Friday, September 28, 2007

Reinventing the Wheel in Reading

Since starting the new schedule with Pamela, we have been working hard on what I have called "guided reading." To my dismay (or perhaps, delight), several people have already written several books by that name! I try to avoid buying books for the sake of buying them, especially brand-spanking new ones. Whenever I hear of a must-buy read, I always search eBay and Best Web Buys for a used copy for about six months before splurging on a new one. Last night, I Snoopy danced because I won an ebay auction for the RDI DVD for only $41 including shipping. I hope it is not scratched, and I do not know if it is the latest and greatest in the RDI world, but I do not plan to burst my bubble until the very last moment possible. Because I am a ditz who loves coffee and manages to make every book I touch look trashed, I try to avoid borrowing copies of anything from a friend.

My plan today is to share what Pamela and I are doing in my version of guided reading (or should I say connected reading or modeled reading). I hope that some helpful soul who has already read either Guided Reading (for K-3) or Guided Reading (Grades 3-6) can tell me if it is something worth putting on my must-buy list.

Here is what we do when reading a book:

Preview the Chapter - We preview the chapter in many ways:

* We look at the title and pictures to guess what might be happening. I try to use declarative language like "I wonder what this means" or "I wonder what happened to so-and-so."

* We also recall what we read previously to get our minds into the book. I try to use declarative language like "Yesterday's chapter was exciting because . . ." I also try to be less competent (as recommended by my friend Mary) and start recalling bits of the chapter, hoping Pamela will rescue me!

* If the book has a map and location is important, we study the map to refresh our minds. We sometimes consult our well-worn atlas that I bought for two bucks at a used book sale. For a new book, we might even talk about other characters (real or imaginary) who lived in that place and time.

* If I know in advance we are covering completely unfamiliar territory, I try to think of a mental bridge. For example, in The Winged Watchman, I thought connecting the landwatcher Leendert (a traitor who spied on his neighbors for the Nazis) to Rolf in The Sound of Music, a movie which Pamela loves. When we started The Brendan Voyage, I compared the book to Kon-Tiki because it is a story about five men on a very small boat crossing an ocean to make a point.

Reading Style - If Pamela reads a chapter by herself, she will probably recall about two sentences. Here is what we do to keep her mind focused:

* I select a short passage, half a page or a paragraph or two, depending upon the material.

* We skim the beginning, middle, and end of the passage for a keyword in each that might be important. She tells me what they are and I might have her choose a different word if the one chosen will derail her understanding by saying, "I think there is a better word."

* Usually, she reads silently, using her finger to help her eyes track the words.

* If the passage is primarily dialogue, we assign parts and read it aloud together with as much dramatic flair as we can muster.

* Sometimes, her mind is not on the material. How do I know? She tries to have a conversation with me while reading! I redirect her by saying, "It sure is hard to talk and read at the same time. How about starting over?"

Oral Narration - Oral narration is the backbone of a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and I find it a great way to avoid getting too imperative. Instead of asking Pamela a ton of questions, I let her tell me what she knows:

* I let Pamela have one last glance of the passage and ask her if she is ready. I give her the sympathetic, expectant look Charlotte Mason recommended. During the narration, I do things to keep her alert to my facial expression.

* I close the book, and Pamela retells me what she remembers. I try not to interrupt her, except to correct the pronunciation of a word if it is word she will use often like the name of a character.

* If she forgot something, I remind her in a declarative way by saying, "I seem to remember something about a dog." If a few hints is not enough, I do not worry about it because often important information is repeated or can be inferred.

* If she starts to make a howler (something senseless that is often very funny), I change my facial expression to alert her to the fact that the train is heading off the tracks.

* If her narration is threadbare, then I might share what I remember. Or, I open the book and ask her questions ala the association method. Rather than focusing on the fact that she omitted information, I focus on it as an opportunity to practice syntax.

* If her narration is meaty, we move onto the next passage!

Modeling Thinking while Reading - Charlotte Mason emphasized that, while reading, the mind ought to put questions to itself and answer them while reading. Since we break up a chapter into small chunks, it offers the chance to reflect before plunging into the next passage. I try to work in questions and connections as we go:

* I ask predicting questions or opinion questions. I read somewhere that a question that has no right or wrong answer is more declarative. I will ask things like "What do you think will happen to so-and-so?" or "Who do you think is good/wicked/whatever?" or "Do think whatever will happen?"

* We try to make connections to other books or ourselves. I will say, "That reminds me of" a place or book and see if she fills in the connection. If not, we move on and linger on that thought at the end of the chapter.

Oral Recap of the Chapter - At the end of the reading for the day, we do a recap:

* We focus on the beginning, middle, and end of the entire passage.

* Pamela narrates the entire chapter. She usually narrations about ten or more sentences.

* I tape or film some of the narrations for the next step.

* We talk about connections and predictions for the next chapter.

Sentence Strips - Every day, Pamela does written narrations for two books. Because she is just learning to compose paragraphs, I added sentence strips (an idea suggested by Cheri Hedden). I type up her oral narrations into strips (mistakes and all), and Pamela works with them:

* Pamela organizes her strips, correcting any errors.

* She replaces repetitive nouns with pronouns for variety.

* She thinks of a better word for any word with strikethroughs (a hint to think of a more specific word).

* She fills in the blank. I usually leave blanks for adjectives or a prepositional phrase. If she says "So and so is happy", I tack "because ______________" at the end to prepare her for why questions down the road.

* I check her work and point out anything she overlooked.

* Then, I read her strips aloud very slowly as if I were reading the most wonderful piece of writing I ever saw.

Written Narration - I close up everything and Pamela narrates what she remembers. I make no corrections because it is a record of where she is at this moment in time. You can see some samples of her written narrations at her web page.


Bonnie Arnwine said...

We are trying some of the same strategies. I've heard from several people the Visualizing and Verbalizing material is great for reading comprehension. Have you tried it or heard about it? The idea is it helps children to visualize what they are reading so that they see a movie in their mind while reading. I'm debating on trying it next...

I'm also interested in RDI, but the price... I think I'll start trolling e-bay. $41 that's awesome.

poohder2005 said...

Hey Tammy, congrats on the RDI DVD.
FYI, I just saw a thing on Good Morning America that said IF dvd's are scratched that it is usually just the top layer of plastic and that if you use Pledge, it will fill in the scratches. Just a thought that might help,just in case!! Rhonda

The Glasers said...


I have heard of the V&V, but I plan to experiment with what we are doing for awhile.


I also heard that rubbing hard candle wax works, too. Hopefully, I won't need to find it. It arrived in today's mail, but I won't have time to view it until the weekend.