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 Noticings

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Thoughts on readers as thinkers and strategy instruction. Part 1

Take a look at this quote:

“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.”

 

This quote brought me back to my reflecting on transfer and strategy instruction.  I am considering what I have learned from Sunday Cumins, Vicki Vinton and  Dorthy Barnhouse and reflecting on the works they have written. I am currently putting many of their ideas into practice with my students.

nurture         Unknown    What Readers Really Do

 

I believe like Barnhouse and Vinton say in their book “What Readers Really Do” reading happens within three modes or processes and those modes are recursive. Students flip back and forth continuously between these three modes.

Comprehension – – Understanding – – Evaluation 

We use different strategies while we read within these modes. Readers are constantly engaged in the process of drafting an understanding and revising it as they read.

Comprehension  is done line-by-line and paragraph-by-praragraph, page-by-page as readers try to comprehend the text literally and inferentially.  Readers consider and assign meaning  to the line-by-line details they. This is comprehending at the basic level. Next readers piece together those literal and inferential  ideas into interpretations of the text (Barnhouse/Vinton).  Reader assign more value to some details  without completely disregarding others.   Or they should. Striving readers often dismiss what they find confusing or initially understand. They do not carry details with them to consider as they read on.  This is often a missed component of the basic level of comprehension.

As readers connect details they make interpretations  that lead to some understandings about a text on a whole level or on multi-layered levels. You are building upon those literal and inferential thoughts and are considering and interpreting what the writer might be saying about a topic or life, which can lead to understanding an emerging theme or overarching idea. This is your first-draft understanding (Barnhouse/Vinton). Then you evaluate this understanding you have pieced together and re-examine the text on the page and in your mind. This re-examining of parts of the text is crucial to building a rough draft understanding. This is where you might go back into a text to reconsider some of your thinking, look closer at confusing parts, or simply try to understand what the writer might want readers to take away from a text. This close re-reading of different parts of a text are critical.  This is where you may reconsider those confusing details, you hopefully carried with you. You  weigh your interpretation and consider their worth. This is a recursive process through the whole text.

Sunday Cummins talks about reading a text closely in her book “Nurturing  Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area-Sources.” Vinton discusses reading closely instead of reading a text multiple times through different lenes. Reading closely requires readers to hold on to the confusing details, and the details that confront what they believe and consider them across a text. This is something we have to get better at in schools. When students do not notice and note inconsistencies, misunderstandings and confusing details as they read on, they never reach the understanding and evaluations stages with the depth they need.  We have to be wiling to hold onto what we do not understand as readers because we never know when a writer will expect us to refer back to them.

Teachers often expect students to quickly comprehend what they are reading and move them along, to make interpretations and build understandings, without doing the basic comprehension work. This is the invisible thinking of considering the text details and what they might mean literally and inferentially line by line before the considering whole text and its theme or the writers overall point on a topic.  I think we are trying to move students through the modes of comprehension and understanding much too quickly.

When most teachers model, they are modeling a strategy in isolation, and it ends up being more of a task added to the reading process.  Teachers are often asked to design a lesson that makes a strategy the teaching point, without considering the thinking and understanding a reader has to consider before using of the strategy. We often meet readers with the thinking we want them to achieve at the end, skipping over the thinking work that is not as easy to evaluate and grade.

I think that a teaching point can be more about the thinking readers do or something that readers speculate about as the they consider what the writer might want them to feel or think. It can be helping readers create the mindset they need to do this thinking work. A teaching point can help move readers between the modes of comprehension, understanding and evaluation.  Consider using a strategy as a tool to help readers meet the teaching point, not the teaching point itself. In her book Dynamic Teaching For Deeper Reading, Vinton, describes this as a teaching point in one lesson: “Sometimes writers don’t come right out and tell us exactly what’s happening, so readers need to be aware of what they don’t know and then try to figure out what hasn’t been said by paying close attention to the details the writer gives them.”   This is not what I see as a typical teaching point. It does not put a typical strategy front and center.  Vinton brings readers attention to the behind the scenes thinking a reader has to accomplish. This is what I feel is missing in reading instruction. When we try to make the abstract, concrete we often end up making the strategy something readers do outside of meaning making and a step that separates itself out from meaning making. We too often want to make a strategy something that we have to do to a text, or on a separate piece of paper, not the thinking itself that a reader must complete internally before anything can be shared as an understanding about a text.

I can see drafting a teaching point around how readers need to hold on to details that are confusing, and misleading. Another teaching point might be pointing out that readers are often asked to reconsider current beliefs and consider news ones. These teaching points leaves it open for students to be decision makers. They set them up to be their own problem-solvers by focusing on the thinking work, without teachers answering text specific questions for students. This is a teaching point that could lead into using the strategy of  thinking about what we know versus what we don’t know as we read. Some students may need to see this thinking on a What We Know/What We Wonder Chart. (Barnhouse/Vinton). It could lead to using a coding strategy and then annotating some of what was coded with what we wonder or are interpreting. You could use the STP strategy of “Stop, think, Paraphrase with this teaching point, to help you consider what you understanding and what you don’t understand yet, that you will read to find out. If you keep the focus on text understanding and bring in strategies to enhance meaning, not lead it, then students are able to build up some agency to their reading.

We have to give students a chance to consider the many things that might be running through their heads. The what if’s, and might be’s our mind has to consider before making a claim at understanding and being able to evaluate that understanding.  When we skip these over this type of thinking, young readers might feel very frustrated because we are expecting them to do what more experienced readers sometimes struggle to do. Our students need more time to consider a text, and be shown how to do that.

Part 2 coming soon.

Troy

The 5 Why Approach and Transfer of Strategy Instruction Part 2

As a Reading Specialist I always talk about reading being a skill that can help you change your life in a positive and powerful way.  When introducing the coding strategy to a group of 5th grade striving readers I related it to being a tool readers use to help them self-monitor.  I teach in a year round school and get the opportunity to support readers and grow my practice all year.  I have found if I do not tie a strategy to reading for meaning and text understanding, students do not understand its function and see its power or connect it back to reading for meaning. They instead see it as something their teacher is asking them to do, that often takes away from the meaning of the text because it has become so isolated out as a standard to be address in the curriculum or a heavy hitter on state tests. Those can be factors you take into consideration when teaching the strategy but never take the focus away from meaning.

I intentionally taught this group of students the coding strategy which includes annotating and then went back and connected it to self-monitoring wanting then to make the connection themselves. I also did this because I knew 2 of the students had used the coding strategy in the past and wanted see when and how they were applying the strategy.  I could then use the 5 Why Approach I had just read about and see if it has an impact on transfer. I feel to be effective the 5 Why Approach has to be used once students have had experience using a skill or strategy.  They have to use their experience to help them answer the questions that are generated.

I let this group of 5th grade students code 2 different non-fiction articles using the coding strategy before we attempted the 5 Why’s.

This was our first attempt.

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The students wrote answers to the generated questions in silence, not hearing or seeing others responses.  Then they shared responses which I used to generate the next question. In the future I think I need to be more specific with the questions that I generated from students answers. Or maybe this approach needs to start with a more direct question. Students I feel will become more specific with their answers as we complete more 5 Why’s together.  The question of self-monitoring is not one that lends itself to a tight and succinctly worded answer. These students really generated a wonderful reason for reading which can be our reason for self-monitoring also. Although the coding strategy (which lends itself as a way self-monitoring non-fiction texts) was not specifically discussed in this 5 Why chart, I set it up to be discussed in later lessons with a chart. I can also go back to this chart when teaching self-monitoring in fiction texts, by using the Stop, Think, Paraphrase (STP) strategy or the Know/Wonder chart strategy. I will go into these strategies in future posts.

Students connected reading with thinking and meaning making. I am pleased with the result. As long as the students understand and transfer this thinking, and use it to help motivate themselves to self-monitor then the lesson served its purpose. We have talked about my goal for them is to be able to self-monitor using the coding strategy in their heads as they move into high school. I want them to use the strategy with automaticity when reading.  I think even then and as adults however, there will be times when readers are better served to complete the coding and annotating on paper or the text itself.  The coding strategy is ultimately a form of note taking when completed on paper.

 

When teaching strategies we must keep the focus of reading on making meaning. The strategy itself is not more important than text meaning which in part is how the text is interpreted by the reader, which is influenced by personal experiences. That being said a reader has to also be thinking about the writers intentions, taking into consideration the intent of the language the author is using to try and make readers feel and react in certain ways. As readers we cannot leave the writers voice and purpose behind thinking only on our own believes and understandings of the world.   Strategies are effective when used as tool to help readers make meaning. They are not and should not be used solely as a method for grading a students reading ability. As readers we do not let the use of strategies limit our text selection or hold us back as readers and thinkers. We should not do this to our students as well. Strategies are tools to help not dominate the reading process. They should not take away from the messy thinking process reading really is. Never make strategies more important then the reading itself or the act of self-monitoring for meaning.

Troy