Thinking about Theme Pays Off

Mar 6, 2013 by

Last week I started thinking more about theme after spending time in a 2nd grade reading workshop.  In my previous post I shared a helpful video clip that helped me think about teaching this abstract concept to young readers.  Well, that thinking paid off yesterday when I was hanging out in a 6th grade writing workshop.  The students were in the middle of a unit on literary essay.  They were writing a practice essay about the short story “Papa’s Parrot” from Cynthia Rylant’s Every Living Thing.  This is a story about a boy named Harry who was once very close to his father, but as he approached adolescence, began drifting away from his father to spend more time with his friends.  When his father bought a parrot and began talking to it, Harry became...

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Thinking about Theme

Mar 3, 2013 by

This past week I spent a morning in a second grade reading workshop. These second graders had been working on taking their comprehension of text to deeper levels. On this day they were learning more about theme. Earlier in the morning the teacher had read Eve Bunting’s Fly Away Home, so during the lesson they worked together to identify what the theme could be.  As I listened in while students turned and talked to their reading partners, I heard responses such as homelessness, perseverance, courage. Some big ideas for young readers, to be sure! The teacher worked with them to elaborate on their single-word answers by finding evidence in the text. Then she sent them off to do this work with their own independent  texts. As I watched the teacher circulate among her students...

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How Will You Live Your Life Differently? Part 1...

Feb 13, 2013 by

When your students finish reading a book, what is the next thing they are expected to do?  Take an AR quiz? Write a book report? Begin a new book?  Or do they stop to reflect on what they have just read? When I finish reading a book, whether it is memoir, historical fiction, or contemporary fiction, I like to think about this question:  “How will I live my life differently or think about the world differently as a result of reading this book?” This is a great thought-provoking question to ask at the end of a whole class read-aloud or during a conference with a reader who has recently finished a book. With the arrival of the Common Core State Standards during the past several years, there is a lot of discussion these days...

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How Do We Teach Close Reading?

Jan 28, 2013 by

I’m reading a book that is changing the way I read and the way I talk to kids about their reading.  This happened to me once before–back in 1997 when I first read Mosaic of Thought by Zimmerman and Keene.  If you have read this book, you know what I mean.  In Mosaic of Thought the authors explained that proficient readers use a variety of comprehension strategies to make sense of text and that we can actually teach children to use these strategies as they read.  After I read that book, every time I picked up a text, I found myself being metacognitive about my own thinking/reading strategies.  I began teaching my students to use these strategies and watched them become more interactive with texts, too. But something has always bugged me.  Sometimes I...

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Rules to Live By: A Lesson in Argument Writing from Two Young Writers...

Jan 18, 2013 by

I happened to catch a brief segment of The Today Show this morning and couldn’t help thinking about how writing empowers people by giving them a voice—even young people.  The segment was about a Walmart cart pusher finding a notebook that was written by two young girls and then misplaced in the Walmart parking lot.  The young man was so impressed by the notebook that he found a way to locate the authors and return it to them.  The notebook was called “Rules to Live By” and included over 150 rules.  Some of the rules were funny ones like, “Don’t bite the dentist.”  Others were more serious like, “Don’t text and drive at the same time.”  When asked by Matt Lauer how the girls determined which rules to add to the book, they explained...

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