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 1, 2011

Still Thinking About Visualization

Monday’s post got me thinking about visualization and exactly what it is that writers do to breathe life into their text. We talk about visualizing all the time but what does it really mean? Clarifying this for myself will help me identify additional titles I can use to demonstrate visualization and explain to children what to look for as they read and to try out when they write.

Authors help readers to visualize when they:

Write with specificity—For example, writing “Peter ate a heaping bowl of Captain Crunch” is more evocative than saying he ate some cereal. In Lester Laminack’s Saturdays and Teacakes, his Mammaw opened the Frigidaire (later described as a refrigerator) and put two sticks of Blue Bonnet into the teacakes (later described as margarine). Better to sell 128 boxes of girl scout cookies than to sell “a lot” of them.

Use strong nouns and active verbs—This makes the writing so much more concrete. “The toddler tip-toed” across the room enlists more of the senses than to say “the young child walked...”

Compare one thing to another, often something unfamiliar to something I know—Both fiction and nonfiction writers do this through similes and metaphors. In the Big Blue Whale, Nicola Davies writes that the blue whale’s skin is as slippery as soap and as springy as a hard-boiled egg.

Write dialogue in keeping with every day language of the character—Lester Laminack’s Mammaw said, “My goodness, buddy, we didn’t put no vanilla in here. Reach up in that cabinet and get me down the bottle of vanilla flavor.” Hearing her say this—in this way—makes her more real to me.

Use onomatopoeia (sound words)—In Down the Road by Alice Schertle, the screen door goes “Squeak-bang,” and Hetty listens to her shoes go “thup, thup, thup, thup” as she walks down the road.

When you read to your kids this week, look and listen for how the author evokes the senses and then share it with the children. Maybe even make a list like I just did.

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