Welcome back! Today's post is a bit of a new experience for me- because instead of writing it from my couch or kitchen table during my two kids' nap time- I'm sitting at my desk! Yes- it's that time of year- back to school! For most people, I think they dread this time. But for me- I kind of secretly love it. Keep that between you and me, ok? I just think that seeing all the faces of the kids when they come in and seeing their excitement cancels out my desire to get an extra hour of sleep. I mean, I have a 4 and 2.5 year old...who's sleeping in anyway? So yeah, I love this time of year. The freshly cleaned school, the empty hallway that signifies the calm before the storm, and even the commute back to work. This is why we got in this business: for the kids. So instead of dreading it, welcome it back with a positive attitude and I promise that this year will be amazing!
For those of you who have been following my posts, I am now on to Goal 5: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Understanding Plot and Setting from Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book. If you missed ay of my previous posts, just click back to my main blog or follow these easy shortcuts!
- Goal 1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers
- Goal 2: Teaching Reading Engagement: Focus, Stamina, and Building a Reading Life
- Goal 3: Supporting Print Work: Increasing Accuracy and Integrating Sources of Information
- Goal 4: Teaching Fluency: Reading with Phrasing, Intonation, and Automaticity
Now that we got that out of the way, on to Goal 5! For me, the meat and potatoes of this goal comes in the subtitle: Understanding Plot and Setting. This sounds so simple. Sure, just know what's happening in the book and you'll be fine. But it's so much more complex than that and we need to teach students that even though its a complex task, it doesn't have to be a difficult task. Understanding the plot and setting of a fiction book is the foundation for understanding so much more- so we need to spend the time on teaching this the right way every time. As Serravallo says, " To help student's achieve that lost-in-a-book, engaged sort of reading that makes reading enjoyable, they have to understand what's going on." (Page 130). Students need to get it. Sometimes as teachers, we make the mistake of assuming that just because they are reading it, that they get it. They might understand the surface issues or happenings in the book- but we really want them engaged and digging deep into the book to understand the whole thing!
This brings me to my three focus strategies from this goal- which as you can see above, are 5.3: Summarizing What's Most Essential, 5.8: What's Your Problem?, and 5.25: Double Plot Mountain. There were 28 very good strategies to choose from in this section, but I think that the three I listed give a nice, comprehensive overview of what we need to keep in mind with students when teaching fiction.
First up, 5.3: Summarizing What's Most Essential. This kind of echoes back to when I was talking about students not totally being able to pick out the most important details in the text. This strategy is similar because it stresses the importance of only getting what is essential. As Serravallo explains, "When summarizing, remember to tell what's important. Tell it in the order it happened. Tell it in a way that makes sense. Try not to tell too much." (Page 136). That really is the perfect explanation of what we are looking for in a summary from students. Oftentimes with younger gets, I get too much. With older kids, I get too little. The flip chart, shown below, really helps keep the focus of the summary.
As I said above, I like the concise nature of this flip chart- it keeps everything in perspective for the students. I also have to come clean here- I LOVE flip charts! Just flat out love them. I definitely grinned when I came upon this in the book! You can be sure I'll be trying this out this year!
Next up is 5.8: What's Your Problem? First of all, the name is so fun. I can just picture myself with a group and asking, "Hey! What's Your Problem?" as a cue for them to think of this strategy. I am going to jump to the visual right away for this explanation because I want you to focus on the 3rd column and I'll explain why I think it is so important to this strategy- and what sets it apart from so many others.
Notice where it says "What does it connect to?" in the third column? I love that. Let me explain. So many times we just ask students to think about the problem in a story. As if thinking and identifying the problem is enough. It's not. I'm guilty of this too- that's why I think if we visualize this anchor chart and keep in mind the connection- it will help all of us remember to take our thinking that extra step. As Serravallo explains, "Think about it the problem is connected to the overall theme of the story or a social issue within the story." (Page 141). I mean, wow! What if we took that extra 5 seconds every time we identified a problem to think that one step further? Imagine the possibilities!
Last up, 5.25: Double Plot Mountain. I should be honest here and admit that I love plot mountains. I'm not totally sure why- maybe it's because I have had success in the past getting students to comprehend better using them, but they are one of my go-to visuals when teaching plot. So imagine my glee when I stumble upon a DOUBLE plot mountain! *Side note: Isn't teaching funny? It seems like such an obvious concept. If you love one plot mountain, make two! But we don't always think like that on our own- that's why we need each other and to always keep learning. I'd have never thought of this- but from picking up this book and social media book study, now I know it, will use it, and students will get better. I just LOVE that this is how effective and connected teaching works.
I love how this visual separates two different important strands in the story- Joey's home life and Joey's school life. Normally, we would try and combine both those lives onto one plot mountain and inevitable miss something important. But with two, you can include all the important details while have the synthesize where the information goes as you learn it. So much thinking is happening here- it's amazing!
That's all for today- be sure to check back on Wednesday for Goal 6: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Thinking about Characters. Until then, happy back to school week!