Every year I seem to struggle with using the Thinking Strategies in a reading intervention setting. I feel very restricted by the LLI (Leveled Literacy Intervention) program I use- both in time and in flexibility. This year, however, Michelle has helped me to look at the thinking strategies and routines through the lens of skills. They can be used down to the word level.
This has also inspired me to dive into a few of the elements backwards design. My first attempt at this was to “try” and come up with an enduring understanding that is an umbrella for my entire program. I often get bogged down in the “skills” kids use in reading, and how they are progressing in the use of each individual skill and how they are progressing in integrating all of those skills to become more proficient readers… sometimes overall comprehension seems to go by the wayside (or we run out of time to talk more deeply about the books we are reading.)
The attempt at identifying an enduring understanding that would encapsulate my instruction was an exercise in frustration initially. I think I was trying to make it too profound, something really “meaty” that makes me sound like I am the purveyor of some great secret… I finally realized it is REALLY, REALLY simple! Here it is: How does reading impact and enhance our lives? There!
Once I simplified my own thinking and synthesized all of the jumbled ideas I had floating around in my head, this simple enduring understanding really gave me some clarity in my planning, instruction, and assessment.
The first thing I thought I needed to know about my kids was what they actually THINK reading is. Often, kids who struggle with reading become passive reading participants within the classroom and at home- they become masters at coping with text that is too difficult, magicians at gaining information from sources other than the printed letter. I wanted to know what my students actually think we are asking them to do when they read. I jumped in with a simple variation of Chalk Talk, in which kids responded to the question “What is reading?”
Some of the comments:
· Reading can make you a better reader
· Reading can make [you read] different books
· Reading is [an] exercise to make you fluent
· You can learn new words
· Reading is something that you can learn about new books and new juicy words
· Reading is important because you need to learn new words
· Reading is important because if you love then you want to get a new or a same book
Although we didn’t get to the level of silent conversation with our peers, this exercise served as a very eye-opening assessment for me. Even though the kids had some ideas about what reading is, or how we read, these connections were very surface. I was impressed that the word fluent came up, and the mention of learning new words, but there was no mention of HOW we learn those new words, and why, in fact, we read. This simple routine gave me a direction for my instruction, and made me realize how important the articulation of why we read is so critical to our students.