Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Books at Once…here I go!

                                            Double the Surprise!

I picked up Reading with Meaning, by Debbie Miller this week because I have been trying to cement writing and reading and all the connections they hold more firmly in my mind.  I had planned on reading Dancing with the Pen, by Ministry of Education but found Debbie Miller in my lap first.  But Dancing with the Pen was nagging at me to give it some attention too.  So, I decided to pick it up tonight and dust it off. I was thinking it could be a mistake to read two informational texts like these, but was soon pleasantly surprised at what I would find.

Dancing with the Pen The Learner as a Writer

Less than four full pages in and already this book is inspiring my thoughts about teaching writing to our youngest authors.  Donald Holdaway, a new name for me, is quoted in Dancing with the Pen on page ten, below is what he said related to reading and writing being a connected entity.

Instruction has persistently separated reading from writing in a way that would be insufferable in learning to listen and talk.  The two modes form an integral nexus of learning around common processes, and this, too, may be readily reflected in teaching.  There are no logical or practical excuses for the dismemberment of literacy--only instructional precedents. 
Everyone who teaches reading and writing to kids knows they go together but sometimes the instruction does separate the two whether it is intentional or not. I find myself always looking for ways to bring the reading of a book into my modeling of writing, whether I am comparing my writing to an author or merely generating a list of ideas that were inspired by a good text. I do this for my students but I rarely push them to write about a book they read or utilize the skills they got from reading workshop and connect them to their writing workshop. Why? This will be my big question to analyze as I read further.

Reading with Meaning

I just love Debbie Miller. The way she writes sounds so genuine to the art of teaching. The book really started to get going for me in chapter three. She has the students tell her what reading behaviors are and at first I wasn't sure how I would do the same. She just asks them what readers do when they are reading. I tried to imagine what my little 4, 5 and 6 year olds would say to such a broad question. Then I began thinking about all the information I would get, most importantly, did they know what a reader looked like at all? I would find out quickly what kinds of literacy experiences they had for the first few years of their life and whether they were pleasant. I would hopefully guide the students who did have some ideas to tell me about selecting a book, turning the pages, noticing a picture and maybe even how the people sit or how they feel when they read. These behaviors would be listed and become my lesson plan for teaching reading workshop. I would demonstrate and model the behaviors and allow students to then practice during reading workshop.

She talks quite a bit about setting up her procedures and how important this is to the success of the reading workshop. She explains one of her ideas where students put their thoughts on a sticky note and place them in a book they are enjoying to show their connection. For myself I thought I would have students leave sticky notes out of the book but keep the novelty of this idea by allowing students to create an illustration of the book. This would become the advertisement for the story and sticky notes with a recorded connection or idea could be placed next to or on the advertisement. I am thinking this would generate some motivation to jot down thoughts they are having and details they noticed. Since some students often find themselves stuck in a genre, it may also encourage students to look outside of their own favorite book and dig into a different text.

1 comment:

reparkhouse said...

I love these books! Your descriptions are right on target. I'd recommend both to anyone who teaches young children.

I am currently reading The Cafe Book by "The Sisters" and find it very interesting as well. It is a way to teach Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, and Expand Vocabulary through strategies.

The teacher conferences with students, tells them what skill they need to work on and then the child puts their name on that skill area on the interactive bulletin board. The child can then refer to that skill area where all the strategies for practicing that skill are listed. They use those strategies when they are working during the Daily 5.

The teacher then checks in with students again to see what strategies they are using and how they are progressing in that skill area. It takes some organization to pull it off, I believe, but it could be a very powerful tool for students.

You should check it out! :)