Shades of Deep Thinking

Happy New Year Literacy Land friends!!  I am so excited to have been a part of this team for the last year.  This is my first post of 2015 but we are going to reflect back to 2014!
My first post last year was about how we (my teammate and I) implemented the reading salad outlined in Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  We found that it had a lasting impact to our year and we really wanted to do the lesson again with our firsties this year.  So we did.

We followed the different activities that Tanny McGregor has laid out in her book, including the reading salad, metacognition poster, and thinking stems.  But we made just a few changes to our instruction this year.

First of all, we decided to use the Otis books by Loren Long for all the metacognition lessons.

We found that these books are perfect for the lessons that we had outlined for the week because the stories follow a predictable pattern.  Otis has a friend that runs into a problem and Otis makes the choice to solve the problem.  The problems are hard to solve and you discover that Otis is brave, kind, caring, and an amazing friend to all.  This leads to some great connections, insightful thinking, fantastic conversations, and an ABSOLUTE love for the books.

We also decided to add more deep thinking to our reading salad.  Deeper thinking does not come easy to all of our little firsties.  But I wanted to make it as concrete and successful as our reading salad lessons have been. came to me!

My writing teammate and I use paint chips to teach adjectives and the "shades of meaning."  Our students really seem to understand that the deeper the color of paint chip, the richer the word is.  I decided that this would also work of thinking.  The deeper the color, the deeper the thinking.

I decided to start with making deeper connections because I found this to be a weakness during our DRA testing.  The firsties made many, many personal connections but not as many text to text or within text connections.  I created a poster that looked like this.

I modeled what this poster meant and how to use it by referring to the previous Otis books that we had read.  As I read a new Otis text, students shared their thinking to make a reading salad.  If a deeper connection was made, students got to put in a deeper, darker thinking strip.

By the end of the text, our salad was overflowing with deep connections and thinking.

To practice deep thinking the next day, we read another Otis book but used this poster:

Now that we have built a strong, concrete foundation for metacognition and deeper thinking, our students will know how to refer back to these posters and resources.

If you would like to use these posters in your classroom, you can download these sheets by clicking on the image below:

I hope these can help your students deepen their thinking, as well!  Happy thinking!


  1. What a brilliant post with terrific ideas that align with close reading, multiple engagements with the text and deep comprehension - absolutely love these ideas!
    Thank you

    1. Thanks so much! It was a lot of fun and I look forward to watching the impact that it has on the year!

  2. Em---your question stems turned out great . Thanks so much for explaining and sharing. Ironically, I saw Otis at Ollie's for $3.99. Big smile!!

    1. There is exactly where I bought Otis too!!! Thank you for all of your help!