The time is “Now”

During this time of reflection and intense activity on Social Media over race in this country, we need to seize this opportunity to teach our students how important learning to read and write well is essential. 

The last several years have brought to light the need and movement to provide diverse books to our students of color. This need is real so that all of our students can imagine themselves in the books we share and read in our classrooms. I hope we are sharing success stories for our students as well as the stories of struggle through current events. I want them to imagine themselves as successful and fulfilled as well as understand the struggles of their lives. 

I want them to see how being well-spoken and well written can lead them to a better life where they are more respected by their peers. These reciprocal processes build upon each other continuously. One criticism of our current president compared to the previous one (Barack Obama) is that he is not well-read or well-spoken. He is not taken seriously and often considered an embarrassment.  

Educators need to seize this opportunity to help our students become well spoken and well written to equip themselves with the knowledge to be perceived as articulate, leading to respect and admiration. We have to use the “now” as a bridge to help students see how reading and writing well, can help them get the things they want in their lives.  

Cornelious Minor puts this thinking front and center in his book “We Got This.” (Heinemann 2019). He says, “The first thing I have to do is be clear on the actual skill I want to teach kids, not just the activity I want them to complete.” Tasks or activities do not go deep enough at times to challenge students to adapt their thinking and help them practice the processes of thinking while relating it to their lives. He also states that he wants to build “a bridge between what we are doing in class and the lives that they lead outside of class. I want to be able to show kids how each skill I teach in class makes life right now, better outside of class.” I have been trying through several blog posts to show how actual reading and writing need to be authentic in our classrooms to get kids to engage and commit to it. We cannot choose tasks just because they are easy to grade or pretty to show off. We have to choose a task that requires real acts of thinking and then doing essential reading and writing. 

I chose to lead off my June session of e-learning with two articles about the protests gripping our nation right now for my 5th-grade reading group. I choose an article from NEWSELA, “We’re sick of it”: Anger over police killings shatters U.S. Next, I chose an article and video from the Kansas City Star newspaper talking about our local mayor. He joined the protesters in Kansas City. I got the following response out of an ELL student. This response we creative and real for her, not an expected response elicited from a pre-packaged program that does not know my students as I do. This response was an improvement from what I usually receive from her. It was creative and authentic. 

I wrote a blog post about putting emotion back into reading instruction. We have to make sure that what we teach is emotionally engaging for our students. Minor addressed this extensively in his book. A student’s interests usually help fill a social need, in and outside of our classroom. 

He also helps paint the picture I have been trying to paint for everyone for a few years. I have been very outspoken about how reading tasks are just that a task, and they can not be a replacement for actual reading and the thinking reading requires. I have written about this in previous blog posts. In this post Teaching Reading Skills in isolation, I describe how the task of asking students to look for similes using the words like or as, is a meaningless task. It does not hold true to the skill I want readers to understand and notice in reading and use in writing. Which is you can use metaphors and similes in speaking and writing to help you make your thinking, point, or idea clear to others. It would be more meaningful to teach students about language and how we can use it to elevate how we are perceived and respected or admired by our peers and others. The language used in our speaking and writing helps us achieve status now and in the future. If we can get kids to see this as we teach students to use similes and metaphors in their writing and speaking, it becomes meaningful. 

I also reposted an interview with Minor from the Two Writing Teachers Blog. He also speaks there of how you have to not only plan for students’ futures but help them take what you are teaching and use it now in their lives. Reading tasks that required kids to fill out graphic organizers have become way overrated and do not require kids to do the thinking required as readers. We have to bridge the gaps and cause reading and writing to be relevant to kids’ lives now. We must do so authentically not with glorified tasks that reduce the hard work to something more comfortable to complete, but robotic in nature. Our classrooms should not be a vacuum from kids’ lives outside but a bridge to becoming stronger. We can bring in their lives that are chaotic and messy, with thoughtful and reflective lessons as we watch and listen to them. Their behavior is a language of its own. We can do this and still have our students hold to the learning environment we are creating that is a safe place. I urge you to read Minor’s book if you have not and grow your practice. This is a link to my blog post on My Thoughts on Transfer,” which links you to a Heinemann podcast featuring Minor. We have to set students up to transfer what we are teaching to use in their lives. 

Troy

The Larger Purpose

I was recently listening to the audiobook Dare to Lead by Brene Browm while on the treadmill. My mind was instantly thinking about how what she says about leadership can be directly applied within the classroom with kids and specifically with regards to teaching reading. 

She makes a statement that we all know makes sense and rings true most of the time, but do not necessarily take to heart. Projecting an all-knowing attitude and presence, crushes curiosity and questions. I chose to use the word projecting because we can intentionally project outward how we want others to see us. We cannot set up an overly dominating presence that says we are all-knowing keepers of knowledge. Those days are over. Google is all-knowing more than we are. 

Consider this scenario. A student might be reading about climate change and coral reefs. They might have an understanding that coral is a plant. If they are reading with preset an all-knowing attitude, then they will miss it when the writer states otherwise. Then as the writer proceeds to go deeper and paint a clearer picture for the reader based on the understanding and believes of their initial statements, the student will struggle to follow along. The student will not grasp the knowledge of how coral and algae depend on one another and how warmer temperatures are affecting the algae. The student will be confused and question why three sentences about trees being cut down in forests were plopped into a book about coral reefs. The student chose the book because it was about coral reefs. They often find themselves at odds with the writer, but do not understand why. The student will not understand the writer’s underlying themes surrounds climate change and how what happens on land affects the sea. They project an I already know this attitude and do not read with a curious mind. Hopefully, we are not leading with an all-knowing mindset ourselves. We have to change this.

When readers are task-focused and locked in on projecting an all-knowing attitude or presence because they believe that is what they are supposed to do, they miss most what the writers want them to understand. We need curiosity and the serendipity it brings in our classrooms. We need it for ourselves and our students. We do not need to be teaching for compliance and control over our students.

All-knowing attitudes and teachers who project themselves as the all-knowing force in the classroom tend to reduce reading to tasks. We try to be accommodating, and meet students where they are, or with what we feel they can handle, by breaking reading down into small chunks of instruction or task. This can become an act that generates compliance without clarity or vision of the larger purpose of reading. It reduced reading into isolated chunks of several jobs and a list of to do’s. 

We read to gain knowledge, to fulfill our curiosity, and to learn more about ourselves through the lives and experiences of others. Reading helps fill in the gaps of the larger world, that kids can’t experience at home or in their neighborhoods. It fills our hearts and minds. When reading is reduced to tasks to complete, then these elements of the reading process are never broached. The larger purpose of reading is lost. A lot of the assessments given these days feed into this reading task-oriented philosophy that has mistakenly become the dominant focus of reading instruction. As I have stated in past blogs, we do not read to practice strategies. We read to understand and use strategies to help us do that. We cannot forget to teach these larger purposes behind reading and the more extensive thought processes readers must synthesize through. 

To use a term that Brene Brown uses, we have to “paint” the full picture of reading. Reading is not a series of isolation tasks; it requires curiosity of the heart and mind; it requires an openness to learn, and engage. As readers, we must ask questions and challenge our thinking. It is not something that is a passive experience. It is an active process involving our hearts, minds, and intuition, our whole selves. You can complete the tasks of reading as some teach them, but not understand what you read or be able to read with real fluency. Fluent reading and comprehension take knowledge of semantics, the topic you are reading, life, and of the flow of the English language. The way reading is often taught today is often scripted and boring, without emotion and clarity of a larger purpose. Our students are not motivated to read. 

Check out this past blog I wrote on this subject. https://troyafredde.blog/2017/11/27/keep-emotion-in-reading-instruction/

Also this one:https://troyafredde.blog/2019/08/25/thoughts-on-readers-as-thinkers-and-strategy-instruction-part-1/

Troy

E-Learning Noticing Part 2

I miss my co-workers. I miss having those face to face moments. This may surprise those of you that know me well. I am usually a quiet, but thoughtful person who likes to take everything in before jumping conversations. I miss looking people in the eye and truly finding that connection that just isn’t there through Zoom. I miss being with my students tremendously. I am grateful to have Microsoft Teams as an option in my district to connect with them face-to-face.  I have been able to meet with several of them.

air hugs

It is hard balancing my school work, housework, and family time.  I have 2 kids at home doing E-Learning and three dogs all wanting attention. My youngest daughter made dog treats for a school project for them. My wife is a Pre-School director and teacher. She is providing Facebook live story sessions and Zoom meetings with her students. I applaud, her dedication to her students.

Bitmoji Image

They truly miss there teachers and friends and she provides a real need in filling that gap. The kids parent truly appreciate as well. Well done! I hope I am doing as well. We are mixing our living and workspaces and trying to find and set boundaries.

 

I am trying to remain curious as I tackle new ideas and digital tools daily. I think remaining curious and open is a must in education, but even more so now.  There are so many tools and free resources being offered for us. Take advantage of these. Please be open and curious about trying them out. Also trying out new things on the tools you have become familiar with. I am making a goal to try out something new every two-three days. I am learning more about Seesaw daily.

Bitmoji Image

I want to thank my district for providing so many webinars and chat sessions to help us move forward and improve our practice each day.

I hope you are finding some joys and learning new things about the people you are living with, in these trying times. Stay curious and see what you can learn that is new about each other. Grow together, not apart in these times. Pause, before quickly reacting. Take moments to reflect and enjoy the small moments.

Bitmoji Image

E-Learning Noticings

meditation1

Teaching online with elementary students has been tricky to get used to. It is easy to slip into a tell and not teach mode. That would lead right back into the worksheet mentality we have worked hard to avoid over the last decade because of research findings.

I do think we can take advantage of these times to really hone our skills when it comes to creating our focus lessons at the beginning of our Readers and Writers workshops. What a golden opportunity to work on think aloud’s. You are recording the lesson to send to students so, why not take time to reflect on it for yourself as well. What a superb opportunities for coaches to work with teachers. 

I think we must use this time to learn more about technology but also about our teaching skills.  So I implore you to take a moment to watch and reflect on the videos you are posting for your students after they have been posted and students have responded to them. Are you teaching or just telling? Watch the recording with and without sound and see what you notice.  Do a quick transcription of the video and reflect on what your spoken words are asking and saying and what you intended. Jim Knight has a neat coaching cycle that would work great for this. It is called “The Impact Cycle.” I encourage you to check it out.

When thinking about the idea for this post I started exploring the think aloud. I have been reading about meditation and listening to podcast on it as well. Some of the techniques used in meditation I feel lend themselves to teaching reading comprehension and thinking aloud for our students.  When you meditate you are asked to pay attention to your thoughts, notice them and make mental notes of them and think about the feelings those thoughts brought on. Consider how you wanted to react to those thoughts or did react to them.

meditation2

I want to use those ideas and transfer them into my reading instruction, specifically do a think-alouds. While we read we have to notice and pay attention to our thoughts before they disappear. We have to consider the tone of the thought and what our initial reaction to the thought was. How do I feel about what I just read? Was my reaction positive or negative? How does it impact my understanding? These thoughts and many others need to be considered. We have to make a mental note of our thoughts and embrace them enough to be able to retrieve them later. We have to keep it in the background as we continue to read.  Do not take for granted some of this thinking we do naturally, that our students may not be experiencing. Or they may not be noticing these thoughts enough to be able to retrieve later.

We often skip over the thinking we expect our students to have already processed through. They may have not been noticing their thoughts as they read enough to embrace them and discuss them when we ask them to. We will have to show readers how to do this by thinking aloud. They may be focused on the visual aspect of reading and have not yet become fully aware of how this inner thinking that readers are asked to do works.  I think we have to keep it simple. Start by thinking aloud of noticing simple thoughts. I am thinking………. maybe this will be important later, so I need to remember it as I read on.

I know others in the literacy world have been considering aspects of this type of thinking already, but thinking about it in relation to meditation may help us as teachers be able to embrace it more effectively and put it into action.

I often use this blog to record my thoughts and am thinking about this as I write, and creating, revising etcetera as I go. I am just touching the surface and will explore this topic further, but needed to get it put to paper so to speak. Maybe you will want to take this journey with me as I dive into it. If so let me know and leave a comment. Then continue to comment as I read research and reread research so I do not subconsciously say the words of others without acknowledging them as such.

 

Troy F NBCT

Joyous Reflection

joy

I want to continue to be a highly, reflective person in 2020. I do not want to get bogged down in all the negativity that can be associated with the word, however.

Reflect will continue to be my word for 2020,  but I will add joyous and focused in front of it. I want to make sure my reflection has generative value and helps enhance my practice as an educator & human. My reflection must move me forward.

Being reflective can easily turn into a parade of negativity. It can become more about venting and complaining, without a focus on positively solving one’s problems. It can turn into worrying about way too much, with more intensity than is helpful.

Reflection should lead you to a happier state of mind, where you can focus.

happier

Not lead to to worrying and venting.

So I will strive to make sure my reflection is concentrated on moving forward and noticing the joy in each of the areas of my life, I reflect on.

I will strive to make my reflection joyous and focused.  I will move it forward, concentrating on solving problems, but I will also slow down to notice and appreciate my successes and what is going well. 😀

May your reflections be focused and joyous as well in 2020.

Troy

How do you get students to consider new information?

I was giving a reading assessment to a 3rd grade ELL student this week. He was reading a book called Hang On Baby Monkey by Donna Latham from the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.

Unknown.jpeg

 The book is about how baby monkeys survive and are taken care of by the whole troop they live with, not just their mother. After the student read the book and we were having our comprehension conversation, I asked the student, Why is a baby monkey’s tail is important?

The student responded with information he knew about how a monkey uses its tail. He really got “hung up” on (pun intended 🙂 ) how monkeys can use their tail to hang upside down. All which might be true information, but not in the book. This information was not related to what the writer was trying to get readers to consider and understand about baby monkeys.

This student was getting too caught up in what he knew or could make connections with. Sometimes connections or what we know or think we know can get in the way of new understandings. We have to be careful of this, especially when reading nonfiction. We have to make sure our readers notice knew information as they read, and not just dismiss it, without consideration.

I have found the coding strategy to be a very good equalizer for students who do this.

IMG_1569

I have these students focus on information the writer shares that is new, compared to information the writers shares that the students already knew. I do not always have them do this on a paper copy of the text, we do it orally as well. When students stop and consider what information was new to them and code it with a (+) or what they already knew and code it with (*), it makes them fully consider and interpret what the writer is saying.

Do you have readers that do not want to give up on false information? This coding helps with that as well. This could be information they read and interpreted wrong, misinformation that was given to them, or information they only heard part of.

So please give the decoding strategy a try. I know I am not the only one with students like this. Let me know how it goes. What else have you tried to help this type of reader?

Troy

Coding & Note Taking

In my last post I mentioned how my 4th and 5th grade readers use coding and note-taking when reading a text. I have decided to share some examples of this. Some readers of this blog have asked to see some.

I had my 5th grade readers, read two articles and watch a video about Malala Yousafzai. A Pakistani girl who has become a symbol for girls education. I am doing this in conjunction with two other texts. Students read a historical fiction play about MLK and will read another story about a man who is hunting for a lost ship and its treasure. What do all these have in common. Well, all the main characters or people the writers are writing about have a crusade they believe in and are persistent in reaching their goal.

In the first Malala Yousafzai article, taken from her website, I asked students to underline sentences that refer to what Malala’s crusade might be and jot down notes. Most students knew she had been shot, but not much more.

When first introducing this strategy to students, I asked them to pause and write down what the words they just underlined mean to them. Think about what you already know and interpret what the writer is trying to get you to understand. We talked about how when you interpret the writers words and write them down, it helps you understand and remember what you are reading. You are allowing yourself a moment to consider and think. I am not asking students to stop and complete a separate task that could take away from the meaning of the text.  They are completing this within the text itself.

Here is an example of two student’s note taking.

This student pulled in other strategies we have discussed in the past. Notice how they circled Mingora, Pakistan, they were recognizing a type of  detail, to help them. This is notable because, they chose to do this on their own without being asked to.

IMG_1565

Some students used the coding strategy to help them, but mostly were able to just read for meaning and take notes.

The image below refers to the coding strategy. We have discussed, how we can shift the way, we code, to suit what we are reading for.  As you saw some students chose to code the types of text details, to help them understand the article.

IMG_1569

In the second Malala Yousafzai article, taken from Storyworks magazine. I asked students to continue to underline anything they felt referred to what Malala’s crusade is. I also asked them to notice any new information the second article gave, which they coded with an + symbol. When first introducing the strategy of coding and note taking earlier in the year, I modeled it, and then asked them to practice it on a few paragraphs on their own and share what they did with a partner. Then we talked as a whole group. I had them read the text initially just for understanding without coding.  This group of readers have become confident coders and note takers and they have progressed to using this strategy on the first reading of texts. Eventually this is something they we be able to do in their heads.

Here are some more examples of this groups work. Two of the students in this group are ELL students and this is a strategy that has helped them focus reading for meaning.

IMG_1568

Lewis, K. (2015). Malala the powerful. Storyworks, November/December.  (I retyped the article)

This student noted some types of details and used the + symbol to note new information to add on to what they already knew from the previous article about Malala. 

IMG_1567

This student noted a date and a place. (Types of details) She also noted some information she already knew from the previous text and new information. She wrote what she felt Malala’s crusade was also. These students are using what they have been taught to help them authentically read for meaning. 

IMG_1566

This student noted the detail of time, but also demonstrated why noticing this type of detail is important with the note that was added (a very long time). They got a little carried away with underlining which can be a problem. I tell students, if you underline it, you must jot a note about it. This was an ELL student who made lots of vocabulary notes for herself. 

Students worked individually and then shared. They were all focused on reading for meaning. They did not code perfectly, and their note taking can still improve, but it was the process of doing the thinking work readers do in their heads that made the difference on comprehension. I didn’t focus on types of text details or structure but some students used it authentically to help them understand the writers words with more depth. They focused on understanding and used some strategies to strengthen comprehension while staying within the text. That is powerful! They instinctively did this when engaged with the text. This is true transfer!

 

Troy

Types of Details

Sunday

I have recently started having my 4th and 5th grade reading students think about the types of details they are reading in Non-fiction texts. We have done a lot with coding a text and taking notes, but have not tackled what the types of details are within texts.

Sunday Cummins introduced this idea in a new way in her book Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area Sources. I have also had conversations with her about this in some PD sessions of hers I have been in.

Types of text details may include: 

identify

description

function

location

historical connection

comparison

real-life example

quotes

opinions

humor

You can probably find a few more types, but this list works with most texts.

I have to admit, I was hesitant to try this at first. I think it might have been that, this is something that can lead readers right into identifying a texts structure. There are some similarities between types of details and a texts structure. Over emphasizing the need to find a texts structure is something that I have grown to have a problem with. Many states and districts have chosen to address this within their state and local assessments. They have made the idea of identifying a texts structure something more important than it is, all in the name of addressing standards. When thinking about text structure I feel it should be used to help readers deepen their understanding of the texts meaning. It should not become a huge focus of itself, with lots of test questions requiring a reader to label a texts structure correctly. The end goal should not be that our readers have to identify a texts structure correctly, every time they read. We should not be assessing a readers ability level by identifying a texts structure correctly.

It is the thinking a reader does while considering a texts structure, that is the key. Much like the thinking a reader does when previewing a text. Yes, it is helpful to consider a texts structure when trying top open your mind and prepare for what you are reading or are about to read, but you can understand a text without identifying its structure. When we try to turn the thinking processes of reading into concrete testable items, reading is turned into something it is not, and it becomes something not very engaging.

Anyway, I really had to make myself open up to the idea of noticing the types of details as being helpful. I am so glad I did, however. I think the fact that I was doing some planning and teaching some lessons with Sunday, helped motivate me.

As I introduced students to noticing the types of details a writer uses, I did so focusing on making meaning and text understanding, not as a separate task. I often asked students to consider “what information, opinion, or idea the writer is trying to open our minds to in a particular sentence?” Considering types of details and a texts structure must always be linked back to making meaning and text understanding, not become a separate task readers supposedly do as they read. It is the act of slowing down enough as a reader to consider what a writer wants from the reader that is important. 

Text Details

Cummins, S. (2018). Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area Sources. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

My students started noticing and considering locations more often after I introduced this idea to them. Often times locations are very important to a texts understanding. Students have many ideas and have be exposed to information about many locations across the world they could be and should be making connections to and thus inferences about. They started noticing when the writer was describing something as fact or opinion more consistently. They began slowing down to consider a historical connection they had heard. I taught them to layer this with the the information the author just told them. This helps them add a depth to their understanding. Students were understanding more and engaging more with the texts after I introduced the idea of types of details to them.  They naturally started discussing the structure of the text, or structures I should say. A text is often written in multiple structures, depending on what the writer is trying to say or share. I then asked them to consider what the texts structure might be, like they are asked to do on an assessment. We completed the meaning work first.

By the way you can fairly accurately figure out a texts structure by looking at headings and the layout of a text or other text features, while skimming it. I have seen students asked to find a texts structure in this way before. While doing this however they are not considering what the writer wants them to understand, they are not adding depth to their thinking and building upon what they know. Students usually miss the real meaning of the text when doing this, but often get the structure question right on a assessment.

I could see falling into the same trap with types of text details. Keep the focus of reading instruction, on meaning.  When students are engaged in the meaning of the text and not initially reading to find an answer for a text question they understand more.

In her book Sunday goes on to discuss how comparing details between 2-3 texts over the same topic is very useful.

Check out Sunday’s Blog. Link is on the right side of this page.

What are your thoughts?  Keep Reflecting! Troy

Thoughts on readers as thinkers and strategy instruction. Part 2: The Importance of Engagement

Reading instruction has become very compartmentalized. We teach our focus lesson, and ask kids to read specific books to practice what was modeled during the focus lesson. We teach phonics at a separate time. Because of state testing, reading skills and strategies have been isolated out to make it easier to grade students on mastery of said skills or strategies, and so test questions can be precisely placed into easily manageable categories when looking at data. This has made it easier to grade and easier to assess, but at what price to our students. At what price for their engagement and motivation to read? Students are often less engaged in reading more than ever in classrooms where reading meaning is placed behind skills and strategy instruction based on state and district standards. We are not teaching students to read naturally.

reading1.jpeg

Compliance vs engagement

Student engagement during reading is always a struggle for some students. When we put the focus of reading instruction around strategies and skills, readers use, and ask students to practice those skills and strategies by completing a task, then we loose the engagement of even more readers. “Today we are reading to find characters traits.” “Today we are reading to figure out what text structure the writer used.”

That is not authentic reading. That is not the type of reading our students will be asked to complete at the College and University level. This is not how we read as adults. So why are we asking our students to read this way?

Please see my other posts for more on this reading for meaning vs skills and strategy use.

When you are engaged in something, you often loose track of time, you are in a state of deep focus. You are often engrossed in searching for something, wanting to know more. You are overcome by a desire to know more. They want to learn more about a topic or find out more about a character and their life. Then they can often apply what they read about to their own lives. When in a state of engagement it would be detrimental to a student’s learning to  ask them, to stop and complete a task so you have something too grade, as evidence of student learning of a particular skill or strategy.

aha.jpeg

We read to learn more about the world and to take on new perspectives that are different from our own. Or to strengthen a perspective we already have. This requires us to read with some emotion. Teaching reading by leading first with skills and strategies takes out the emotion.  It does not lend itself to engagement, it lends itself to task completion through compliance.

We have gotten too caught up in some of the process of reading, without paralleling it with students desire to know more and for read for meaning. Reading processes runs in the background of our minds as we focus on text meaning. Yet we ask students to read focusing on skill and strategy practice. When we ask them to do this without switching or paralleling the focus to meaning, kids will think this is how we read. This is not how we read.

Reading instruction focused on strategy and skill isolation has made it easier for teachers too grade and for data collection, but at a cost. I do understand what classroom teachers are asked to do, but a shift is possible. When we get students to engage with texts, then we can ask them to go back into the text and pick it apart like a state assessment might ask them to do. This should not happen before they are reading it authentically and engaged with the text however.

Therefore, I think we need to show our kids what engagement is and feels like. Until you experience it, you really do not understand it. They have all experienced it. We have to help them bring that type of engagement into reading.  We need to teach this in conjunction with reading for meaning.  We need to be teaching kids that they can chose to engage in reading and re-engage in reading when they lose it. They will loose engagement. And some of the time they will have to make an effort to get it back, while other times their desire to know more will drive them. Below you see Ellin Keene’s Four Pillars of Engagement. We have to strive for these. We have to model and help kids experience these as they read.

 Screen Shot 2019-12-13 at 1.21.52 PM

Keene, E. (2018). Engaging children: igniting a drive for deeper learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Once they have engaged or attempt to engage with a text then we can bring in strategies to help students deepen their understand of the text.

I do not lead with strategies first in my guided reading  lessons. I lead with emotion and text understanding. I give students a guiding question or questions to think about as they read.  A question based on text meaning. I did the same with my focus lessons in the classroom. Then I bring in a strategy or strategies on the second reading of a text. The strategy is used to help students build up their understanding, not take away from it. The focus remains text understanding and reading to figure out our questions and wonderings. I ask students to use the strategy to help them find answers to their questions and or the guiding question I started the lesson with. We build layers of meaning as we read and reread to clarify and figure out what text details mean. When we think about types of details and the organization of a text, we do so with in conjunction with making meaning. As we think about a texts structure, or details it adds to our understanding of the text, which is our ultimate goal. A student does not have to always accurately identify every text structure or type of detail to understand the text. For some kids, making them do this drive a wedge into their understanding. They may misidentify something, but this does not mean they do not understand the text. We cannot get too caught up with some of these state and district level standards and forget about making meaning. If not taught in more authentic ways it causes friction and separation. Some readers never get a chance to bring it together again.

The shift of leading with meaning is possible, even with Focus lessons. Even within phonics lessons.

Once students have read for meaning and used a strategy to deepen that meaning and have really engaged with the text then you could ask them to attempt some questions that might be on a state or district assessment . I might say, “If you had read this text on a test and were asked this question…….how would you respond?

Students have to read with the same willingness to jump into a text to discover what the authors wants them to understand about life or a topic on an assessment as they do in a guided reading group. Read first for meaning, and open yourself up to engage with the text and reengage.  I believe the need for this shift is slowly being recognized by higher level administrators. They are seeing less student engaged in reading. Students are being more disruptive, or just compliant. Less students are making a years worth of growth in reading, which is often a standard measure that is looked at for reading instruction.

Breaking down and further isolating the reading process will not help. Reading for meaning and using the students natural desire to learn more on a topic or about life will. We connect with texts because we become emotionally involved with them, not because we can answer a question over what structure the text is or some other skill. Once a student is invested in a text them we can jump into use of skills and strategies.

When meaning comes first, students read to find answers and to add on to what they know or think they know. Then they can apply the skills and strategies authentically as they are reading, where they will find true use of them, not as an added on task to complete. We can notice, name what we see the student doing. We can model and name for them what readers often do when faced with a problem the text has caused for them.  We note for ourselves what they are doing as readers, what skills and strategies they used without prompting and which ones we had to prompt for or model.

Some questions we need to ask ourselves about engagement are. Some of these questions come from Ellin Keene and her book: Engaging Children

Are we OK with compliance?

How can educators facilitate engagement for all rather than accepting that some kids just seem more engaged than others?

Is it up to us to keep up a song and dance to sustain kids’ attention all day?

How can we serve as models of intellectual and emotional engagement?

How do we help a child engage when he or she is taciturn and resistant?

How might we turn over responsibility for engagement to students? Can they choose to engage?

How do we help children engage and reengage without the use of external reinforcements?

How do we show trust in students to find their own way into engagement?

How do we integrate modeling and discussion about engagement with students and colleagues into our already packed days of teaching and learning?