Kelly Gallagher’s books were first suggested to me as a first year teacher. I’ve only had the chance to really spend time with one, Deeper Reading. It is subtitled “Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. It’s an amazing resource to help students discover the practice of close reading by focusing on the students’ skills.

Inside Deeper Reading

It’s a relatively short book at just over 200 pages, but so much is covered. There are chapters on focusing the reader, first-draft reading, second-draft reading, meaningful reflection, and teaching versus assigning. Some subjects can be taught cold, meaning students don’t know what’s going on, and eventually they pick up the things they need to remember. They might gain understanding through context and hands on experience. That might be okay for subjects like science or history, but even then students always learn more if they are given a key or guide to what is coming.

For example, if I were to give a copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the average high school freshman, they would already have an idea of the story. Romeo and Juliet has become fairly popular and elements have been adopted by movies, sitcoms, and kids animated movies. Students would be thrown off by Shakespeare’s language, but they would get the ideas in the story.

How much more would they understand if they were introduced to the physical location of the story? How much more would they absorb if they understood the conflict between Montague and Capulet and how it drives Romeo to pursue Juliet? What details would they understand better if they knew the basics of common language in Shakespeare’s plays? The more we help, the more students will understand.

Students need guidance when tackling challenging texts. Gallagher points out in chapter 10, that there’s a difference between teaching and assigning. The book addresses the process of teaching reading as a community effort. Teaching through the first read through might require conversations about what is happening. Students may pick up on different details that others miss.

Students often challenge a second read through, but if they’re truly going to understand what they have read, they might need to read it more than once. If students are going to be expected to develop deeper reading strategies, they are going to have to see the text from different perspectives.

There’s much more to this book. I really recommend it. It’s an academic read, but I think it’s very accessible. If I were to get into the business of giving stars, it’s easily 5 out of 5 for value, and the volume of useable activities in class or one on one with an individual.

 

Have you read anything else by Kelly Gallagher? What do you think?

Read on!

-Dave

 

When I tell my students that we’re starting a poetry unit, I give them thirty seconds to groan and complain and make disgusted faces. I actually tell them to get ready to complain, and boy do they!

I understand why most people have a hard time with poetry. The language that writers used a hundred years ago, or more can be difficult to understand. It makes sense that we could be feeling the same things about love, or sadness, or death. We just don’t use the same words and metaphors to communicate those feelings and ideas.

The funny thing is, that when we understand the words, we understand the poetry and we like it. If we take the time to get into Shakespeare, we understand the insults, even if we don’t understand some of the words. We become accustomed to the language.

That’s why I don’t spend a lot of time on older poetry. Kids don’t have the attention span to spend days filtering meaning out of those dusty pages.

Don’t get me wrong, we still read Shakespeare. But only as much as we watch. His plays were meant to be watched.

Back to poetry. Introducing, Slam Poetry!

Kids seem to get Slam Poetry. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s emotional, it’s performed. It can be sad, thought provoking, or funny, and it doesn’t have to rhyme. Some still feel like they have to make it rhyme. That’s okay with me, it’s their creation.

I give my students themes. I try to guide their thinking so they can naturally start writing about the thing they love, or the thing that they’re good at. They struggle for a while, but eventually they dig deep enough that they start to write about how they really feel.

The thing I’ve discovered about poetry is that not everyone has had the same experiences. When a 16 year old guy reads a poem that describes being in love as being bathed in the warmth of sunlight, he shrugs and has solidified his belief that poetry is stupid.

However, when that same 16 year old watches a slam poem about love and OCD, the performance, emotion, word choice, and delivery show him how it feels to be in love, and how it feels to have that feeling shattered. He gets it. And that makes reading more intriguing. Reading to understand, not just reading because someone told them to.

Expressing emotion, being vulnerable, and daring to just write can produce amazing poetry. It takes encouragement. Anyone can do it. It also demands trust and respect. The students have to know that you’re on their side, and that what they write, and who they are is important.

So if your kiddo is struggling with reading, maybe take a break and try to write some poetry. Don’t make it rhyme. Don’t force it. Just write. Express feelings, use metaphors, similes, describe the details as if in slow motion. I think you’ll be surprised and amazed at what they write.

I know I am. Sometimes it gives me chills.

Until next week,

Write on, Read on.

-Dave

I’ve listed some slam poems that I love. Some I show in class. Some I can’t because of language. Some have cleaner versions that I do show in class.

Let me know what you think of poetry.

Neil Hilborn – “OCD” One *F* word. Makes me cry every time.

Neil Hilborn – Ted Talk – Agents of Changeand “OCD” Clean

Adam Gottlieb – “Poet Breathe Now” Inspiring

Miriam & Rhiannon – “Cat Poem” Hilarious 🙂

Things seem to become difficult towards the end of the year. There are so many things going on with holidays, weather changes and the amount of daylight available that we lose track of the progress we are making in our goals.

Bed looks more inviting at the end of the day. Practicing reading or writing starts to feel like more work than it’s worth. In the United States, school terms are starting to wind down and students are losing steam with their homework and class projects.

So how do we stay the course? How do we find the energy that we need to keep going?

It’s important to keep the priorities at the top of our things-to-do list. If reading for 15 minutes rejuvenates you, put that at the part of the day where you need a boost. If meditating sets your energy level, get that in at the beginning of the day. If you’re writing a novel or journaling your life, make time for that before you sleep. Make time to keep doing those important things.

Maybe the amount of time-wasting focus we give to Netflix should be sacrificed during this busier time of year. Maybe to feel more productive we need to be more productive.

Make a plan before you go to bed tonight. What are you going to accomplish tomorrow? What are you going to read tomorrow? How much time are you going to give to yourself to read? How much are you going to expect yourself to write before you call it a day?

Make it happen!
Every day is a fresh start!

Read on,

-Dave

#read #books #write #persist #success

I love to read. It used to bother me when people would say that they didn’t like to read. I didn’t understand their reasons for why they didn’t like to read. But I think I get it now. At least a little.

I’ve learned a few things about how our brains work when we communicate with people. I’ve spent some time with family therapists and psychologists. I’ve read articles about how our brains process information from reading words, decoding images, and listening to others speak. Even though we’re not making things up, we use our imagination to picture things.

To put it down simply, we visualize things in our minds. Some have illustrated this process by describing our mind and imagination as a movie screen. When someone tells us a story we can visualize the details in our minds. The more information that we are given, the image we create is clearer, more precise.

Have you ever noticed when you ask someone a question they pause? They obviously know the answer to the question, but are trying to remember details, or maybe someones name. Often, the person will look up and shift their eyes side to side as if they’re scanning a visual screen for information. There isn’t anything there physically, but we visualize things as if they are.

Let’s try it out. I’m going to try to communicate to you an image by describing it to you.

Picture a spider.
Got it? Are you imagining the same spider that I am picturing in my mind? I doubt it. You don’t have enough information for us to be thinking about the same type of spider.  Let me give you more details.
The spider I’m picturing is black.
The spider is also shiny, almost like it’s wet.
The spider is the size of a nail head, and it’s on the wall.
Now the spider is the size of a golf ball.
Now the spider is as big as a dog.
It has dagger-sharp legs.

Are you still with me? Sorry if you have a fear of spiders. Did your spider change with every detail added?

So what does this exercise show? I think that some people have a more active imagination than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that’s why some people don’t like reading. Their imagination isn’t as active, so visualizing details in a story is boring.

Can it be fixed? I think so. That’s why I’m addressing the issue. When reading with someone who doesn’t like to read, ask what they see when reading a story with them. If there isn’t a lot of detail in the story, almost anything visualized works. But if there are specifics like brick houses or red cars, ask them what they see. How tall is the house? How many doors does the car have? Is it a convertible? Or a race car?

Now, this doesn’t work with picture books. This exercise can be done with text only stories. The more that you read and imagine, the easier it becomes.

I hope this helps you with your resistant reader.
If you find these articles helpful, please share them with people who could use the help. Thanks!

Read on,

-Dave

Yes, there are different types of readers. As a teacher I hear students every day say that they hate reading. That’s no exaggeration. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me – “Hey, put your phone away. You should be reading, where’s your book? What are you reading?”

Student – “I don’t have a book. I hate to read.”

Me – “Didn’t you get a book when we went to the library?”

Student – “Yeah. I didn’t like it so I took it back.”

I really believe that there are different types of readers and that everyone can enjoy reading if they find the right book. I have spoken with a variety of people from successful business people who have college educations, to teenagers who can’t put their phones down. Even though they say that they hate reading, they always say something like, “I hate reading but I will read the newspaper”, or, “I hate reading but I liked that book by John Green”.

We could put any book, magazine, or graphic novel into the scenario. It all comes down to the fact that we will read about what we are interested in.

I wish I could spend more time with every student and find out what they like to read. It takes time and trust, but everyone has read something they enjoyed. Everyone has a story that stays with them because of the character, or conflict in the story. Everyone no is interested in something and wants to learn more about it.

We are all readers. Really.

So what kind of reader are you?

Let me know in the comments below!

Read on!

-Dave

#Read #Books #Fiction #NonFiction #Reading #Teaching #Confidence #School #Success
#WeAreAllReaders