Posted in ELL, Reading, Reading Strategies

Read All About It

TL:DR; how to help students read and access content areas.

Today, Saturday, April 24, I am a cartographer of curriculum mapping, trying something new, useful, and just a little bit sad, too. I love books and teaching ELA, and while I will still teach reading and writing, listening and speaking, my new role as the EL teacher in an alternative high school shifted my instructional direction.

Basically, I’m tired of students not earning their credits in other content areas. And since I can’t change content, I can change what I do and provide for students, and the space and intentional instruction.

We can many conversations about behind, learning loss, (!) grade level, Lexiles, etc., and the encompassing educational philosophical debates, but my students, right now, sitting in my classroom, are not earning credits, so I’m going to research this and modify through a diagnostician’s perspective.

Background/Context

The English Learner students must meet a protocol to join our building. Currently, the roster includes native Spanish and Marshallese students. The reasons for this are justified, however, the protocols do not guarantee students will come to the building with grade-level skills and strategies. It is an alternative high school whose primary mission is to help student retrieve credits expeditiously. We are on a quarter system: each quarter works like a full semester at the comprehensive high schools. If one could earn .5 credit per class in a semester, they earn .5 in a quarter. Because the instruction and content is truncated, which can be stressful and nearly impossible for some areas such as math and science, students must come to our building with a Level 3 proficiency in one of the EL domains:

But as most of us know, the ‘reading wars’* have been a post mortem blame battle, and I’m still sitting with students who struggle with content area texts. Taking an asset-based approach, my students love to talk, love their families, and many of them work, have started their families, and want to graduate from high school. I take a no-shame approach: we work on vocabulary, text features, etc. And one obstacle for me this past year is being allowed to sit virtually side by side with them in their other classes, like the para-educators do. I’m not going to waste much more time trying to figure out if it’s a trust issue that I can solve, because I can’t. It’s not my problem: what is my problem is helping students access the material in front of them.

My plan:

Schedule:

MondayTuesday – 4 classes +HomeroomWednesday 4 classes +HomeroomThursday 4 classes +HomeroomFriday 4 classes +Homeroom
Check-in day
30 minute online classes
Online students:
Those who chose to be online come to Google Meet classes
Hybrid students: come to the building for instructionOnline students:
Those who chose to be online come to Google Meet classes
Hybrid students: come to the building for instruction
Those who chose Hybrid work asynchronously Those who chose online work asynchronouslyThose who chose Hybrid work asynchronouslyThose who chose online work asynchronously
Fourth Quarter Schedule

Assignments:

Each class period, online or in person, the students will:

  1. Check Skyward for current grade and missing work
  2. Look at their schedule and focus on one class reading assignment:
    • Science
    • History or Civics
    • World Geography
    • Electives
    • PE
    • Math
  3. They commit to getting one thing down during ELA class and must write this intention in their notebook (composition notebook or digital).
  4. Use class time to do a first read of their assignments. The classes are mostly based on reading or viewing content, and worksheets based on reading packets.

Daily Check-In:

Reading Across Content Areas:

Five Words I Heard Vocabulary:

When they come across words in other content areas, they’ll write them on the wall, or a co-constructed anchor chart/word wall. These are the words they’ll also use in their Friday Five vocabulary presentations.

Building contextual knowledge:

My students will be tested this spring. Though the SBA has been waived again this year, the ELPA21 has not. That test doesn’t concern me, but passing their other classes does. Now that we’re back in the building two days a week, and most of my ELA students are physically present, I can support them in their other content areas. My hope is this becomes a habit, we increase text structure, text features, contextual understanding, reading strategies and skills and then build toward assessment and engage in some enrichment activities. I will offer books and choice to read independently, and I won’t settle for just getting them through it. But for now, this is how it has to be.

Reading Wars Resources:

*When I received my teaching certificate for K-8, our professor included phonics instruction and balanced literacy. I didn’t even know there was a problem or debate until this past year.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/11/the-reading-wars/376990/

Posted in Reading, Reading Strategies, Research

There’s a book for that.

I sometimes wish I had the magic words that enchanted students’ brains to desire reading. Instead, I hear a steady stream of protests: I hate to read. I hate reading.

Reading is boring.

Of course, it is. Looking at marks on a page that make no sense, undecoded gibberish which serves to remind our students of their lack of background knowledge, pallid schemas, and undernourished, oxygen-deprived computer testing programs.

Out of 90+ students, I have one–ONE–who reads at the IRLA “Gold” level. She is an exceptional young lady. In classes with mostly 13-14-year-olds who read below a 4th-grade reading level, I’m encouraged to do small group, skills-based instruction. Something is nagging at me, though, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Bear with me–these are just questions, not answers. Doesn’t the one girl who reads books, who sees beyond the intimidating number of pages, and never, ever asks “Do I have to read the whole thing?” when given a short article to read, doesn’t she deserve the grand conversations about thematic questions, art, literature, and history? Yes, and so does every student–and yet the shame and illiteracy of having passed grade after grade with being functionally illiterate have turned many of my students to stone. Reading is the enemy and shall be fought with every emotional tool they possess. Reading is not a normal brain function and telling a student who can’t read that they should read because reading is ‘magical’ when it’s shrouded in smog and the stench of failure is a hard sell.

But maybe that’s just it–honesty. Just tell them straight up–I don’t want them to miss out. To shut themselves away from richer, deeper conversations and insights. Do what I can to take away the shame and stigma and get real. Some approaches we teachers tried didn’t work, but the buck stops here (and explain what that phrase means).

 

One regret I carry from my master’s program was that I didn’t finish or pursue an endorsement in reading instruction. That imposter syndrome humonculus nags at me, but also motivates me to read and learn what I can about quality reading instruction.

Hard Words

Why aren’t kids being taught to read?

The basic assumption that underlies typical reading instruction in many schools is that learning to read is a natural process, much like learning to talk. But decades of scientific research has revealed that reading doesn’t come naturally. The human brain isn’t wired to read. Kids must be explicitly taught how to connect sounds with letters — phonics.

“There are thousands of studies,” said Louisa Moats, an education consultant and researcher who has been teaching and studying reading since the 1970s. “This is the most studied aspect of human learning.”

Study: RTI Practice Falls Short of Promise

In 1st grade, 45 percent of the schools provided Tier 2 interventions to groups of students at all reading levels, not just for students reading below grade level. Moreover, 67 percent of schools provided Tier 2 interventions during the core reading instruction, not just in addition to it.

“It raises the question then, what is the extent of the contrast and differences in services provided to students below grade levels?” said Rekha Balu, an MDRC research associate and a co-author of the study.

That blurring of the lines between core instruction and intervention is worrisome, said Karen K. Wixson, a reading and literacy professor and a dean emeritus of education at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

“Core instruction is supposed to be aligned with Tier 2, but Tier 2 is singling out a particular component and approaching it in a different manner. The core instruction is broader and covers a much broader range of skills students need to be exposed to,” Wixson said.

If interventions that are focused on a few skills take up more of the Tier 1 instruction, she said, “Students are missing a lot of broader things that are going to make a difference in their ability to put it all together in functional reading.”

In other words: we must pivot to strategies over skills in our instruction.

A Powerful Approach to Reading Instruction

WHAT IS STRUCTURED LITERACY?

Structured Literacy is a term coined in 2016 by the International Dyslexia Association to unify the many names for this research-based approach. Also known as Orton-Gillingham, phonics-based reading instruction, systematic reading instruction, and synthetic phonics (among others), this method has been around for nearly a century.

In the late 1920s, physician Samuel T. Orton partnered with Teacher’s College educator Anna Gillingham to create a method of reading instruction that would better support the needs of his patients with reading difficulties. He believed that these difficulties were brain-based and not supported by the popular rote memorization method used to teach reading at the time.

Did you get that? In the LATE 1920s. We’ve known what works for a long time, but we just need to have the will to do the direct instructional work (in the early grades) and carry it through. Not sure how I’ll teach students to read at grade level while teaching them whole-class novels at grade level–kind of like building the shelter while the rain is pouring down and expecting our mental socks to stay dry. Okay, so I need to work on my metaphors. I’m sure there’s a book for that.

Some book suggestions:



Posted in being a better colleague, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Reading, Reading Strategies, Relationship Building, Research, Writing

protecting readers

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to read. Her mother read her books. When baby sisters came along she read books to herself. Her dad would take her to the library. Her teacher suggested books to her, including Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret when she was in fourth grade. It became her anthem into adolescence. She read Harriet the Spy three times, long before there was a movie adaptation. She learned that some books were too cold, some too hot, but most just right, all without someone telling her. No context clues. No five fingers. No color-coded levels or reading logs. Nothing was forbidden or taboo. When her great-grandmother gave her The Secret Garden, she used her own judgment to put it aside until she connected with it a year or so later. She would read anything and everything. Stories and information fueled her imagination.

My apologies for using third-person point of view: I needed to get outside my own head for a while and look at the bigger landscape. What a pure joy, to develop and cultivate a reading life before it was a “thing.” Of my current 90 students, I have one girl who tears through my #ProjectLit books as if they’re a bag of Takis. She is a reader. She tested far and away the highest ‘level’ IRLA from the American Reading Company can test. She is proud of her reading and her intelligence, as well she should be. Meeting her mother at conferences I thanked her, and her mother said they read at home.

Now another 8th-grade girl said she doesn’t need to read The Hate U Give because she already saw the movie. She said this in a defensive, snotty tone, challenging me to push back on this notion. I didn’t try. And please don’t misunderstand: I am not critical of her: she’s a teenage girl who doesn’t see the value in spending time with the book, with the author’s prose and structure and doesn’t want to think beyond that. She saw the movie, and that’s enough.

(heartbreaking)

 

So we’ve had years of reading logs, and accountable talk, and for what? Now I’m in a district that uses a program called IRLA from the American Reading Company that says it doesn’t level readers, only books. When a representative from the company visited my room, she wanted to demonstrate the program with a student, and I chose a young girl who’s been reading anything scary I have in my classroom library. She was reading Through The Woods. The rep look at her computer screen leveled this book, and immediately told the student the book wasn’t at her level, “she was an orange level” and to go get an orange book. My student did what she was told.

That is a true story.

And what is also true is after the rep and group left my room, I went into damage control. I told her to never, ever worry about what level she or a book is in terms of what she wants to read. Read and talk about whatever she wants.

But I am left with my own accountability for using this program with students, and my evaluation is based on how much growth students show over this year. It’s on my TPEP evaluation goals, which my administrator crafted. I didn’t have a say in what my goals were or should be. Okay. This is the reality thousands of teachers face in schools across the country. I have the screenshots. We are required to teach and use instructional time for this program. The research I’ve done is dominated by the American Reading Company, so it’s difficult to find independent data. I am a solution-oriented person: if this is what I am required to use, then I will also tap into my professional expertise (by reading Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers, Kelly Gallagher, et al) and make it work. Fortunately, Cult of Pedagogy addressed this issue: What are the best ways to use leveled texts?

And now, for those in the back: READERS ARE NOT LEVELS. BOOKS ARE.

1. LEVELING READERS INSTEAD OF BOOKS

One of the biggest mistakes Serravallo sees is labeling students by text levels. “Levels are meant for books, not for kids,” she explains. “There’s really no point in time when a kid is just a level, just one. There’s a real range, and it depends on a lot of other factors.”

Please: protect your readers. And be transparent about how and why you’re protecting them. You are fighting for their love of reading, but they need to learn how to do this, too, and advocate for their reading lives. 

I’m returning to my Burning Questions unit soon. Not sure I ever stop, actually. Time to flip the script on reading instruction and give authentic and honest hope in our agency.

 

Postscript:

_3__Kris_Hill_-_I_am_sure_there_will_be_people_-_parents_and_teachers___

 

Classroom Library Tip Jar

Please donate so I can replenish my classroom library.

$5.00

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, book recommendations, Books, Reading Strategies

Summer Series of Saves: free-range reading

Buy this book, please.

What do the middle years of teaching look like, because I am in the thick of it now? Do they come with a mix, much like the middle of a marriage or middle of life, where we know just enough to feel competent, still open to new ideas, and enough doubt to gnaw at our knowledge?

Last week my new district offered two full days of new hire training. The training sessions offered overviews of their pillars, including a brief introduction to the IT department, ELL, ELA, and their prescriptive reading program, IRLA, or Independent Reading Level Assessment developed by the American Reading Company.  I am looking forward to helping students become stronger readers with this program, and will sort out some confusion as I move through it with students. Kelly Gallagher’s Readacide was recommended during this session, and immediately I thought of how Gallagher might push back on the notion his work would be used in a prescribed context.

I know one of my new colleagues levels her classroom library, too, and it was suggested by a leader that I might want to do the same, and I thought about it, and this is where that muddy middle-years teacher speaks up: no, I don’t think so. But what would be the harm?

Fountas and Pinnell were my gurus when I began teaching, as Nancie Atwood (especially The Reading Zone) and Kylene Beers and Bob Probst have shaped my reading instruction tremendously.

But one thing I don’t want to do is create a culture where students only choose books “at their level.” What does that even really mean?!

In an article by Kiera Parrot, Thinking Outside the Bin: Why labeling books by reading level disempowers young readers, she quotes the amazing Pernille Ripp:

Research says that students should spend most of their time in ‘just right’ or ‘at their level’ books, but that research does not say to limit students and what they would like to read,” says Pernille Ripp, creator of the Global Read Aloud and author of Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students (Routledge, 2015).

And my other reading hero, Donalyn Miller:

Donalyn Miller, author of Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits (Jossey-Bass, 2013), has called leveling “educational malpractice.” Schools have gone too far, she believes. “There is a lack of fundamental understanding by many educators about the limitations of leveling systems and their role in children’s reading development,” she says. “Matching children with books solely by reading level removes the teacher’s responsibility for knowing much about children’s literature or teaching children meaningful strategies for self-selecting books beyond level.”

When I’m in my book club, no one ever, not once, asks me what my reading level is.

In a 2012 article for Reading.org, “Guided Reading: the Romance and the Reality”, Fountas and Pinnell cautioned that they “never recommended that the school library or classroom libraries be leveled or that levels be reported to parents.” Using leveled texts in classrooms following the “A to Z” matrix, Lexile, or other systems, however, seems to contradict this advice, as educators report that more schools are leveling, with some districts mandating it. Teachers often discuss individual reading levels with their students, and some let students know one another levels.

I am coming to the point, promise.

Last night, in a short time, I read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. It is far below my “reading level” and I suspect many of my middle school students’, too. The book is illustrated, and on a text complexity chart would not rank as very complex.

But that is incredibly deceptive.

Wishtree is what I wish The Giving Tree was–a beautiful story about friendship, family, longevity, and bravery. And if someone told me it was “too low” for me to read I would be indeed, disempowered. I don’t want to put a number on my personal classroom library books: I want the texts to draw students in and have them count on their own intuition, thin-slicing, and desire to read a book. If it’s too challenging (Black Diamond slope, as Lucy Calkins would say) then there is no shame in putting it down for the time being and moving on. The reading instructional time is devoted to creating readers with a rich reading life: explicit skills and strategies, with the desire to find things and curiosity that speaks to their lives.

So: I will keep asking — please contribute to my classroom library of mirrors and windows for students. A reading life isn’t built on levels alone, but the view when we can see all around us.

https://www.donorschoose.org/project/mrs-loves-projectlit-challenge/3400753/?utm_source=dc&utm_medium=directlink&utm_campaign=teacherhub&utm_term=teacher_281757&rf=directlink-dc-2018-08-teacherhub-teacher_281757&challengeid=98502

 

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Language News, Lesson Ideas, Literary Analysis, Making Stuff, Metacognition, Reading, Reading Strategies, Story Telling, Technology

Mind the Map.

https://bubbl.us/NDI3MTU5OS84MzQzNDkzL2FiMjAxMmE5YzRkMjA2ZmU2NGI1ODgxOGEwODg3NjNh-X?utm_source=page-embed&utm_medium=link&s=8343493

https://ed.ted.com/on/7WdV6Sqw

Here is the teaching point/issue:

How do we concurrently 1. teach students how stories work (or how anything works for that matter) 2. use technology to best demonstrate concepts 3. have students practice and grow their own knowledge?

One idea: mind mapping.

There are multiple available apps, etc. for this technique. We had Inspiration in our district, but not sure if we renewed the license or not. No matter.  I know we have other similar apps on our PCs for work. Mind mapping is simply brainstorming, sketching ideas in a hierarchal visual mode, and revisable in real time. For anyone who’s done a cocktail napkin sketch, written a grocery list, or planned an essay, you’ve done a form of mind mapping. It’s finding your way, setting a course, and looking at the big picture.

 

There are some exquisite examples of mind maps.

Cool examples: https://mindmapsunleashed.com/10-really-cool-mind-mapping-examples-you-will-learn-from

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/en/app-list/

http://mashable.com/2013/09/25/mind-mapping-tools/#ncJJyS7Bx8qG

I looked through this file and added MindMap:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKyQvl3l_F5aVNLZnc1Q3dmQ1E/view?usp=sharing

https://www.visualthesaurus.com/

http://www.mindmapping.com/

Canva:

https://www.canva.com/graphs/mind-maps/

https://bubbl.us/

http://www.inspiration.com/visual-learning/mind-mapping

How to Mind Map

All mind maps begin with a main concept or idea that the rest of the map revolves around, so choosing that idea or topic is the first step. Begin by creating an image or writing a word that represents that first main idea.

From that main idea, create branches (as many as needed), that each represent a single word that relates to the main topic. It’s helpful to use different colors and images to differentiate the branches and sub-topics.

Then, create sub-branches that stem from the main branches to further expand on ideas and concepts. These sub-branches will also contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch it stems from. This helps develop and elaborate on the overall theme of the mind map. Including images and sketches can also be helpful in brainstorming and creating the sub-branch topics.

Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software such as Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration® 9.

https://giphy.com/embed/lkVO2a0QHIFzi

via GIPHY

https://www.text2mindmap.com: I got a safety message when I tried to go to this site.

 

Posted in Argumentative Reading and Writing, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Reading Strategies, Research, Rhetoric, Social Media, Writing, Writing Process Explained

Structure Series: Essays for the 21st Century

 

Writing a quick paragraph on social media is good practice.

The five-paragraph essay is likened to learning the foundations of structure and organization critical to being able to write other organized pieces. There may be merit to this, however learning how to write something no one reads anymore may only serve to rust and crumble authenticity.

Might I offer some suggestions, or additions to the five-paragraph essay, especially for secondary students?

Consider these sites/links as mentor texts as well as powerful places to publish essays. Use examples of the essays written here and challenge students to compare their essays to these.

Some close reading/close writing ideas:

  • Read for anecdotes: these may be strewn throughout the piece, or used in the beginning to provide humanity and context.
  • Read for truth (personal truths), opinions (things that strive to persuade) and facts (quantifiable data)
  • Read for thesis (claims)– but more importantly, read for ‘what question the writer is ‘answering’ — identify what prompted the piece, and what happened before and what might happen after is critical to consider the context of any essay.
  • Identify where the author broke away from the standard “five paragraph essay” and where she may have taken some key pieces for organization — how does it begin? How is it concluded? What points are made in the middle?
  • In the conclusions: analyze how the conclusion stacks up with leaving the reader with the desired outcome, whatever that may be. Does the conclusion provide wisdom, more questions, a summation of ideas? How? Why or why not?

Quora

Medium

Flipboard

Op-Ed Pieces from NY Times, Washington Post:

The Right Call: Yale Removes My Racist Ancestor’s Name From Campus

No, Robots Aren’t Killing the American Dream

In contrast, posted in Medium:

A warning from Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking

There is always more to the story. Consider what perspectives or voices are not being heard, what are the perceptions, and what is ‘stochastic terrorism’ —

From Quora:

Read Chris Joosse‘s answer to What is it that conservative voters just don’t get yet? on Quorahttps://www.quora.com/widgets/content

 

These sites allow for curation and dialogue. Challenge students to find pieces that bounce against one another, the claims and counter-claims of 21st-century discussions. We are not sitting around dinner tables anymore, we are sitting in a web of ideas, and sometimes we are the prey: in this day and age, it is critical to not gloss over what is fake news, but to empower our students to consider and weigh the entire issues at stake. It is a monumental task but may mean life or death. Hyperbole? Not when others are reading conspiracy theories and threatening lives. Even if this isn’t factual–consider that some do believe it, and act accordingly.

 

Posted in Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, book recommendations, Close Reading, Lesson Ideas, Mythology, Reading Strategies

Read the book, dummy.

 

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=mrsk06-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0325050805&asins=0325050805&linkId=d12e1b280c1386c7821e7588c08506cf&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

Noticed:

I belong to the Notice & Note Facebook group, and it’s marvelous. Teachers helping other teachers, all grade levels (but predominately K-8), finding books, helping with lessons/units, etc. The big focus is on Kylene Beer’s and Robert Probst’s new book, Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and therefore embarrassed myself a bit by one of my questions in a post. A teacher named Lisa Roth put together this PowerPoint intended to share with staff. (I hope she doesn’t mind if I link it here: if yes, I’ll take it down post haste.)

While reading through her presentation, what caught my eye was the idea that ancient stories or ‘campfire stories’ are nonfiction. Campfire and ancient stories are something I’m very familiar with, having created units on early human story telling for 8th grade, that ties in with the World Studies history. At least I thought I was an expert, but according to Beers and Probst, campfire stories are non-fiction. I asked for clarification, and Roth’s interpretation of N&N Nonfiction makes sense: those stories were meant to inform. Yes, they were. They were origin stories, creation stories, explanations for the beginnings and the endings of things. That makes sense. But–and here is where I ran out and clicked on the book link to buy it–I can imagine teaching the context of genre and how genre shifts with new knowledge is going to be critical.

But before a rush to judgment, I will be reading with a lens that my personal theory is not all campfire stories were meant to inform. Or rather, humans didn’t need to hear and share stories with pure entertainment and escapism value. Nonfiction connotes such dryness for me, and that’s wrong. And I am going to check my bias, because more likely than not, my students believe stories as if they were factual, and it’s time to deconstruct that notion. Think about it: urban legends, social media comments, texts –they are not meant to entertain, but to state opinions as facts.

I remember when introducing Greek/Roman mythology trying to put it in context for students, and dancing around a theological line: these gods and goddess died because no (human) believed in them anymore, but at the time, the cultural belief system was as strong as any current religion today. Some students, occasionally, would suggest we bring back Zeus and Hera.

Perhaps there is another word, a portmanteau, that integrates fiction and nonfiction: truthiction? Stories intended to inform but are based on limited knowledge? Maybe I’ll leave that one up to my students next year to discuss and decide. Yes, I think that’s best.

Here is a better idea: if stories are meant to inform, enlighten, or motivate, then perhaps a unit on civic engagement is in order:

Summer Readings to Inspire Teachers about Project Based Learning with Civic Engagement by Steven Zemelman

So while I’m waiting for my copy of Notice & Note, Nonfiction version, I’ll be brushing up on my legends and mythology, and continue to dig out the truths in those stories.

If you’d like some dedicated nonfiction articles about storytelling and ancient humans, here are some links:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/09/ancient-campfires-led-rise-storytelling

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/late-night-conversations-around-fire-might-have-shaped-early-human-cognition-and-culture-180952790/?no-ist

Oh, and I started a Youtube Channel:

love youtube channel

 

Posted in Big Questions, burning questions, Reading, Reading Strategies

Gluing the wings back on.

 

Is it still beautiful? Functional? Does it break my heart?
Is it still beautiful? Functional? Does it break my heart?

As an artist and a scholar, I prefer the specific detail to the generalization, images to ideas, obscure facts to clear symbols, and the discovered wild fruit to the synthetic jam.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

An epiphany, oftentimes, doesn’t form as a flash or explosion, but a slow, forward creeping light. This is mine with close reading.

This overwhelming sensation of pulling the wings off the butterfly, of disassembling the parts and not understanding the whole, blind men trying to describe an elephant…all of this. I have read Falling In Love With Close Reading by Lehman/Roberts, and dug plenty into Notice & Note, and When Kids Can’t Read (Beers), and conducted a study of Kelly Gallagher of nearly fangirl proportions. All of these great minds, and intense professional development with close reading, and still I was left bereft.

It ruined my reading life.

For years, (and I am not being hyperbolic) I found that no novel, no news article, heck, not even a cereal box would cross my path without my examination of every word in close detail of where and what and how and when some text passage would spark my EUREKA! LOOK AT THIS CHARACTER RELATIONSHIP TO SETTING! This happened long before I heard the term ‘close reading.’ Annotating, discussion points, questioning, digging…on and on. The (over) analysis of literature, news, history, politics, religion, movies, poetry– and yes — cereal boxes, no longer came to me with just the need to read [say this in a Top Gun voice of ‘I feel the need for speed’]. I didn’t need to read for myself, I needed to read through every students’ brain that came into my classroom.

My best conversations about narrative are always with my husband. But even now, I sometimes tell him I don’t want to analyze what we’re watching, which probably hurts his feelings. I don’t blame him. We did manage to enjoy this anthology’s selection of True Detective, and if you say one word against Vince Vaughn’s performance we can’t be friends anymore. I did have one scuffle with a friend over her inability to appreciate the sad, sweet frosting that is The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I’m not married to her, so I let it go.

But you see how this goes, right? That what we love and share is as close to our hearts as anything can be? And if we love reading, and then must dissect it, masticate it, and regurgitate for others to find the path…then…(don’t worry: I’m going to get to a good place with this).

Another place that’s mine to share when discussing books is a book club one of my dearest friends started. There are several members, mostly NOT teachers, which provides a refreshing place to discuss books. My friend’s turn to choose came up, and she thought a classic would be in order, so she shared her love, Pride and Prejudice. I went through a “Jane Austen” phase in my late 30s, having not read any of her work in high school. I loved them. I got them. And I saw connection after connection between her genuis of writing about social foibles in her time and the relevancy to today. Now, one of my friend’s friends asked her if it was okay to just watch the movie. I don’t blame her. The text was written in 1813, for Elizabeth Bennet’s sake, and it’s hard to make heads or tails out of it.

Take this passage:

“Pride, observed Mary, who who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, “is…

Austen, Jane (2008-02-11). Pride and Prejudice (Kindle Location 216). Dolphin Books. Kindle Edition.

Translation: This girl likes her own opinions. 

We all know this girl. The one who interjects into every conversation her personal wisdom and sage advice.

Am I sure that’s what it means? No. I didn’t look up Sparknotes, or talk about it, or have a scholarly discussion about Jane Austen. I JUST KNOW.

*deep breath*

I promised someplace good with this. Some kind of wake for my loss of my reading life. A fête, perhaps.

//giphy.com/embed/UfHGJffzpoGM8

via GIPHY

But here is that slow-burn epiphany: I signed up for this. It doesn’t matter that my inner reading life is no more: I am a teacher now, and all that matters is that I help ease the path for reading, and making meaning, for students. Just like parenting responsibilities, teaching is a biggie. It’s not an avocation or hobby. But unless I get back my own engagement in the conversation with students, it’s going to feel like work. (It did last year, but last year was fraught with a dearth of imagination and abundance of negativity, lack of scope, lack of growth mindset, and just plain bad manners. I can’t abide bad manners.)

But that was last year. This is now. I still love to discuss ideas: ideas from books, movies, graphic novels, politics, media, and world events, past, present and future. As long as I show students that close reading is just a tool to help make reading easier–easier to access the ideas–then it’ll be okay. Close reading, and my internal dialogue and connections with writers’ craft, still delights and engages me, and makes me feel smart and confident. I want my students to share in the same gift.

 

 

Posted in Being a better teacher, Language News, New News, Reading, Reading Strategies

Monitor: Idiot proof.

This stream in my Reading Rockets’ feed caught my attention today:

Sound It Out

Monitoring self-monitoring

I recently read a post about recognizing, teaching, and supporting self-monitoring behaviors in young readers. The post describes two readers: David, who asks questions and self corrects word errors as he reads, and Frannie, who plows through text regardless of errors that either change the meaning of the text, include nonsense words, or don’t make any sense at all. The author stresses how important it is for readers to think about what they are saying as they read. “From the very earliest reading experiences that we have with children, we need to send the message that reading is supposed to make sense and that it’s their job to be checking that their reading IS making sense.” See more at Catching Readers Before They Fall.

This post resonated with me because of Becca, a first grader I just started tutoring. She’s an on-grade level reader (Rigby 7/8, Guided Reading E) but she REALLY wants to be reading chapter books like some of her classmates. Her reading speed (about 60 words per minute) suggests that her fluency is still developing. She’s still a choppy, word-by-word reader. So, although she’s a bit slow, it’s partially because she does a great job monitoring her reading. She frequently stops and self corrects herself. She questions when her decoding attempt results in a non-word. She listens to herself and expects what she reads to make sense. This is great, but it does slow her down.

As her tutor, I’m thrilled with her reading behavior. Moving forward, we’re going to focus on strategies to increase her fluency while maintaining the expectation that reading makes sense. Last week I introduced a re-reading chart (165 KB PDF)* from the Book Buddies manual on which Becca is using tally marks to track how many times she’s read the three books I sent her home with. This week, we’ll add new books to her rereading bag and try a timed repeated reading. I think she’ll like that strategy, although not every child does!

What do you do to help a child monitor their comprehension while developing their fluency at the same time?

“Begged questions:”

I have no issues or concerns with the author or article. What I’m digging into is this: why read at all?

When I pose this to students, I can gauge their level of maturity in their responses:

Immature: Because the teacher made me.

Mature: “Oh, Mrs. Love, The Hunger Games is SO GOOD – I read it all weekend and couldn’t put it down (this comes from both girls and boys). Do you have the next book? The next book? The next book?

I worked as a barista at a well-known world-dominating coffee establishment while I was working on my master’s. The cash register went to a symbol system, with codes, etc., and most instructions for the layout of the shop were “idiot proof.”

Be cautious, people: are we making the world so ‘idiot proof” that we marginalize ourselves even further.

I”ll just keep talking away – telling students that everything, and I mean darn near everything, is improved in my life because of my rich reading life: food, experiences, travel, time with family, conversations, know-how, confidence, friendships, choices, and any social interaction, writing, creating, crafting, developing, and breathing – it’s all better.

Perhaps I just answered my own question.