Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Comprehension From The Ground Up - Chapters 1

Not only am I doing a book study this summer on Math Workstations by Debbie Diller but I'm also reading through Comprehension From the Ground Up by Sharon Taberski and dialoging with other teachers through The Daily 5 yahoo group.

I'm finding this book really interesting so far. I'll be headed to Sharon Taberski's workshop tomorrow eveing and I'm sure will learn a lot more to share with everyone then.

Sharon's model of the pillars of reading makes a whole lot of sense. It makes sense that reading, writing, and talking would be foundational for understanding; that each of the pillars would be instrumental in holding up comprehension. Comprehension as one piece of reading does not make sense. Comprehension as the end goal does.

While reading the first chapter I thought a lot about which of the pillars I use in my classroom right now. I don't tend to spend as much time on reading-writing connections as I do on having a repertoire of strategies. I know I need to spend a lot of time on background knowledge. Many of my students don't have a wide variety of experiences to draw from and when I taught kindergarten I took them on many field trips, hoping to fill in gaps and exapand their knowledge of a variety of things. Now teaching first grade I take my students on a handful of field trips each year but I don't give them nearly as much background experience. I give the excuse there's not enough time ... and there isn't. But if background knowledge is as important as Sharon says it is, maybe I should spend a little more time forming it.

I do spend a lot of time helping my students to become accurate/fluent readers. One of my students this past year was showing consistently that he was just below where he should be. I couldn't get him in to get extra help from our resource teacher because I had three others much further behind than him. So I funneled other resources to give this little boy the extra one-on-one direct instruction and review that I knew he needed to pick up the pace. I was able to meet with him to conference one-on-one with his reading four days a week and I requested a volunteer to meet with him twice a week to preview his stories, using echo reading to increase his fluency as well as go through cards of high frequency words. This little boy came up from being consistently just below to reading at the end of the year instructionally at an end of the year second grade level. It's when you work so hard to make a difference that you feel best about what you're doing. Working with this little boy was no exception and when he gave me a letter on the last day of school, tears came to my eyes as I read it.

In case you're having difficulty reading it, the letter says:
Dear Ms. Balek I ben happy wen you were with me and you were nise to me thank you for making me smart and thank you for making me happy. thanks for reading this good bye

According to Taberski, literacy essentials include ...
* Children need us to be their advocates.
* Children need ample opportunities to read widely and across genres, to write texts for others to comprehend, and to engage in thoughtful conversation.
* Children need to read accurately and fluently with comprehension.
* Children need to acquire background knowledge to bring to texts they read.
* Children need to extend their oral language and vocabulary, and capitalize on how they enhance reading comprehension.
*Children need to appreciate not only how reading impacts writing, but how their experience as writers enables them to adopt an insider's stance as they read.
* Children need to acquire a repertoire of meta-cognitive strategies to help them navigate difficult texts and reconstruct meaning when it breaks down. These strategies should be presented in a developmentally appropriate an systematic way thruoghout the elementary grades.
* Children need to engage in an assortment of carefully selected learning experiences presented in whole-class, small-group, and one-to-one settings.

The quote that I enjoy most from this first chapter is "Children today are learning to read, write, ride bikes, do cartwheels, and ask questions in a world that is more anxious than it was a decade ago. Many adults are not as sure-footed or optimistic as they were in earlier generations, and so all the more reason to teach in a manner that is nurturing and highly responsive to each child."

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