Saturday, October 25, 2008

One of my assignments

In case any of my readers was interested in what I am devoting my life to so diligently over the next year and a half. I thought I would post a sample of the work I am turning in to my graduate program for an additional license in K-12 Reading.

Enjoy!

Additional chapters to come later

Part I: Written Analysis of Professional Book Chapters 1-3
October 21, 2008

Keene, Ellin Oliver and Susan Zimmerman. (2007). Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, Second Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Purpose

After reading Hutchins and Zimmerman’s 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! and working with fifth graders on reading comprehension in the past year, I realize I need to become more skilled at teaching comprehension strategies. I want this book to become the first of many in helping me build a “comprehension curriculum” for teaching reading. This book seemed like the perfect anecdote to help do exactly that.

Chapter 1 Summary

In “Creating A New Mosaic,” the authors challenge teachers to think differently at how reading comprehension is taught, creating the image of reading comprehension as a mosaic. Each piece of information gathered from reading is a tile that adds to the mosaic of information in a student’s mind. With each discussion, a student will piece together a different meaning from the text. The authors introduce themselves as authors of the first edition and tell us how they became interested in the area of comprehension strategy instruction, explaining how too many teachers become reliant on book lists and word memorization, creating a culture of fluent readers but readers that can’t understand what they’ve just read. The authors list the teachers they worked with in their research, and inspire practicing teachers to go beyond traditional methods of teaching reading to inspire future generations of students to read, re-read, invent, explore, question, and imagine while they are reading. A think-aloud while reading-aloud strategy in a fifth-grade classroom is modeled. Because this is the introductory chapter, the most informative content comes from Figure 1.1 on page 14 detailing the seven meta-cognitive strategies that will later be explained throughout the book: Monitoring, schema, questioning, determining importance, inferring, using sensory and emotional images, and synthesizing.

Personal Response

I very much agreed with the idea that reading is an action sport because all the action takes place in your mind. I think it is important that students be taught to think about thinking that takes place while reading. I also liked the connection that looking is synonymous with reading, as the authors introduced with the poems at the beginning of the chapter. I have books that I read and re-read and gain something from each reading. The authors make a valid point with the idea of a “gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student.” I know this is what I struggle most with when teaching reading to older elementary students. The idea that you give them a book and expect something to catch on doesn’t work all the time. I agree with the statement: “It’s not enough to put books in the hands of children and check in once in a while.” Although time spent reading is crucial to learning to comprehend, it doesn’t mean that the strategies involved in comprehension are always second nature to those students. I have also taught students who do nothing but imitate my thinking when they were not confident with their own thoughts about the book we were discussing.



Chapter 2 Summary

“Changing Times” begins by differentiating comprehension instruction from comprehension assessment. The authors define comprehension instruction as instruction that actively engages students in asking questions, summarizing and synthesizing text, and identifying important ideas. The authors then go a step further to define proficient reading as reading that involves using more than one strategy at a time. They state that children should move effortlessly from one strategy to the next without prompting if they are a proficient reader. The second half of the chapter engages readers in a question and answer session about comprehension strategy instruction. Key questions include: “Why do we need to teach comprehension strategies,” “is there an order to how they are taught,” and “what is the best reader’s workshop structure?” The authors make a distinction between strategy instruction at the primary and intermediate levels. They say that primary students should be taught monitoring, using background knowledge, questioning, creating mental images, inferring, determining importance, and synthesizing while intermediate students should be taught that but in a different order. Intermediate students should learn monitoring, using background knowledge, inferring, determining importance, synthesizing, questioning, and creating mental images. Finally, the authors state the reader’s workshop that best supports comprehension instruction has three components: large group meeting time with a think aloud, a long period of time for independent reading where the teacher moves around to conference individually, the formation of needs-based groups to address specific learning needs, and a time for reflection with other students.

Personal Response

This chapter explained strategy instruction so that it was better for me to understand than the first chapter. I’m looking forward to reading further because I still feel like this is rather introductory material. The distinction between primary and intermediate elementary grades is informative because that distinction is based around what students are exposed to during high-stakes standardized testing. The question about whether or not students should be exposed to strategies one at a time or in an integrated fashion is also interesting. I work as a member of an AVID program being piloted at four different sites in grades 6-8. (AVID is a program for grades 6-12 that teaches reading strategies, study skills, and organizational habits needed for success in college.) I work along side teachers with different philosophies in this matter. At one site, I am seeing teaching of just one strategy at a time. This week it was questioning. At another site, the teacher believes that all of these should come together at some point and hands his students a passage to read with little instruction of what to do while reading. From my observations as a tutor, I noticed that the students given the one-at-time strategy instruction grasped it faster and were able to understand the reading better that the students that were not given reminders of strategies. Of course there are other factors involved and I am in no way saying one method is superior to another. I’m simply connecting what I read this week to a classroom experience, and it will certainly be interesting to follow these classes over the course of the year with the knowledge gleamed from this chapter (and in this course and program).

Chapter 3 Summary

“Mindful Reading” was about monitoring and revising comprehension. It began with an essay full of pitfalls for comprehension and one of the authors reflects on her reading process of the essay with a particular emphasis on her monitoring for meaning. She models how she does this by writing what she’s thinking as she reads. It is explained in this chapter that monitoring is the umbrella under which the other comprehension strategies fall and that each of the strategies can be considered a type of monitoring. The chapter then allows the reader to visit the classrooms of two teachers, a high school teacher and a second grade teacher. The chapter details what kinds of instruction these two teachers give to their students about monitoring for meaning while reading, everything from what they say to what they don’t say and let their students figure out on their own while reading. The second grade teacher gives an example of a conference she has with one of her students. Finally, the chapter ended with a summary of what proficient readers do, in bullet point format.

Personal Response

The key statement for me in this chapter was one that came after the example high-school lesson: “If we can understand the more subtle features of the reading obstacles themselves, the solutions we teach will be more effective and tailored.” This is something that is incredibly difficult to do. The chapter pointed out for me, that teaching reading is more about listening to students than it is about teaching vocabulary or phonics. The teachers that were observed were careful with their approach, and did not correct their students when reading aloud unless it conflicted with that individual student’s meaning of the word. I can only hope that this will be me in the coming months or years. I can only hope that my teaching brings me to situations where I’m able to conference one-on-one with students and really hone in on their level, skills, and interests. The teacher in this chapter “gave her students a glimpse into the vast array of ways they can repair and revise their comprehension once it has broken down” and “gave them tactics to revise and repair comprehension to more useful situations.” This is precisely the way I already approach tutoring reading, so I hope that I continue to grow as a reading teacher with every student I tutor and every piece that I give my students to read.

Major Learnings

I think that the connection made most frequently while reading was that to teach reading I have to be a careful reader myself. I have to be aware that I am employing those skills while reading so that I can model them in a think aloud for my students. This is something that takes practice! I don’t always dive into a newspaper article and say “Ok, what is my purpose for reading this today?” I don’t always pick up the book I read before bed and say, “Let me think about why the author wrote this or what this word means.” Maybe I will from now on. Maybe I should.

Classroom Connections:

Seeing as how I work with a program that teaches reading strategies, I will definitely use the monitoring strategies I learned about this week while reading in my everyday practice. Lately when I sit down with a student my first question is “What are you having difficulty understanding about the article?” I have found this is often too broad of a question and leads to much more frustration than it is worth. The third chapter has given me more examples of things I can say to a student during a conference than just that. I will definitely use more modeling in my teaching practice, such as the modeling that the high school teacher did in the third chapter. I liked “I’ll give it one more sentence,. Often when I’m really overwhelmed, I find that if I just read one or two more sentences, things start to become clearer.” I liked that this is said out loud because I would ordinarily think that but not say it.
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