Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slice of Life Four - Comprehension


 
 Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are challenging ourself to write a Slice A Day. Here we go! 

Comprehension, as a reading teacher it is something we need to consider. Is that student understanding that book – is it too hard, to easy, not interesting, not a good fit? The best way I know to check for comprehension is reading conferences. I’m a strong believer in them. I learn so much about my students when we confer. I know some people are big fans of AR for checking comprehension. Suffice to say, I am not. In fact, my feeling about AR are eloquently stated in this article found HERE.  But I don’t want to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of AR – I’d rather discuss other means to finding out if your students understand what they are reading.

I began doing reading conferences years ago. I wasted a lot of time fearing I wasn’t doing them “right”, that I needed a list of specific questions to ask them. Luckily, I relaxed and just began to talk to my students about what they are reading. Books like Patrick Allen’s Conferring also helped as well. Now I even have a fancy Livescribe pen I use to record the conferences. But sometimes even this isn’t needed.

Thursday we raced home afterschool. My mother in law was driving down from Chicago with my brother in law who had flown in from California. He was staying for two days. We had hung out at school a bit later than usual and my boys had played on the playground as I worked. As we rushed into the house the boys turned left and I turned right into the kitchen. I put things away in anticipation of their arrival I heard a shout from my oldest son Luke, who is nine.
 
He yelled out, “Mom, remember the chapter “Crossing Swords” in Knuckleheads?”

“Um, yes. Why?” I replied

Giggles from the bathroom. “Liam and I just did that.” Luke said.

Lord help me. I guess he understood the book – or, at least that chapter. 

39 comments:

  1. Comprehension is something that we can stray away from in high school; we too often, I think, assume that proper decoding is going on and get wrapped up in irony, symbolism, character development, and the like. Kids can often sit in a high school classroom and pass through the Shakespearean play, watch the movie, hear other kids talk in class, and be able to cobble enough together to pass without really grappling with the text itself. I've been thinking a lot about this; thanks for your post!

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  2. Oh how funny! You gotta love when kids make those connections. Thank you for sharing. I am incredibly passionate about conferring conferences and don't know how I'd teach reading without them. The conversations that come from a one-on-one conference are so valuable.

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  3. I love this! I enjoy just "book talking" with my sons, too. As a resource teacher, I only see my reading groups for two short periods a week. I may have to find a way to build in some conferring time... just not sure where!

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  4. If there is no comprehension then why read? I love the boys connecting to Knucklehead. Now I have to go back and reread that chapter.

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  5. Crossing Swords is absolutely my favorite chapter in Knuckleheads! I've actually used it a couple of strategy groups I've done recently to make the text we're trying to understand a little more fun.
    I'm also a huge fan of Patrick's book, Conferring. When I participated in the #cyberpd about it this summer, it even pushed my thinking more about how to frame my own conferences with students.
    Love everything about this slice!!

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  6. Dana B SchreinerMarch 4, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    This book is going on my TBR list! I'm laughing alreading just from reading your son's comment.

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  7. I love moments like that when families can joke and it stems from a book! That is so much fun. When it happens to us, it makes me so happy to know that books are part of our lives and especially my kids' lives. Oh, the fun of boys!

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  8. Allen's book changed the way I confer entirely...it's a must-read for reading workshop. "Crossing swords" - what boy has not had a go at this! My son used to refer to this game in grade school (and middle school, too) and it took a long time before I "got it" ...too funny!

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  9. I love Patrick Allen's book, but just talking is just fine. I did it for years without calling it 'conferring'. I don't know this book so will need to look it up since your other commenters are referring to it too!

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  10. I'm not familiar with the book or the character, but I'm still chuckling away at your sons and their ability to read and comprehend! I haven't read Patrick Allen's book, but I'm a believer in reading conferences a la Nancie Atwell. I'm putting 'Conferring' on my TBR list.

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  11. I adore Nancie Atwell. Patrick is wonderful and I've enjoyed his book immensely.

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  12. Linda - I can't remember, do you have sons or daughters or both? If you have sons, you will relate to Knuckleheads. It is a riot. My husband even read it and is now planning his own memoir with his brother.

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  13. I read this chapter to my students when we are writing narratives or memoirs. They love it.

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  14. Aren't they a blast? They keep me on my toes, that is for sure.

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  15. I cannot say enough about Knuckleheads. One of the top books in my classroom.

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  16. I use it in class too. Huge hit. And I loved Conferring. I was on vacation while you all did the #cyberPD. Wish I could have joined in.

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  17. My conferring time took a hit when they redid our schedule and I only have 55 minutes for workshop that is required to have guided reading embedded in it. So now I do guided reading M-W-F and conferences on T-Th.

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  18. Absolutely! Wish everyone saw the value to them.

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  19. Have you seen Penny Kittle's video about kids doing exactly what you are referring to? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gokm9RUr4ME Changed the way I think about reading class.

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  20. I have a grown son, but he has a 10 year old son. They both might like it! Great to hear that plan of your husband's. Now you've really got me interested!

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  21. Thanks for this - made me laugh outloud. Though I don't have sons, I love that book!
    Am also going to pick up the book about conferring with students. I'm changing some of the ways I interact with my preservice teachers in an effort for them to experience what authentic literature instruction feels like - this sounds like it would be a great one for me to read!

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  22. I have sons and grandsons and this is a great slice!

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  23. Nodding in agreement with the beginning. Smiling at the end. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. The joy of raising boys........thanks for sharing.

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  25. Oh funny. I know what you mean about the reading conferences. It's funny but mine got better when I stopped trying to act like a teacher and just came into it as a fellow reader. Suddenly I knew just what to say!

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  26. I don't know that chapter! I'm going to have to get the book as I think there's bathroom humor hidden there. There's a 10 year-old in the back bedroom that would probably love adding it to his to-read pile. : )

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  27. Giggling and loving this! Boys are a joy:)

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  28. Katherine--I'm laughing and cheering at the same time! Cracking up at the end, and being reminded of the power of conferring in the beginning....I have a story for you about posting a student's first semester reading reflection and her thoughts on AR....Thanks for the link.

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  29. That chapter draws great giggles from the boys and blushes of embarrassment as my girls realize what Jon Sciezka is talking about.

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  30. Ha! I love when the girls get clued in. :)

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  31. Thanks Ann Marie! I'd love to hear your story about AR. :)

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  32. Aren't they amazing!

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  33. You will love it - as will your 10 year old. It's awesome.

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  34. Such a great way to put it - just be a fellow reader.

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  35. You know that joy well. ;)

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  36. Have you read Knuckleheads? You'd love it.

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  37. It truly is. I've had a lot of student teachers over the past two years. I always have them read it.

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