Another Wednesday, another reflection on Jennifer Serravallo's amazing The Reading Strategies Book! Today I will be focusing on Goal 6: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Thinking About Characters. If that sounds familiar to you, it's because this is the second of three goals that have to do with supporting comprehension in fiction. If you missed the first post (or any previous posts) follow these handy links to get you to them now!
- 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
- Goal 5: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Understanding Plot and Setting
As most of you who are teachers who are reading this, you are, like me, just getting back into the swing of school or just about to start. For me, this book study has helped me shift my focus back onto school mode and really dig deep into the goals I want to accomplish with my students this year. It's helping me to really 'sharpen my saw' and get prepared for all the different types of students that come my way. I think that might be what I love the most about this book. Serravallo never once says "This is the best reading strategy to use!" and that's because there is no one perfect solution. You have to know the student, know the task, and then find the right fix to apply to the situation. Just like you wouldn't give a leg brace for a broken arm, you wouldn't give the same blanket strategy to every kid in your classroom. That's what makes this book so amazing- it has a strategy for everyone!
Today's post revolves around Goal 6: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Thinking About Characters and for my reflection I chose 6.9: Text Clue/Background Knowledge Addition, 6.13: Yes, But Why?, and 6.21: Piling Together Traits to Get Theories. As Serravallo states in the introduction to this goal, "The challenge to readers' ability to understand characters is that unlike people, literary characters are constructed. Readers need to pay attention to details that the author includes to figure out who the character is." (Page 162). I love this point that she makes because I think sometimes, as humans, we just simply try and relate to the characters and get to know them. Well, characters aren't like us. They are constructed by an author. We can't apply the same rules of understanding them that we apply to understanding our friends. In some ways- it's easier to think about it this way. If all we have to do is follow a constructed pattern that the author sets out- that's amazing! I wish my 4 year old came with this constructed pattern so I'd know what he's thinking!! Another key point Serravallo makes is that, "...you have to know about the text level to understand what to expect of a reader's response." (Page 164). What she's saying here is that a reader at level A is going to have a much less complex and constructed response on character than a reader at level X and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. That's just a great tip to always remember.
First up is 6.9: Text Clue/Background Knowledge Addition. I chose this strategy because I love the idea that we should always be using our background knowledge- but in conjunction with the text clues. This is like I said above- we can think about what we know as people (our background knowledge) and apply it to the character....BUT we must follow the text clues in order to fully put the pieces together to make our character judgments. We can't rely on only one of those things (background knowledge or text clues), rather use them both to create the best theory possible.
Plus- look how awesome that visual is! I love the bottom where it has the "math-like" boxed equation. Sometimes just looking at something like that will help it click for a kid- so the equation, the short prompts, and the sentence prompts all in one is amazing!
Next up is 6.13: Yes, But Why? The reason I chose this one is simple, and I think Serravallo says it best when she says, "Understanding a motivation(s)- why it is that the character does what he or she does- helps you understand more about the kind of person he or she is." (Page 178). Like I said, it's simple, but oftentimes the simple things can be overlooked so I like this visual anchor chart to help remind the students.
I think that having this strategy up as an anchor chart will be really helpful to the students who simply read through things and hope it comes together to make sense. This will give them steps of what to do when it isn't always making perfect sense- plus the added bonus of extra synthesizing during the day never hurts anyone!
Last up is 6.21: Piling Together Traits to Get Theories. Since I chose this one mostly for the visual, I'll post that right away so you can see what I mean as a reference it.
I really like the vertical organization of this strategy. For me, it helps keep my thoughts moving along to where I want them to go and I think it will help students see that their thinking is not necessarily complete when they just give the character name and one trait. They can do more with the information and develop their theories as to what these traits really mean about the character. As Serravallo puts it perfectly, "Craft a theory about your character by compiling all the smaller ideas you have. Look across character's traits, wants, desires. Pile them up. State a bigger theory about who the character really is or what she or he really wants, not just in one spot but as a pattern across the text." (Page 186). I couldn't have said it better myself!
That's all for today! Check back on Monday 8/24 for the next reflectn (and last in the supporting comprehension fiction series) of The Reading Strategies Book which will be Goal 7: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Understanding Themes and Ideas. Be sure to comment or share my post if you see something you like! Thanks for reading!