Sunday, April 28, 2013

Adventure #4--Reading Strategies during Read-Aloud

Three years ago I read Writing About Reading by Janet Angelillo (get the book here).
 In it, she talked about having her students respond to her read-alouds on a daily basis.  In years past, I had asked my students to write a response to our read-aloud books about once a month.  The response had to be a paragraph long and it had to contain thoughts and feelings, not a summary.  We had talked about all of the different ways in which you could respond (inferring, predicting, connecting, etc.), but students still struggled with how to apply these things in their writing.  I knew I needed to get them to write more consistently about what they read (I write a book review of each book I read, so you really do use writing about your reading in real life).  I picked up Angelillo's book and instantly found an idea I could take back to my classroom.  She suggested giving students sticky notes to respond on each day.  The idea was, that as I read aloud, students would jot down an inference, or a prediction, or they would make a connection, or they would sketch (for visualization--and let's face it, it's just fun!), or any other number of things we came up with as a class.  The structure was pretty free.  Kids were allowed to try any type of response they wanted, they just had to do one.  After read-aloud was finished for the day, they could share some of their thinking with other classmates.  I made the kids keep the sticky notes in the "Read-Aloud Response" section of their Reader's Notebooks.  This was great for about two months, and then we ran out of room in our notebooks.  Do you know how quickly you can fill up 1/4 of a composition book with sticky notes?  Pretty darn fast!  So, in order to save space and money, we went away from sticky notes and just wrote or drew our thoughts right in the notebook.

Three years later, this is now a daily routine for my classes.  I pass out Reader's Notebooks as soon as they kids enter my room.  Read-aloud is expected each day (usually at the beginning of class) and if, for some strange reason, I don't do it then, there is basically a mutiny in my room and they're ready to throw me overboard and one of them will pick up the book and gladly read to the rest of the gang.  Therefore, we always do read-aloud.  This year, I've read-aloud six books so far (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Horton's Miraculous Mechanisms, Liar and Spy, The False Prince, Wonder, and True (...sort of) ).  For each of these books, my students know they have to proffer up some type of response that goes deeper than "I really like/dislike this part...".  We've shared lots of our thinking and have responding to classmates responses.

Because it was test prep week last week (a favorite time for all educators), I thought it would be fun to give each student a sticky note and have them respond.  Before I read aloud, we talked about all of the ways you could respond to a text.  I made a quick graphic organizer on chart paper.  As I read aloud, kids wrote or drew.  When I was finished, they had to stick their response on the graphic organizer.  Here's what it looked like:

Pretty cool, huh?  I was so impressed that the chart had a wide variety of responses.  Personally, I anticipated only prediction and visualization to get all the glory, but they proved me wrong.  We talked about why predictions and visualization get so much attention and is was agreed that those two reading strategies are the easiest for them to "get."  But, we've come a long way this year, as evidenced by the amount of stickies on other areas of the chart.

I've been leading a book study group after school with some fellow teachers, and we're reading a book by Tanny McGregor (a Cincinnati local!) called Comprehension Connections (find it here).  She's suggests offering up concrete examples to get kids better understanding these reading strategies.  So, of course, the old mind is always cranking.  Next year, I anticipate starting the year by spending a few days on each of these strategies, providing some concrete examples to refer back to throughout the year, and then expecting a wide variety of responding and making meaning to be occurring throughout the year.  In the meantime, I'm pretty darn happy with what we've done this year and how our thinking has truly grown.  I don't know that any test can really measure that.

Here's some up-close and personal shots of our responses:This is always a favorite!  Funny how they      mostly drew the same things, though.

 We're currently reading True (...sort of) by Katherine Hannigan.  It lends itself so nicely to empathy.  A great character education lesson there, somewhere...
Wondering is a little more than one question.  These kids really talked it up!

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