Thursday, April 4, 2013
With the advent of the Common Core Curriculum Standards teachers are being asked to present their students with texts that are more rigorous. In addition, we are being encouraged to engage students in close reading. No, that's not hold the book closer and read! It's strategic reading of text excerpts multiple times with a focus on various aspects of theme, conflict, characterization, and author's purpose. This isn't necessarily anything new for most teachers, but it does present an opportunity for us to dig a bit deeper and reflect on our instructional practices.
I stumbled across an amazing book that does just that! Not only can teachers benefit from its content, parents who are interested in working with their children to enhance comprehension can use this too.
The premise of the book is that all of the commonly read literature in grades 2-12 contains "signposts" or signals that good readers attend to while reading. Here's a summary list that the authors created after analyzing numerous fiction texts:
1. Memory Moment - when a character stops and remembers something that happened earlier. This is a great time to stop as a reader and ask yourself why this event is important to the character or the plot.
2. Words of the Wiser - sometimes a character receives significant advice from another character (usually an older/wiser person). Often times this leads us to the themes and lessons in the book.
3. Again and Again - when a reader sees situations, phrases, or statements being repeated over and over, he or she should stop and reflect on the importance. Maybe you'll learn something about the theme, or it could be a foreshadow.
4. Aha Moment - sometimes characters figure something out or realize something that they should have seen all along. Again this leads us to themes, conflicts, and possible understanding of character development.
5. Contrasts and contradictions - characters and situations sometimes aren't as they appeared previously. Pause when this happens and consider why this is significant and what it means to the character and to the plot.
6. Tough Questions - when a character stops and asks him or herself a tough question you often find clues to the themes and conflicts in the story if you pause and wonder about its importance or significance.
If you would like to read more about how to use these signposts in your instruction, find questions that scaffold reader thinking, and see sample lessons, you must buy the book! It's well worth the $20.00 on Amazon.
I used these signposts with my class as a summative assessment for the book "Number the Stars" over the past two days, and I was very impressed with the critical thinking and analysis that I saw as I observed students working collaboratively to find text evidence of these signposts. Even my reluctant readers were enjoying finding and describing the significance of their evidence.
Parents can use these signposts while reading aloud to their children, or as activators to get kids thinking while they do their independent reading. For example, challenge your child to find at least one signpost during their reading time and stop to tell you about it's significance.
Teachers should really consider buying this book and collaborating with grade level colleagues to introduce it to your students. You'll be glad you did!