Why Blog

I’m passionate about finding ways to simplify comprehension instruction and learning. I’m concerned that we are defining comprehension too narrowly as an accumulation of five or six meta-cognitive strategies when cultivating comprehension involves so much more than that. We need to help children acquire accurate fluent reading skills and strategies; build background knowledge; develop their oral language and vocabulary; make reading-writing connections, and acquire a repertoire of meta-cognitive strategies to use as and if needed.

So I invite you to join me in blogging about this ever-so-important topic. I look forward to hearing your ideas, teaching strategies, book recommendations, classroom stories, etc., basically anything that will inspire a healthy conversation among colleagues.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We’re on to Something with Our Short and Sweet Titles

It’s good to know that what we’re saying about the importance of children reading “short and sweet” titles aligns with the Common Core State Standards. The Common Standards recommend that children spend more time reading short and complex texts—ones they can read and reread multiple times, examine closely for content, structure, and text features, and those that encourage them to think critically. Children can’t do this, as we well know, when texts are too long.

If you have a copy of the CCSS take a look on page 32 at the text examples  illustrating “complexity, quality, and range of student reading in K-5.” I think you’ll be pleased with their age and grade appropriateness. Here are a few examples: K—Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes; 1st grade—How People Learned to Fly by Fran Hodgkins and True Kelley; 2nd-3rd grade—Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White; 4th-5th grade—Horses by Seymour Simon. The document notes with an * or ** the titles that are most likely to be read aloud by the teacher or read along with the teacher to supplement children’s independent reading of just-right texts.) If you don’t have a copy of the standards use the link above to download it. They’re worth becoming familiar with and are actually quite good. Hopefully, they won’t become lost in translation when applied to classrooms.

Now it’s time to add more titles to our own “short and sweet” list: 

Absolutely Lucy by Ilene Cooper is a delightful story of eight-year old Bobby Quinn, who’s terribly shy and who wants a dog more than anything else in the world. Learn how Bobby’s wish comes true, and how his new dog Lucy, who's “absolutely the prettiest dog in the world," helps him make friends. The best news of all is that there are three other books in the Absolutely Lucy series, all certain to win the hearts of young readers.

       In How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills, Oliver has a problem that most kids would welcome—his mom and dad always want do everything for him, even his homework. Read to find out how Oliver Olson changes the world—or at least his world.

      No Way, Winky Blue by Pamela James and the four other books in the series, chronicle Rosie’s relationship with her parakeet Winky Blue. There are a lot of lessons to be learned about accepting and appreciating those we love for what they are.

The protagonist in Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary is Maggie Schultz, a third grader who makes a decision NOT to learn cursive. She intends to print or use the computer instead. See how she sorts through this mess her stubbornness has gotten her into. The book is also available in Spanish. 

Gloria’s Way by Ann Cameron is a companion to the well-loved Julian and Huey stories. In these six charming vignettes, readers will identify both with Gloria’s problems and their resolution. And then, of course, readers will delight to once again meet up with her best friend Julian and his brother Huey.

And...in the spirit of the Common Standards recommendation of a 50-50 balance of fiction and informational text, we also need to start thinking about nonfiction titles that help to build knowledge of key topics within and across the grades. More about that at another time. For now, I’d welcome additional suggestions for our “short and sweet” list.

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