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Posted by on in Literacy

Play-Doh

October is one of my favorite months of the year. Halloween with my kids is one of the reasons despite the loads of candy they receive. This is why I love Costco and the small containers of Play-Doh they offer so parents have an alternative to candy and what they offer to trick-or-treaters. There is another reason I love those small containers of Play-Doh....

Reading nonfiction texts may not be the most exciting task for middle school students. Add to this task long periods of silently seated work and repetitive highlighting and annotating, and teachers will find students at all levels of reading fleeing away from reading engagement. Of course, there are times when reading silently is necessary. And, there are times when highlighting and annotations are important. In fact, I have led several workshops on close reading and effective highlighting reading strategies. However, if the process becomes stagnant, readers, especially reluctant readers, will become complacent and reading gains may be limited.

I recently shared a reading strategy that involves tactile movement performed during reading of a nonfiction text. Adding movement activities to lessons does not always entail having students get out of their seats. Some teachers shy away from having students stand and move due to time constraints or interruptions to the flow of a lesson.

For this activity, I chose a nonfiction text that could be easily chunked. Since this text was meant to involve close reading strategies, the text was limited to two pages. The text features included subheadings, which were clearly marked and placed for a natural stopping point for students. I handed out Play-Doh to each participant and gave them specific instructions as to what to do and what not to do with it. Since this was the first time using Play-Doh, class routines had to be set and taught. The amount of emphasis needed for routine instruction depends on the needs of the students .

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Posted by on in Literacy

Little people learning land: A world of wonder

It's one thing to read and write about literacy, it's another to breathe it. The last time I had a crazy notion in my head I ended up teaching with teachers in over 500 K-12 classrooms. At this stage, it's unfathomable I would dive headfirst into the murky waters of preschool. It's so rewarding but extremely demanding. Good thing I got my little on.

I was blessed to join a staff of two teacher/directors. Their five star preschool qualified for one of the coveted special new grants for early literacy; that's where I come in. Tonight I'm writing from head and heart, sharing highights of my first week in little people learning land. I hope it inspires you, brings a smile, validates what you are doing, maybe a couple tears of joy tossed into the recipe.

Ready to teach- starting year 46

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Posted by on in Literacy

Child reading

This will be the fourth and final part of what has turned into an unintentional series of posts on reading comprehension and close reading. Here is what we have covered so far:

In this post I would like to take a look back on my reading comprehension journey, and the different stages I “experienced” during my time as a classroom teacher.

Stage 1: What’s reading comprehension?

I started my full-time teaching career as a third grade teacher for a half-year. Interestingly enough, during this time I didn’t know reading comprehension actually “existed.” When students struggled to understand what they were reading, I simply encouraged them to reread and try harder. In my mind, students who had problems were not trying hard enough, and understanding would come with increased effort…The less said about this stage, the better.

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Posted by on in Literacy

In the last post we examined how my district is exploring the use of consistent reading strategies throughout elementary and middle school (grades K-8): monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information…And, we took a look at how we could leverage the Notice & Note signposts (both fiction and non-fiction) to have students get more out of these strategies in grades 4-8.

Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, in Comprehension and Collaboration, succinctly explain the significance of reading comprehension strategies, “Explicitly teaching comprehension strategies remains one of the key principles of reading achievement, and the flexible use of comprehension strategies allows readers to hurdle the background knowledge gap when reading challenging text.”

Introducing Reading Comprehension Strategies

As a fourth grade teacher, I introduced the reading comprehension strategies to my students, one at a time, sometimes through the use of a co-created anchor chart. Generally, we spent 1-2 weeks learning and practicing each strategy (often times while instinctively combining its use with previously learned strategies) before moving onto the next. The exception to the rule was monitoring comprehension, on which we spent 3-4 weeks, because (1) it serves as the basis for all other strategies, and (2) it was always learned first and students needed more time getting used to the idea of breaking down texts in a way that was for the most part foreign to them.

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Posted by on in Literacy

Currently in my district at the elementary level, we are in the process of strategically moving away from our basal reading program. We’ve already “cut out” its writing component, as this year we’re hitting the ground running with Writing Workshop and the Units of Study. Also, we’ve begun the process of designing our own reading comprehension instruction with the assistance of Reading with Meaning, Strategies That Work, and Notice & Note (both fiction and non-fiction).

A component of these reading comprehension modifications involves exploring the use of consistent strategies throughout elementary and middle school (grades K-8): monitoring comprehension, activating and connecting to background knowledge, questioning, visualizing, inferring, determining importance in text, and summarizing and synthesizing information. These strategies, which are from Strategies That Work (and many other resources), are “the first recommendation in the IES Practice Guide from the What Works Clearinghouse on improving reading comprehension.”

In addition, we’re looking at leveraging the Notice & Note signposts (both fiction and non-fiction) to have students dive deeper into the strategies (and texts) in grades 4-8. And, if you’re not familiar with the signposts (and you should be), just follow the previous two links to see how they apply to both fiction and non-fiction.

Now, while the idea of consistent strategies may sound neat, organized, and impressive, I believe it’s important to be able to specifically articulate why this is the path we’re considering.

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