Thursday, June 06, 2013

Do I Really Have to Teaching Reading: Part 1

Tovani begins her second book re-emphasizing many of the points she made in her first book regarding asking authentic questions, learning to read is a never ending process, and that good readers and writers constantly monitor their comprehension.  She reviews her 7 strategies good readers and writers use
  1. Activating background knowledge and making connections between new and known information
  2. Self-questioning the text to clarify ambiguity and deepen understanding
  3. Drawing inferences from the text using background knowledge and clues from the text
  4. Determining importance in text to separate details from main ideas
  5. Employing fix up strategies to repair confusion
  6. Using sensory images to enhance comprehension and visualize reading
  7. Synthesizing and extending thinking
She also reminds her reader of what fix-up strategies are useful for students:
  • make a connection between the text and your life, your knowledge of the world, another text
  • make a prediction
  • stop and think about what you have already read
  • ask yourself a question and try to answer it
  • reflect in writing about what you have read
  • visualize
  • use print conventions
  • retell what you have read
  • reread
  • notice patterns in text structure
  • adjust your reading rate: speed up or slow down

Tovani spends some more time explaining the importance of reading instruction in all classes emphasizing how crucial it is to have our students constantly building their own understanding of information rather than the teacher disseminating all the information to the students.  She discusses the power of saying “So What?” to comments given in class in order to further probe our students thinking. We shouldn’t let students simply give superficial or unsubstantiated responses, but instead have them ask of themselves, “So What?” to better their emerging thinking.  How does the comment they are making help them better understand the story?  Tovani reintroduces the Double Entry Diary with two columns to push students’ thinking. In one column, students give their connections to the text where in the second column, they answer “So What” to their connection.  As stated earlier, Tovani wants the students’ comments to help them understand the story better.  I know I do this a lot with my students’ writing asking them to push themselves with their thinking. I can imagine how much better their writing will be by pushing their thinking earlier during their reading. Tovani pushes this further explaining that, “ My job is about teaching kids how to read and think about text is meaningful ways that help them better understand the people around them.” I would even add to this that it helps students first understand themselves then helps them understand others.

Tovani emphasizes the importance of constantly adapting lessons and activities to the needs of your students.  She uses the following four principles to guide her instruction:

1. Assess the text students are expected to read. Is it interesting and pertinent to the instructional goal? Is it at the reading level of the students, or is it too difficult? If the text is too difficult, consider how you will make the text more accessible.
2. Provide explicit modeling of your thinking processes. As an expert reader of your content, identify what you do to make sense of text. Share that information with your students.
3.Define a purpose and help students have a clear reason for their reading and writing. Make sure they know how the information they read and write will be used.
4. Teach students how to hold their thinking and give them opportunities to use the information they’ve held.

Tovani believes that if teachers share the responsibility of learning and thinking in their classrooms with their students, we can enable our students to grow as learners. The responsibility of teaching reading, however, must not fall solely upon the Language Arts teachers’ shoulders. Every teacher is responsible for teaching reading in their content area. Design teachers can teach students how to read charts and graphs differently than Math teachers. We must all model and teach how to read in our specific discipline. As Tovani states, “The problem is that if language arts and English teachers are the only ones teaching reading, students aren’t going to learn how to read different types of texts. Language arts and English teachers are just as burdened by an over-abundance of content as teachers in any other discipline.”

Tovani creates a great parallell between teaching and coaching stressing the importance of modeling with our students, “ It is important to give students models for ways of reading whenever we can. We see this a lot in athletics- coaches are great at this. They never tell a kid, “Just go hit a homer.” They show them where to stand in the bow and how to hold the bat and when to choke up.”  So, why don’t we model for our students more of the behaviors and techniques that make us successful learners?  Mental modeling:
  • gives students insights into how good readers and writers make sense of text.
  • allows students to see options that are available to them. Students can see how good readers and writers decide what to do
  • helps students understand the complexities of reading and writing and that they are ongoing thinking processes
Teachers can model this in their own content area and share how they read a text, what they do when they are reading, what do they do when they are struggling to understand?

Tovani shares modeling the following:
  • determine what is important
  • recognize and repair confusion
  • negotiate difficult reading situations
  • start new books
  • remember key words in previous chapters and use them in subsequent chapters
  • figure out unknown vocabulary
  • research topics
  • remember what you read
  • understand a poem
  • understand a word problem
  • infer meaning
  • recognize and use literary devices

Tovani even gives her own example of breaking down her reading and understanding of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
1. First, I need an overall picture of the novel: figure out the structure of the book
2. Find background information on the author or subject to help understand the novel
3. Ask questions and model asking these questions as you read
4. record questions without concern of answers

Tovani explains how as teachers we become experts in our subjects and with our texts that many times we forget what it is like to read something and have to know it the first time we are assigned a text. Yet, this is what we ask of our students all the time.  She also suggest pairing struggling students with others to aid in their learning.  We need to remember what it is like to be a student.

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