On Saturday, Mel and I drove to New York to attend the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion. I had never been so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mel had been working on me for weeks to go and I agreed since it was actually a relatively light weekend for my family’s activities. (We are mercifully between sports and theater productions at the moment!) Together, we went over the workshop offerings; we split up so that we could get more information and share it so we had to agree on the overabundance of workshops that interested us.
Janet Steinberg, a literacy coach in the Bronx before joining the TCRWP as a staff developer, presented The Integration of RTI, Reading Workshop and the Common Core. I have four pages of notes from this 45-minute session and I won’t try to include them all in this post. Instead, I am reflecting on the six things that she talked about that we need to teach our students as readers.
It’s amazing to me how complicated making a prediction is for students but at the core of a prediction is an inference. If a student is thinking ahead about what could happen, then s/he is thinking about more than what is explicitly in the text. The students who struggle with reading (and these are the ones I focus on since I am the Special Education teacher in the classroom) struggle to make meaningful predictions. For some of them, decoding requires so much energy that thinking beyond syllables is a Herculean task; read alouds are critical for these students so they develop thinking skills and understand that we can learn and think about books well beyond the words on the page.
I love this skill! I loved how Janet talked about recognizing the different sounds of fiction and non-fiction. However, I also love teaching listening to students throughout the day in all subjects. I write Language Arts IEPs that include developing skills in reading and writing. As I reflect on this second skill, I wonder about developing goals and objectives that hone students’ abilities to listen. So much of my learning comes from the conversations and integration of other people’s words
Janet wondered out loud how many of our students really read during reading workshop. I’m in the regular education classroom every day for reading workshop and the students who love to read and are good at it spend their time reading. Our reading engagement inventories (see Mel Swider’s post yesterday about Jennifer Serravallo's workshop) provide meaningful data that our struggling readers are not as engaged. They are talking, jotting notes, choosing a new book, asking questions, going to the bathroom, looking out the window, finding a comfortable place…they aren’t reading. My students need explicit instruction about how to initiate the reading process and then progress monitoring for how long they can maintain reading stamina.
This is an area I teach my students well. As soon as they are reading successfully, I teach my readers self-monitoring questions:
- Can I picture what is happening in the text?
- Do I know the names of my characters?
- Can I give a quick retell when I reach the end of a chapter?
- If there’s a cliff-hanger or turning point, can I explain it?
I teach them that if they can’t answer these questions, it’s their responsibility as readers to review the text, figure out where they began to struggle and figure out how to clarify it.
- Building a relationship with a book.
This is another one of my favorites. Whenever I read a really good book, the rest of my life suffers. I miss the characters when I finish the book. I read The Fault in our Stars a couple of weeks ago and I still miss Augustus and Hazel.
Janet pushed my thinking about relationships with books in that she talked about non-fiction books and the need for students to get information from books and recognize the purpose of reading.
We talk to our students often about visualizing, but Janet’s presentation about envisionment involved teaching students how to talk across different texts and make connections between books for many reasons. Her point was that struggling readers are just in the moment. During reading workshop and also in conferences, we ask students to think about:
- how they can connect many different characters from different books,
- what are similar messages/lessons they can find across books and genres,
- and what some of the common issues or structures are that exist within and across genres.
As we read increasingly more non-fiction in classrooms, we will have to continue to hone this set of questions. What are some of the questions that will help students to think across informational and other forms of non-fiction texts?