What is SOAPSTone?  It is an acronym for:

  • Subject
  • Occasion
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Speaker
  • Tone

This strategy can be used for analyzing a variety of texts, including nonfiction texts, poems, story excerpts, songs, speeches, commercials, and even social media posts.  AP Central also recommends this as a strategy for helping students plan an AP exam style composition.

While I teach 8th ELA and 9th Honors ELA (8th graders taking 9th ELA at the middle school) and not any AP courses, I feel this strategy it incredibly helpful for students growing their analytical thinking skills and reading a text closely.    I have heard about SOAPSTone, but this is the first year I have incorporated it into my curriculum as I wanted a strategy to be the centerpiece of my 2nd quarter informational text unit.   My starting point was this wonderful resource from Teachers Pay Teachers; I used the cloze notes and presentation, the bookmarks, and the opening activity with the Challenger disaster speech.  I took the ideas in the unit and expanded them and incorporated my own ideas and learning activities.  While I have some variations between classes to account for differentiation and the needs of each class, here is my general plan of how I introduced the strategy and then gave students opportunities to practice and immerse themselves in this method of text analysis.

Getting Started, Day 1

  • We completed our cloze notes as I talked students through the presentation that came with my TPT resource set.
  • We also did the practice activity with a YouTube video together as a class to gently help students on their first effort at trying the SOAPSTone method.

Next Steps, Days 2 and 3

  • Because my students are so young and most have no prior knowledge of the Challenger disaster, I decided to build some prior knowledge about the event by doing a See/Think/Wonder activity.  Each table group received one of the following photos and instructions on how to complete the See/Think/Wonder prompts on their chart paper:
  • We shared out our thinking after students worked in small groups at their table areas with their assigned photo.  After each table group shared, we talked as a class about how the photos might relate.
  • We then watched a short video with background information on the Challenger explosion before reading and watching President Ronald Reagan’s address/speech to the nation the evening of the disaster.
  • Students worked with a partner to analyze the text using our SOAPSTone graphic organizer (I used the one that came with my TPT purchase); we then discussed as a close and corrected and/or added to our noticings for each aspect of the SOAPSTone organizer as we talked through the text and our thinking.  If you purchase the TPT package, you will get a copy of the speech, but there is also a print friendly version available for free in CommonLit.

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Days 4-5-6:  Choice Text and SOAPSTone Analysis + Speed Dating Discussions

On Day 4, I presented a gallery of texts for the students to choose from.  Students had a choice to work independently or with a partner of his/her choice.   I did have one class that I had everyone work independently just because they still struggle at times with collaborative work and our time frame to get things done that week was very tight with no time to waste.  Once students selected articles and/or partners, they set about reading and/or watching the text; print copies were available upon request.  They then worked to complete their graphic organizer to analyze the text.

Most classes needed the full day to do all the work; two of them needed at least another half class period to wrap up, so that time was provided.  On the final day, we engaged in speed dating discussions around our texts.   I used a template from Abby Gross and modified it for our needs.  In these partner discussions, students shared their work in their graphic organizer and an evaluation of the text as well; they also recorded their big takeaway about each other’s articles.  Some classes were more successful at this skill than others, so we will continue to work on our speaking and listening skills when sharing as this always seems to be a challenge for 8th graders, especially 1st semester.

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Day 7:  Cold Read and Performance Assessment

Our summative assessment was a cold read of one of three texts I assigned to students.  They read the text independently and evaluated it using the SOAPSTone graphic organizer for a performance assessment grade.  Overall, I was more than impressed by the quality of the work!  I am very proud of their growth as readers and thinkers as these were not easy texts, and I will share this student work at our next 8th ELA PLC meeting.

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Extension with Station Work and Reflections

We will continue to use this strategy on a variety of texts for the remainder of the year.  To keep the skill fresh, I incoporated SOAPSTone analysis as an activity on station work we are wrapping up right now.  I will blog more about this station work soon, but if you look at station 9, you can see the texts students had on their menu; we used the same graphic organizer as I want to be consistent in reinforcing our method of analysis.

I feel like SOAPSTone is going to be an anchor method of analysis as we move forward with our study of nonfiction and informational texts as well as poems and our literary nonfiction for the rest of this year and into 3rd quarter in 2022.  It reinforces our previous study of authoro’s purpose and tone, and is helping students to think in more nuanced ways about complex texts.  Are you using SOAPSTone with your middle or high school ELA students?  If so, what learning activities, texts, and strategies do you use to make it an effective part of your students’ thinking?

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