Last week, our district was lucky enough to be able to offer some very high quality professional development to our teachers. We had the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Staff Developers come to do a primary and an intermediate session on the Reading Workshop. What a great week of learning! And certainly overwhelming at times, as there was so much information shared.
That’s what I want to talk about… the feeling that teaching in a reading workshop is overwhelming. It certainly can be because there is simply so much to know… how readers learn to read, what books will match which readers, how to manage and structure teaching in this format.
But, on the flip side, this way of teaching is also intuitive. There IS a lot to know, but we already know A LOT! Just the fact that you are reader means that you have the strategies to help you navigate through difficult texts. It means that you understand that reading is thinking. It means that you have a strategy toolbox right inside your head!
Emily DeLiddo was our Intermediate Grades Staff Developer. One of the activities that she had us do, which I found extremely useful, was to read a text and really stop to think what strategies we were using. This was difficult to do. If you are like me, then your reading just flows and you don’t even notice all the things that are happening, all the strategies that your brain employs to help you create a “movie in your mind.” But if you really slow yourself down, you will see that there is actually a lot going on while you are reading!
Why is this helpful? Because when we are teaching reading, it is as if we were a coach mentoring a young player. The coach knows what good players do, and can teach his team the behaviors that will make them successful. If we become aware of what we are doing as readers, then we can share that information with our students so that they can join the literacy team!
For this exercise, I chose the book Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech. I had never read this book before, but have always loved Creech’s writing style! Walk Two Moons is one of my favorite books, ever!! So as I began to read, it was hard for me to remember to stop myself and ask “What did I do there as a reader?” But when I DID remember to do that, here is the list of things I caught myself doing:
– Good readers infer and then revise as new information is offered.
– Good readers notice things that characters say and make inferences about the characters.
– Good readers re-read when things don’t seem right or are confusing.
– Good readers notice when characters act strangely or when their behaviors, actions or words stand out. This can help them predict future action or storyline.
And all of this was in the first 40 pages!
Why was this helpful?
Because it made me realize that understanding Chasing Redbird WITHOUT using these strategies would have been much more difficult. If I didn’t pick up on the fact that both Uncle Nate and Aunt Jessie were acting strange about the trail Zinny found, it may have made the problem of the story more difficult to understand. If I didn’t notice that Zinny felt isolated from her family and guilt over her cousin’s and aunt’s deaths, it may have made it more difficult for me to understand how important uncovering that trail was to her. Good readers continually interact with text.
Emily DeLiddo suggested we list these strategies that good readers use and then print them off and keep them handy. They could be used for reading conferences with students, interactive read aloud lessons, or strategy group lessons. Students may need help as they try ever increasing text complexity. Understanding what good readers do can help them as they move along the literacy continuum and can help them join the literacy team!
Emily also encouraged us to share our lists of strategies with each other so we would all have a more comprehensive list. As you read your summer reading books, try and slow down and notice all the strategies you are employing. You can then share them with all of us in the comments section! We can all benefit from your reading expertise!