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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

John Steinbeck, Poetry, and Knowing

If you know anything at all about me, I bet you know that John Steinbeck is my all-time favorite writer. And our recent thinking about visualization has reminded me of what he once wrote about poetry in a letter to Herbert Sturz, an undergraduate student at Columbia University: “With the rhythms and symbols of poetry one can get into the reader—open him up and while he is open introduce on an intellectual level things he would not or could not receive unless he were opened up.” Didn’t you feel “opened up” and totally receptive to what Steinbeck wanted us to feel and therefore know about the Okies in The Grapes of Wrath?

It’s so interesting to think that Steinbeck so purposefully evoked his readers’ senses so that he could, in fact, teach us something. I think the same must be true of all writers—the good ones anyway. They want us to know what they know, and they understand that if they select just the right words, frame them in just the right way, appeal to just the right senses, they’ll hit a nerve that will go directly to the brain and open us up to a flood of emotion and, yes, intellectual acceptance. I wonder what Lester Laminack wanted us to feel and know when he wrote so lovingly about his Mammaw in Saturdays and Teacakes, or what Jonathan London hoped we’d understand about the threatened gray wolf when he wrote The Eyes of Gray Wolf. Feeling, experiencing, knowing—each so connected to the others and all part of how we learn.


  1. Great timing. On Friday my granddaughter's teacher asked the class to close their eyes and picture a scene. She said to me, "All I saw was black, what am I suppose to see?" That opened the door for a conversation with her. I am anxious to try one of the books you mentioned to see if I can support her classroom learning.

    My question is do all children see pictures?

  2. Interesting question. I think that we assume children do but i think they need to be trained to "see." let me give this some more thought.