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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking for Something Short and Sweet? Try Short Stories...

Back in January we starting talking about the importance of children reading short, sweet chapter books—books they could wrap their thinking around. Texts they can revisit, reread, and contemplate.
It seems to me that short stories, even episodic tales, fit the bill just fine.

So here are four collections of short stories you may want to read aloud to your students:

Yes, this title is definitely a mouthful, but the stories about three toys—actually they’re more loosely related adventures than individual stories—are simply delightful. Younger readers, unable to read stories like this on their own will love to hear Lumphy’s, StingRay’s, and Plastic’s take on the world. And there’s a lot to be learned from their adventures.

It’s hard to say enough good things about these six short stories. You remember Timothy from Timothy Goes to School and Charles from Shy Charles and Doris who loves cheese-wiz sandwiches. Well these three personalities and other friends you’re certain to recognize from Rosemary Wells’s picture books are all enrolled in the same kindergarten class. And what a lot of fun it is to see six of these characters each featured in a story. One thing though—the stories are so much more fun when readers know something about what the characters are like, so I advise reading aloud some of Wells’s picture books first.

Jack Plank Tells Tales by Natalie Babbit
Who doesn’t like a good story? And disenfranchised pirate Jack Plank most definitely has stories to tell. Jack’s been “let-go,” so to speak, from the pirating community and needs to earn a living on land. Not so easy, as he explains to fellow boarders each evening upon returning to Mrs. Del Fresno's rooming house—jobless. Kids will relish Jack's pirate-related tales about why each job he tries simply doesn’t pan out. (The paperback edition will be available in April.)

Altogether, One at a Time by E. L. Konigsburg
These four short stories—and these really are distinct stories—give readers a whole lot to think about. Themes like understanding what it’s like to grow old, learning compassion, facing fears, dealing with prejudice and racism are presented in Konigsburg’s straightforward and witty style. Read these stories aloud and give kids plenty of time to talk.

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