These past few weeks I have felt as though all of the different reading strategies that are incorporated throughout the day in class are finally coming together. This week’s Repeated Interactive Read Aloud (RIRA) was Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. In the story, Grace is a little girl who loves to read and listen to stories. She uses her imagination and goes on many fun adventures. Then one day at school she vies for the lead part of Peter Pan in the school play, only to be discouraged by classmates because of her skin color and gender.
Prior to reading a book I remind students that we are metacognitive readers. When asked what metacognition is, they shout, “Thinking about what you are thinking!” They are also quick to list the qualities of what metacognitive readers do.
*Read the text more than once
*Make Connections (text to self, text to text and text to world)
*Infer (use picture clues)
*Ponder, think and/or evaluate the information given
Throughout the week we discussed the book at length and shared our connections. For example, text to self connections are when a student identifies or relates to something that happens in the book. These are usually the easiest for younger students to make.
Text to text connections are when a reader is reminded of an event or piece of information read in another book or text. This is why I choose to read several books from the same author. It helps students pick up on similarities in illustrations, characters and writing styles among authors.
In the hopes that they would make this connection, I purposefully read the story, Anansi the Spider: A Tale From the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott about a month ago. They were amazed when they saw Grace pretending to be Anansi the Spider.
Text to world connections are when a reader connects events from the book to something larger in context. For example, something they watched on TV or in a movie, or read in a the newspaper. This type of connection is usually more difficult for younger students to make. However, I was quite impressed with the level of higher level thinking that was at play in class. Last trimester, for social studies we learned about the United States, its symbols and how it came to be a new nation. And so, when the students read that Grace was told that she was not a good candidate for Peter Pan’s part because she was black and a girl, the students furiously raised their hands to share their text to world connections.
Some of the comments were, “Abraham Lincoln signed an important paper so that every one could be free.” “Martin Luther King made rights so that all kids can be whatever they want to be.” “It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy or what color you are because democracy means that I can go to school.” “We’re lucky to live in America because we have rules that say that if you speak Spanish or you’re Latino, or you’re black or you go to a different church, it’s OK and you have a right to be freedom like the Statue of Liberty.” (That was my personal favorite!)
My first graders are not advanced or gifted. As a matter of fact, the majority of them are developing proficiency and are reading about 6-8 months behind grade level. But at least they are learning to think critically. My team teacher and I had a parent workshop on this very topic last week. We stressed the importance of reading with, too and by, with their children. We stressed the importance of helping them make connections, discussing the story with them and how it relates to the world near and far. We asked them to share their personal stories, struggles and triumphs with their children. We also reminded parents that the daily reading log is not where a child reads by himself and then a parent signs it.
One can do lots with a single book. It’s the meaningful connections and discussions made that in my opinion matter. Sooner or later their reading fluency will kick in with continued practice and intervention. But at the heart of the matter is helping children become metacognitive readers, learners, thinkers and leaders.
*I learned these strategies at a teacher conference in early 2000 through the California Reading and Literature Project (K-6 READING RESULTS)*