I print out a few short news articles (generally one for every three students in the class), blow up the font to make it easy for a group of three or four to read at the same time, then staple the article to the top of a piece of cut down poster board. I spread them around the room, leaving a small stack of Post-It Notes in each station.
When it comes time for the activity, I randomly divide the class into groups (in this particular instance I had them draw colored Easter eggs out of a jar; the kids were grouped by the color they drew), then send them to their stations with something to write with.
I tell them to take a couple of minutes to read the article, then write a comment on or question about the article on a Post-It, initial it, and stick it to the poster board underneath the article. We have a brief discussion on what a "good" comment looks like before starting.
When they finish the first article, I have the groups rotate stations. We repeat until they have a chance to read all of the articles.
Here's an example. Our topic is homelessness, and the article is "Hawaii Rep. Tome Brower Takes A Sledgehammer (Literally) To Homelessness Problem" from November 2013 (this article made me want to take a sledgehammer to something, so I was interested to hear what the kids would say). Note: due to benchmark testing I was missing several kids this day, otherwise I would have used a larger board.
Why not use a safer and kinder approach?
This is just crazy.
Why can’t they use the shopping carts and how does he identify them?
People may feel threatened easily.
Why does he destroy the carts?
Why can’t the homeless have the shopping carts?
Why does he use a sledgehammer?
What a great guy!
Destroying people’s transportation that are homeless is rude.
He needs to give them something else after he destroys them.
Hawaii people need more sledgehammers.
Go Rambo Go!
Obviously not all followed our guidelines for good comment-writing (hence why I required initials), but there were both good thoughts and good questions.
I've used this a few times this year in different classes, and I've really liked it. It gives the kids a chance to voice their opinions or ask questions in a safe way, without drawing too much attention to themselves. It gives me a chance to see how their thought processes work, as well as assess their background knowledge. As they go around reading, they naturally discuss what they're reading with each other.
Best of all, by keeping the articles short and keeping the kids moving, I've found that the kids do actually read what I put in front of them - amazing!