Monday, May 23, 2011

What do good readers do?

If we are good readers and always were, we may not even know what makes us different from those who struggle.   This poster is a good reminder of ways a good reader approaches text.   I keep mine near the front of my room where it's in full view of the entire class.   It reminds me to model these types of interactions with the text when I am teaching students who need more support.

I don't think that we can ever emphasize previewing the text enough.   As teachers, we are usually the ones who set a purpose for reading.   When we are looking at a selection in the literature book, we scan the before you read section for the big ideas. We look at the title and author of the piece. We look at the questions at the end of the reading and note which ones rely on basic comprehension.   Have we read anything by this author before?   When will we find out how the title connects to the story?   Do we understand what is going on before we turn the page?   Better re-read now than later.   Can we answer the basic comprehension questions at the end of the story when we're done?   No?   Well, don't even try the other questions since they get progressively harder.   It's time to re-read and look for the major plot points we missed.  

And I always caution them about the art in their literature books.   Ug.   The art.   I'm assuming that it's all in the name of cultural literacy that we drop gorgeous artwork down in the middle of stories that lead struggling readers astray.   I love art...passionately, but some readers have a difficult time visualizing what takes place in the text.   They are convinced that the art is there to help them and attempt to reconcile the image that they are trying to create from the author's words with the sometimes completely unrelated masterpiece.   So, you could preface just about every story by telling them to look at the artwork after they read and explain which parts of the image fit the text and which aspects do not.

When they are taking standardized tests like the Virginia SOLs, we have to let them read solo.   How can we help them set a purpose for reading then?   I encourage readers to look at the questions for a selection beforehand, just like we do in class.   I don't mind if they take the test out of order.   They should preview all of the pieces and see what they will be reading about for the next chunk of their lives.   Let's say that they have always wanted to read a story about a go-go boot wearing ferret that leads a town full of curious prairie dogs on a cross-country karaoke odyssey by hitching rides from truckers with wicked senses of humor.   What if that story is on the test?   Well, go for it!   Read that story first.

What about when the kids are living it up with their free choice independent reading?   How can you check for understanding then?   Remember those Probst questions I mentioned earlier?    Pull those back out again.   You can also use them in place of canned questions that don't appeal to your readers.

Do what good readers do!

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