We’re kicking off our annual summer book study with Abby from Kindergarten Chaos. This summer we’re reading and discussing the book Strategies That Work which focuses on reading comprehension.
Our summer book study book is always chosen based on an area that we want to improve on. For me, reading comprehension is something I want to do better so I am excited to study this book with you, collaborate with you and grow with you!
Here are my key takeaways from chapter 1 and 2. I will discuss a few of these in this post!
What Is Reading Comprehension?
Reading Comprehension is the most important thing
According to the authors, and I must agree, reading comprehension is the most important thing. Think about it, if we don’t understand what we’re reading, then are we reading? When I taught 2nd grade my school was a Reading First school. Reading First was this massive federal grant that poured money into schools for literacy. There were some great benefits like $500 to buy books for the classroom each year! However, the one thing that I remember most about Reading First was the focus on word calling and speed and not comprehension. Each week we had to give the kids a reading test where they read as many words as they could. Then they had to retell what they read. My kids could read 90 or more words a minute. BUT they had no idea what they read. People, they weren’t reading. They were word calling.
True comprehension is the reader interacting with the text
Reading is a balance of decoding and making meaning. If we can’t make meaning using our background knowledge, our live experiences, our inner voice, then we’re not really interacting with the text.
In the book, the authors suggest having your students share what a reader is and what they think is reading. We did this in our class and it was a very interesting discussion! These were done at the end of the year so we of course had discussed readers and reading all year long. My first AHA moment of this book study is to do these charts at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year. (Also, join us on Facebook tonight where we will be discussing this very question!)
Strategies That Work: Challenges
As I was reading the first two chapters of Strategies That Work, some challenges presented themselves so I want to share those here. Hopefully sharing these will help others and will keep me focused on finding strategies that work in my classroom to overcome these challenges as we work through this book study and
Challenge 1: Texts Students Can Connect With
In chapter 1 the authors state that “good readers make connections between the texts they read and their own lives…” Currently, in our district we have mandated anchor texts that we are required to read. These complex texts are 2 grade levels above our students and are not relevant to the students at all. This presents a challenge in getting students to connect to these texts.
Challenge 2: Finding A Balance With Background Knowledge
“Background knowledge is the foundation of our thinking…” The authors of Strategies That Work state the importance of background knowledge or schema and how the more background knowledge a reader has, the more they understand new information. However, our district is really pushing back on building schema and background knowledge. District leaders believe we are providing too much background knowledge and want us to provide less schema.
Challenge 3: Content vs. Process
This is another area of stress in our school. Administration is insisting we not teach content and process but just teach our kids how to think. If they can’t read (decode), they can’t learn (content) and then they can’t think? None of these are mutually exclusive and all are necessary to become good readers.
Please join our conversation on Facebook (and in the comments below!)! We would love to hear your thoughts, challenges, questions and ideas on chapters 1 and 2!
Make sure to visit Kindergarten Chaos to read her thoughts on chapter 1 and 2!