difficult task. Once we were comfortable with the color activity I asked the students to choose a color and a symbol to represent their thinking, when I tried to add all 3 (color, symbol, image) it felt like it was "over kill" and the depth of the thinking was lost. Did I read this activity incorrectly? When we use this thinking activity are we to choose only one of the three or do all three work together to deepen their thinking? Did your students' struggle with supporting their color choice?

  4. HI Jamie,

    Thanks for your post! I love you start each day with poetry. I'm not much of a buff, but I believe you are right in that poetry touches on so many points for literacy and I agree about the oral fluency peice as well. I too am wondering what type of skills list you put together. I'm assuming it changes based on the specific poem and how it lends itself. To asnswer Phylis' question, my assumption with this routine is that you use all the steps, color symbol and image...but I like how you adjusted it to fit your needs. Like Phylis said, in some instances perhaps it is overkil and can dilute the deeper level thinking if too forced. I'm just curious if you think this is a routine I could tweek for ECE. I've always wanted to try it, but have not found the right way as of yet.

  5. This is a great way to make abstract thinking into something a little more concrete. I am still trying to making this lesson work for my 8th graders to deepen their understanding. I'm glad it worked for you.