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

 

Entertainment

We live in a visual world and we love to be entertained. Our everyday lives are so stressful and busy that at the end of the day, we need a break. It’s great to escape for an hour or two and not have to worry about cooking, cleaning, laundry, and kids. Or, if we are kids it’s great to escape from the demands of parents giving chores, homework from school, friends and their problems, and the school-day itself. There’s so much going on in our lives that sitting down to read a book that will take weeks to finish doesn’t sound fun. It sounds boring. It sounds like school work. It sounds awful.

And sometimes, it is school work. Sometimes there’s an assignment to read a book for an  assignment. Sometimes there’s a test at the end of each chapter. So why read the book if there’s a movie version. It will be so much easier and save so much time if we just watch the movie version.

What’s the Problem With the Film Version of a novel?

Really, there’s nothing wrong with the film version. There are many great books that have been successfully converted to the Silver Screen. If it’s for entertainment, it’s usually great. However, teachers will often show the different film versions of a play or novel to show the artistic choices a director makes. Students can see how one version might be more effective than another, and how the characters vary from one version to the next. For classroom conversation though, it’s difficult to have a conversation about The Hobbit as it’s read in class while some students are making references to the film version. They are very similar, but there are some things that happen in the book that don’t happen in the film, and things that happen in the film that don’t take place in the book.

Recommendation

Films made from books are great. Watching movies for homework instead of reading is a bad idea. However, watching a movie to become familiar with the story can make the reading easier, more enjoyable, or possibly more frustrating. If your intent is to escape; watch the movie, or read. The story will be great either way. If you’re going to have a conversation about the book, you should probably be reading it. If you bring up details from the movie it will be obvious to the teacher or professor that you haven’t really read the book.

It’s almost guaranteed that if you read the book, the movie will be disappointing. There’s no substitute for the images your imagination can produce. There are things that we deduce when we decipher character intent and decode meaning from action or dialogue. Our minds are powerful and can make meaning from words on the page, even if the author didn’t write it all down. In a movie, we have to see what the director captured on film.

Let’s not argue any more about which is better. Book or movie, they’re both fun. Books are more challenging, and also more rewarding. Movies are great for a moment of escape. Both are valuable in a variety of ways.

What do you think? Are there movies that were better than the book? Are there movies that ruined a book for you? Let me know in the comments section, and if you’ve had this conversation before, share this article.

Read on, and watch on!

-Dave

People who are trying to accomplish something difficult like to set goals. Setting goals is on peoples’ minds particularly from the end of the year and into the beginning of a new year. Some people like to get very specific with what they would like to get done, while others have a broad idea of success and don’t want to be bogged down with specifics. The end results may need to be specific like a creating a product, or broad like losing a certain amount of weight, or reading a certain number of books.

When it comes to setting reading goals, you might just have the idea that you want to read more throughout the year. Other people might want to read all of the books a particular author has produced. Whatever your goal, and however you plan on accomplishing it, it’s critical that you know what your end result looks like. Is it a number of days exercised? Maybe it’s just that you have to buy a new wardrobe because your old clothes are too big.

How many books do you want to (or think) you can read this year? In 2018 I wanted to read 17 books. I will finish this year with 23, so next year my goal will be 20. More than my goal for last year, but not by too many more.

Apps and internet sites can be very helpful in accomplishing your goals. It’s helpful to track what you have done. If you see success, you’re more likely to continue with the challenge of your goal.

A few years ago, I wanted to read more books. I realized that I read more when I was in college than I did after I graduated and started working as a full time teacher. I believe the proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. If I ask students to write or read more, I should be doing the same. Especially since I know I love reading! I found Goodreads. I know I have mentioned this app and website before. If you haven’t looked at it yet, and you want to set a reading goal for yourself or your child, take some time.

Every year Goodreads has a Reading Challenge. It’s great because they total all users book goals to show how many millions of books are going to be read that year. You get to set how many books you want to read for the coming year. As you mark each book that you’re reading, and complete the book it changes your total. You don’t have to list specific books that you want to read, just the number of books you want to read. I like this setup because I don’t know what I will be in the mood to read throughout the year. I don’t know what will be recommended to me from different students or colleagues.

When I’m reading a book, I add it to my list of books I’m “Currently Reading”. When I finish it, I mark it “Read”. When it’s marked “read”, it’s added to my book goal.

That’s just enough motivation for me to want to keep reading. It’s a little bit of progress over time. The books I finish are books I want to read. I don’t feel pressure to finish one that is awful, because there’s only so much reading time between January and December (or whenever you start your goal with Goodreads).

I hope this tool helps with your reading goals.
I’d love to know how you’re doing with your reading. Leave a comment or send me an email. dave@wasatchreadingclub.com

Read on, and Happy New Year!

-Dave

 

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

You’re reading more and you’re starting to enjoy it a little. Or maybe your child isn’t resisting the time you dedicate to reading, and is actually helping to choose books. How can I improve what I am doing?

This is an easy thing to talk about. Really. That’s it. Talk about it. If you’ve read a book or story, and your child or someone else has read the book or story, talk about it.

What do you think about the characters? Why do you think characters did what they did? Would you have done the same thing? What could have made the story better? What didn’t you like about it? What other stories have you read that were like this one?

Talk about it.

When someone else confirms your understanding you take a win. When someone else clarifies a misunderstood scene or character action, you refine the way you read. You refine the questions you ask. You are becoming a better reader! It takes practice.

It’s simple. Enjoy the progress. Praise your little reader for doing something difficult.