In books such as I Read It, But I Don’t Get It, Cris Tovani lists reading behaviours of successful or proficient readers.
These behaviours are:
- Activating background knowledge
- Self-questioning the text while reading.
- Drawing inferences.
- Determining importance
- Employing Fix-Up Strategies when meaning breaks down.
- Using sensory images to visualize
- Synthesizing and extending meaning
Here, I will begin at the beginning. I have often, if not always employed, deliberately asking students to brainstorm any preconceptions they have about a text before we begin. To put a shape to that pre-text brainstorming, I have used an Advance Organizer, brainstorming on a word web as a class, or a Value Line.
For this activity, I decided to use a K-W-L chart, with the “K” meaning that students write everything they already know — or think they know — about a topic or text.
Here are my K preconceptions:
- Gothic text (but what that means exactly I confess to not knowing)
- Considered one of the greatest texts ever written
- Considered one of the greatest love stories ever written
- Turn of the century time period
- Overly flowery language.
- Unnecessarily long descriptions.
Up next: Activating Background Knowledge, Framing a Text and Providing a Purpose
I have a confession to make: I am not a fan of Gothic Literature. In fact, I deliberately avoided taking courses involving Jane Eyre and books of that ilk when in university. I have dabbled in reading them… and, heretofore, those books don’t ‘do it’ for me.
But… in the short time I have bee in my new position as Learning Coordinator for Literacy & English and Student Success, I have had the amazing opportunity to learn by reading, by attending workshops, by having amazing conversations, by observing powerful presenters and teachers. And I have been exposed to ideas I haven’t really considered before.
In particular, the idea that explicit reading and comprehension instruction should, according to some authors I have read, continue throughout high school gives me pause. And these are ideas propounded by high school teachers — albeit American high school teachers — but they still have elements in them that have gotten me… pondering.
So, since I am the type of person who can only learn when I actually do something — as opposed to simply reading about it or watching it — , I thought I would put some of this reading theory to the test — on myself.
After reading two texts each of Cris Tovani and Kelly Gallagher , here are some of their ideas that are fueling my ‘thesis’ or my hypothesis or simply my plan:
- “Reading is hard — and hard is good” says Kelly Gallagher, and from this I take that we can’t altogether jettison the so-called classics outright simply because the language, context, story or ideas are ‘too hard’. There is value in facing and conquering a difficult text — even if we don’t like it. Gallagher goes on to say “There is a difference between liking a text and valuing a text.”
- There are behaviours or habits that successful readers perform when reading, often without being aware of them, as outlined in Tovani’s book, I Read It But I Don’t Get It. But I want to hold out hope that these behaviours can be modelled, explicit taught, learned and ultimately internalized by struggling or reluctant learners.
- In addition, there are strategies successful readers use when they run into trouble while reading (“when meaning breaks down”). And again, these strategies can be learned by our students.
- Lastly, as a teacher, there are activities that I can and really must employ to increase the chances that most of my learners will get through a difficult text.
So, my plan is to try to read a text that, from this vantage point, I don’t want to read / I am not intrinsically drawn to. But I am going to try to read this text following the ideas and frameworks of these two reading instruction gurus to see if it has some merit. And I am going to attempt to chronicle this reading excursion here….