When was the last time you finished a book and you were asked to complete a worksheet about it?
You probably haven't had to do that since you were a student yourself, however this is something that most of us ask our students to do on a daily basis. To me, this doesn't make much sense. Shouldn't we teach students to read and comprehend books in a manner that is consistent with how they will read and comprehend as adults?
The book Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann and the Reader's Workshop method move away from worksheets with comprehension questions, utilizing more real-world, student-driven instruction.
Rather than depend solely on small reading groups, the Reader's Workshop method blends whole group instruction, small needs-based groups, and individual conferring to guide students through the application of the seven basic comprehension strategies.
What are the thinking strategies that all proficient readers use as they read?
* Determining What is Important - Identifying themes and diminishing focus on less important ideas or pieces of information
* Drawing Inferences - Combining background knowledge and textual information to draw conclusions and interpret facts
* Using Prior Knowledge - Building on previous knowledge and experiences to aid in comprehension of the text
* Asking Questions - Wondering and inquiring about the book before, during, and after reading
* Monitoring Comprehension and Meaning - Using an inner voice to think about if the text makes sense or not
* Creating Mental Images - Implementing the five senses to build images in the mind that enhance the experience of reading
Believe it or not, many children may not even know that they are supposed to be thinking as they read! Ask your students if they know to think as they read - you may be shocked by what they tell you!
Each year, I asked my new group of third grade readers, "Did you know that it's OK not to understand everything you read?" They usually look at me, surprised, and answer, "It is?" Then we talk a little bit about some of the ways that you can build your understanding when you are confused. I told them that even adult readers, like myself, are confused sometimes when they read. They had no idea. But, I bet it made them feel a little better to know that they don't have to fake understanding when they read; the best readers question, reread, look for context clues, and more in order to better understand and move through the text.
To get started with the Mosaic of Thought reading strategies, first choose one of the comprehension strategies to focus on for a full 6-10 weeks. Even if you only get to a few of the strategies in a year, you will be doing a major educational service for your students.
Here is a sample schedule for an hour long session:
15-20 minutes - Present a mini-lesson that models how to use the given strategy for a certain book. Try to pick a book that really lends itself to this strategy. Think aloud and you demonstrate how good readers think as they read. At the end of the mini-lesson, give the kids an assignment for the day that they will do as they read the books of their own choosing. For example, "Kids, today you will use sticky notes to mark the places where you could really visualize what was going on in your book."
15 minutes - Meet with small needs-based groups to meet the needs of students who need extra guidance and practice in this comprehension area. You can also build in time here to meet with 1-2 small guided reading groups, as you may be doing in your classroom now.
20 minutes - Use this time for one-on-one conferring with your students. Try to get to 4-5 students per day, if you can. As you meet, delve deep with each student and have him or her demonstrate to you exactly how they are using this strategy as they read.
5-10 minutes - Meet again as a whole group to review what every one accomplished and learned for the day, in relation to the strategy.
Of course, as with any instructional technique that you encounter, you can adapt this concept and this suggested schedule to fit your needs and your classroom situation.