Welcome back, everyone! Today's blog post is going to focus on Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language. I'm posting a day later than usual because yesterday was Labor Day, and to be honest, I spent most of the day cleaning/getting the house ready because my husband had shoulder surgery this morning to repair a labral tear. Instead of being at an institute day today at school, I'm at home taking care of him and making sure he follows the rules! He's a teacher too so it's definitely safe to say that we both miss our classrooms but it's important to take care of yourself first. I'll be home with him today and tomorrow and head back to work Thursday afternoon after we drop our two kids off at their first day of preschool! So wow, it's definitely an exciting/busy/crazy time- but I didn't want to miss a reflection from this awesome book by Jennifer Serravallo. Without further delay, let's get on to the reflection!
Like I said above, we are focusing on Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language. I have always loved teaching figurative language- it represents the idea that language can change and have multiple meanings and I love that about learning. Teaching figurative language, for me, is such a complicated and fun thing to do. I love watching as a student's mind wraps around the concept of an idiom and the slow steps they take toward understanding. It's definitely rewarding but equally difficult. For that reason, this "chapter" of The Reading Strategies Book is so necessary! These strategies will definitely go to good use in my lessons!
When discussing vocabulary, another point that Serravallo makes is, " Vocabulary knowledge helps students access background knowledge, express ideas, communicate effectively, and learn about new concepts." (Page 296). For students who have a limited vocabulary and background knowledge, for reasons such as poverty or other limitations, learning is much more complicated for them. I teach these students. They don't have the background knowledge to fall back on. They don't have the luxury to know if a word "sounds right" or "looks right" because they most likely have never encountered it before. This is an aspect of teaching that teachers must always take into account. Your classroom of students will walk into your room with individual experiences and you must consider that all when you begin to teach.
As you can see, my three focus strategies this week are- 11.4: Categorize Context with Connectors, 11.7: Picture It, and 11.18: Help from Cognates. You're probably tired of me saying this, but seriously this goal was so difficult to pick my top three. I loved all these strategies. All of them are so helpful to students of all levels and they are easy to implement. Considering this goal is such a common struggle for students- the fact that so many easy to implement strategies exist- this is a game-changer for education.
First up- 11.4: Categorize Context with Connectors. I love this strategy because it isn't about the big, obvious details. It focuses on the small, easy to miss details that are so helpful. They may be easy to miss, but when you pay attention to these details, it makes comprehension so much easier.
While the above visual looks a bit cluttered (I'd advise using a much simpler one for younger students), but it points out the important information. Perhaps a list of "common connector words" hanging up on a classroom wall would also be helpful to accompany this list. Then, once those words are taught, the above visual will be incredibly helpful.
Next up, 11.7: Picture It! It makes the most sense to skip right to the "picture" to help explain. (I crack myself up sometimes!)
I've said it a million times but I'll say it again. When you need help, try to picture it. Some call it making a movie in your mind, some call it visualizing, others just say picture it (like the strategy name). Whatever you call it, just make sure students are utilizing this strategy. The only time I would advise using this strategy is when students don't have a huge repertoire of background knowledge to pull upon- because if you tell them to picture it and the picture they bring up is blank or wrong, this won't help. However, visualizing will still help them- you will just need to scaffold for them to ensure they are bringing up the right picture.
Last up is 11.18: Help from Cognates. I teach in a school where 45% of our students are LEP (Limited English Proficient) so as you can imagine, this is a strategy that our teachers fall back on regularly. Sometimes we get confused when teaching students and think we have exhausted all teaching options. Well, if a student speaks a different language, try using their own native language to help. I especially like this strategy because it gives students a chance to feel confident and proud that they are really navigating their own learning and aiding their comprehension.
As you can see, the strategy is pretty simple. Follow the steps, keep a handy dandy chart, and let the students take care of the rest!
That's all for today- be sure to stop back here on Thursday for Goal 12: Supporting Students' Conversations: Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension. We are almost to the end- only 13 goals in total so if you've been following along this long- be sure not to miss out on the final stretch! If you haven't been following along, just click any of the links of the right of the page to bring you back to my full blog and you can review my reflections on goals 1-10.
As always, thanks for reading and have a great week! Leave any questions or comments below- I love to hear from you!