Friday, May 18, 2012

The Blind Can Read

One message I drive home hard with my students (no matter the age level I have taught) has been to understand what READING is. I begin by asking my students which body part they believe most essential to be able to read. Never fail… kids say, "Eyes!" Very good. We explore a little and I ask if they know whether or not blind people can read. Some students have a little bit of prior knowledge about braille (not typically the vocabulary), so we learn a little about that! They love it!

So if blind people can read, then what it the most important body part for being able to read. I lead them to … dut dada DAAAAAA! 

THE BRAIN! It doesn't take long before kids know that their brain is the most essential body part to being a reader; however, if you've worked with readers for any length of time… 20 years, 20 minutes, or anything in between, you know that applying that knowledge is a whole new beast. Perhaps you feel like this…
So… I was thrilled to incorporate into my teaching (sometime around 2001) what we dubbed: Active Reading Strategies.
BTW- this was 6th grade, where we developed these strategies.  Within the year, we decided that naming these strategies Active READING Strategies might be counter-productive to what we want. We changed it to Active Thinking Strategies, made some revisions, and caught the attention of our Learning and Teaching department to adopt and implement (in various forms) K-12 in our district.  It has been maintained over the years. 

Even when I moved from 6th to 2nd grade, I used most of this language to help students understand how to interact with text. I modified them a bit, though, and make it more accessible to my students.

While using Monitor Meaning as the basis for good reading, I focus heavily on Question/Connect/Predict in September and October. 

These are revisited throughout the year on a cyclical basis as well as in response to formative assessment results.

You may be familiar with  Decoding and Comprehension strategies that are aligned with Beanie Babies. Oh how I just LOVE these!

Beanie Babies are a great thrift store find-- but beware… if you're looking for specific ones, best of luck to you (I must've visited 5 thrift stores and all of the regular and grocery stores too). I never did find the right spider, but the bug I did find, works just fine.

I organized the babies into decoding and comprehension strategies and that worked fairly well for a year, but I started noticing that my students were more enjoying reading with a BB friend rather than using the strategy represented by that baby. SOOOOOO, I made some necklaces. On the front, I put a picture and the name of the BB and on the back, I put the description of how to use the strategy. 

As a former frustrated reader, I had to figure out how to enjoy reading. Monitor Meaning was the absolute KEY to this! My problem was that I could rarely remember what it was that I read… just horrible comprehension. I figured out (in my 30s) that the problem was my lack of engagement with the text. ATS was the key to this and most specifically so-- MONITOR MEANING!

 I love passing this life lesson of my own to my students. I teach my students to stop reading frequently to review in their mind what they've read as well as use one of our main three ATS: question, connect, and/or predict. We ask questions about the text and look for answers in our reading. We connect to our lives, to what we've heard of or seen (including text to text, text to self, and text to world), and we look for answers in the text to questions and predictions.
Praises because my students see that this is one way to make reading FUN! I love when they say things like, "We're already done? NOOOOOO! That was too fast!" These are the days that I just love love love luhhhh--uvvvvvv my job!

I look forward to hearing your feedback and to follow each other for more rich experiences for our students.
Have a fantastic day!

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