Sunday, February 15, 2015

Artificial Sweeteners: Friends or Foes? - Prereading Plan

Prereading Plan (PreP)
by Juanita Burch/ED 620 Module 3
Text Citation or Link
Rationale for Choosing
Text Frame(s)
Strategies Used and Resource
Engagement Example
Allows students to brainstorm around a central idea to trigger memories of prior knowledge, set a purpose for reading, and predict what will happen next based on the reading that they have already done. The article is a springboard for lessons about how science (and a lack of safety in the lab) affects the world in relation to nutrition and ethics among other topics.
Prereading (McLaughlin, p.59-61)

The idea of creating a prereading plan (PreP) or previewing a topic before having the students read their assigned text centered around the topic is an excellent way to get students thinking about their prior knowledge on the subject. By recalling past perceptions of the topic, students will make stronger connections to the material that they read. They will either confirm their current knowledge or they will change their views completely and learn new information. To go a step further, after having the students brainstorm about their prior knowledge of the subject, a valuable exercise would be to have the students create a vocabulary list from words their peers introduced that they did not already know. If no one introduced any new words, then the teacher could pull words directly from the reading to give the students a preliminary vocabulary list to research and find definitions before doing the reading. This way, in addition to context clues, the students will have the definitions handy to refer back to in their notes. The teacher can address any questions with vocabulary before the reading takes place.

The article that our group read is titled, “Artificial Sweeteners: Friends or Foes?” The central idea of the article is artificial sweeteners. Brainstorming about artificial sweeteners led to several different ideas and explanations for those ideas. The PreP table below lists the brainstormed ideas and their corresponding explanations as modeled on page 61 of McLaughlin's book. (McLaughlin, 2015)

Cue Idea: Artificial Sweeteners
Brainstormed responses
Aspartame has been in the news because it breaks down and forms formaldehyde, which is fatal in large quantities.
Back in the 1980’s a person claimed to have gone partially blind after using Equal.
Many people today use Splenda instead of the other artificial sweeteners because they think it is safest.
Extra sweet
Artificial sweeteners taste at least 10 times as sweet as natural sugar.
Funny Aftertaste
Some people do not like the bitter aftertaste that comes from ingesting artificial sweeteners.
Questionable Product Safety
Many people avoid artificial sweeteners because of the ambiguity around the safety of the products.
No Calories
The main draw to artificial sweeteners is that they contain no calories and thus do not contribute to weight gain.
Diet colas
Many people who are trying to lose weight will drink diet colas, which contain artificial sweeteners.
Weight Watchers
Several diet programs have gained success around the use of artificial sweeteners in their plans for members.

There are several different text frames: (1) problem/solution, (2) cause/effect, (3) compare/contrast, (4) proposition/support. The problem is whether artificial sweeteners are good or bad. The student needs to determine what conditions lead to a specific outcomes. In the article, the author compares and contrasts various types of artificial sweeteners. Students need to discern the viewpoint that the author poses and how she supports her views. (Buehl, 2014)

I found that the idea of brainstorming about the topic before doing the actual reading helped to generate a feeling of comfort about the topic because it allowed us to forecast what was coming next in the actual reading. As a student, many times reading assignments can create a small level of anxiety due to the unfamiliarity with the topic and with not knowing how the author is going to lay out the text. By previewing the material ahead of time and going over potentially bothersome vocabulary, this gave a sense of calm because there was an unspoken understanding that the reading contained something about which we already had knowledge. By doing this exercise, I felt enlightened about how students must feel going into a reading assignment “cold” without realizing and acknowledging prior knowledge of the topic or the vocabulary. This, in addition to the understanding that authors assume certain prior knowledge, can really be a detriment to a student. If a student does not have the prior knowledge that the author expects them to have, it will make the reading even more difficult. However, by having discussions prior to reading, students can avoid encountering all of those language-based shortcomings and potential misunderstandings from the reading.

Fortunately, after doing the actual reading, students can review all of the preliminary work and establish the validity of what they knew previously. This helps to make new connections in their brains. With assistance, students can see how they can apply this technique to other aspects of their lives.

Buehl, D. (2014). Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (4th ed., pp. 155-157). Newark,    DE: International Reading Association.
Marr, I. (2012, February 1). Artificial Sweeteners: Friends or Foes? Retrieved from
McLaughlin, M. (2015). Content Area Reading: Teaching and Learning for College and Career  
Readiness. (2nd ed., pp. 63-64). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.

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