Tuesday, June 04, 2013

I Read It But I Don’t Get It: Part 4 Wonder, Outlandish Responses, and Planning

Chapter 7 begins with the importance of students asking their own questions: self questioning the text. Tovani explains some of my similar feelings about students’ questioning abilities, “ Believe it or not, I love teaching students how to ask questions. At first, they resist the urge to share their curiosities, fearing they will be laughed at or accused of being stupid. Yet I haven’t taught a student yet who wasn’t eventually successful at questioning the text. I am however, always disturbed by teenager’s initial lack of curiosity.”  

Tovani explains the importance of students learning to create their own questions despite the amount of curriculum teachers must cover, “ if teachers don’t permit students to wonder, they restrict discovery. Forging paths of new thinking is discouraged when students aren’t allowed to cultivate uncertainties. When readers are encouraged to ask questions, classrooms perk up and more than a handful of kids participate”.  Additionally, Tovani explains that students who know how to question the text can infer and clear up any confusions better than kids who can only decode words and not challenge the source. And all of these skills go back to modeling. Tovani suggest beginning with  sharing real life curiosity questions at the board.  She brainstorms her own questions in front of students recording them on the board as she is thinking about them. The questions begin with “I wonder...”  After a time, the students want to share their questions as well. For stereotypical struggling readers, this is extremely powerful because the students understand there are no wrong questions.  Tovani then takes the wonder questions and turns them into “I wonder” poems.

This activity leads into the students learning to ask questions of the text.  Tovani stresses the importance of being the chief learner during the initial stages of this process. Students follow along as Tovani models her “I wonder” questions on a current text she is reading.  This transforms predictions into actual questions. Tovani explains, “ most adolescents are capable of making logical predictions. Predictions are either correct or incorrect. Inferential thinking isn’t directly confirmed by the author and therefore it is more difficult to do. If a reader is able to question the text, he or she is more inclined to draw conclusions when his questions aren’t directly answered in what is read.”

“ Good readers constantly question the text. They ask questions before, while and after they read”.  Knowing this, Tovani explains the importance of teaching questioning skills because it helps students learn and improves comprehension:
1. Interacting with text: students establish purpose of tend to be more focused
2. Motivate themselves to read: students will grapple with meaning in order to find answers to their questions
3. Clarifying information in the text: these basics of who what when where and why focus readers on verifying the fundamentals in order to go deeper later on in their reading
4. Inferring beyond the literal meaning: students can’t infer without wondering about a text. Inferential thinking begins by questioning the text.

Tovani models this process by giving kids an article where they are only supposed to ask “I wonder” questions regarding the material. She records down the questions they have before they read the text. Next, she passes out sticky notes, and as she is reading aloud, has them jot down further questions as she models her own question asking process.  The next class period, she asks the kids to sort through the questions seeing where answers to the questions might come from:
  • In the text
  • in my head
  • in another source
  • ponderable questions
  • clarifying questions

Tovani explains the importance of these two steps, “ The first goal in teaching the strategy of questioning is to help students ask questions. The second goal is to help them find answers. When students are constantly fed information, they aren’t allowed to participate in their learning. Questioning requires readers to think and actively engage in the reading.”

Tovani closes her chapter emphasizing the importance of teaching inquiry, “ teachers have a choice. We can choose to cover the curriculum or we can choose to teach students to inquire. If we choose to cover the curriculum, our students will fail. If we teach our students to inquire, we will have a well of information from which to teach and our students will have a purpose for learning. It is our obligation to renew our students’ curiosities and guide them toward inquiry.

Tovani begins chapter 8 discussing the problems between opinion versus logical conclusions, “ many struggling readers don’t appreciate their responsibility to draw conclusions and apply logical thinking. Good readers know that in order to understand a text more deeply they must collaborate with the author, searching for clues as they read and combining textual information with their background knowledge” Readers need to move beyond their background knowledge, personal experiences and knowledge and inferential questioning to actually using the text to support their answers and conclusions.  Once again, modeling this process is so important so that students can see how it is done.  Additionally, Tovani addresses the question of accepting all student responses. At some point, students need to understand there are such things as illogical conclusions especially ones not built from facts and evidence from the text.  Tovani goes on to address the issue of inferences, “inferring is abstract thinking, something readers do in their head when they are reading beyond the words.” Tovani explains to her students the difference between opinion and inferencing, “opinions can be right or wrong...inferences differ from opinions in that inferences are steeped in evidence and saturated in personal experience. Inferences are logical conclusions made with the mind not the heart”. It is important for teachers to demonstrate this difference illustrating that inferences are based on clues from the text.  In order to teach the strategy of inference, Tovani uses children’s books with pictures.  The students read the books together and explain what happened in the story. Tovani gets them to see the skill of inference by questioning what they think they know or understand from the story and why they think they know it. Tovani explains, “Good readings search for information left by the author because they know it will help them draw inferences. The more information a reader acquires, the more accurate the inferences.”

Tovani closes her book explaining the overall importance of teaching reading strategies.  Students need a variety of strategies to choose from so they have a better chance of understanding challenging texts.  When teachers, all teachers, teach reading strategies, the entire classes improves their understanding. Tovani explains that classes can work on the same strategy all at the same time, the strategies she uses are applicable to all content areas, and any teacher can teach reading strategies.  Each strategy can build upon the next.

Tovani ends, “ Middle and high school literacy instruction is at a crossroads. Tomorrow’s citizen’s face greater reading demands than ever before. The written word is no longer restricted to paper form. Children of all ages are being bombarded with information from the Internet and other electronic forms of print. The E generation needs to comprehend more than ever before. Readers of tomorrow must do more than memorize words. They must be prepared to analyze, validate, and ask the next logical question. They have to know how to think.”

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