Monday, May 31, 2010

Text to self connections

The first reading strategy I teach in September is the easiest one...making connections. Children find this easy, natural and enjoyable. I love the book: Up North at the Cabin. Most children have gone on a vacation or stayed with family members so they can make some connection with this book. I usually have them write about a connection they made with the book and label it T-T (text to text), T-S (text to self), T-W (text to world). For more practice with making connections I might read Earrings! by Judith Viorst or Slower Than The Rest. Another favorite is When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. It is very easy to find a book that can be used to make connections. Directly after teaching/modeling this strategy I expect it to be applied whenever we are reading whether its the Trophies anthology (basal reader) or a paperback. If fact, for the rest of the year, the words I made a text to self connection or I used my background knowledge need to be internalized and spoken often. The idea that critical readers NOTICE when they have connected with text is extremely important. Do not teach it and put it on a shelf. Apply, apply, apply.

Professional books

Although 7 Keys to Comprehension by Zimmermann/Hutchins and Strategies That Work by Harvey/Goudvis are the bibles for teaching reading comprehension, I have also found many other books that have helped me. When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers is an excellent start. This book really helped me understand how to teach inferencing skills to 4/5th graders. Emily Kissner wrote The Forest and the Trees. It focuses on teaching children how to find the main idea. I am currently reading her other book: Summarizing, Paraphrasing and Retelling. Teaching for Deep Comprehension by Linda Dorn is also excellent. Reality Checks by Tony Stead is another one I would recommend. Of course Debbie Miller's books are terrific. They were written for people who teach the primary grades, but I got a lot out of them. I liked Beyond Leveled Books by Szymusiak/Sibberson. Franki Sibberson has a blog you can follow as does Emily Kissner.
I also like Linda Hoyt and Gail Tomkins. Linda Hoyt's Revisit, Reflect, Retell has a great DVD, so does Linda Dorn's book, Teaching For Deep Comprehension. I'll add more books to this list as I come across them.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Can comprehension be taught?

Can comprehension be taught? I taught elementary school for so many years without an answer to that burning question. But now my answer is yes, I think it can. I believe it is possible to make ten year olds read critically. I think they can be shown how to think while reading. The HOW is the tough part. The HOW is what I try to do everyday. By writing this Blog I am hoping to clarify my thinking about HOW. I want to reflect on my past lessons so that I can try to decide what I did well and what I still need to improve on. What is comprehension? How do you teach it? What materials should you use? How do you assess it? What is next? All questions I am passionate about.