Friday, September 7, 2012

Going Deeper With Comprehension

One of the books I had started using before I retired was Talk About Understanding by Ellin Oliver Keene.  In this book Ellin helps us rethink classroom talk to enhance comprehension.  This book is full of ways she helps students pull things out of the book and really think about their thinking.  Since I get more out of seeing someone actually do what they talk about, this book is wonderful because it also has a CD of her in the classroom.

The book has several chapters discussing her thinking. Then the following chapter takes you step by step through what she did in the classroom. You could watch the whole session and then read her step-by-step run down of it.  Or you could watch a part, read about that part, watch another part, stop and read about that part. This would be an excellent book for grade level collaboration or a book study.

A picture book that Ellin uses is One Green Apple by Eve Bunting. Ellin takes this book and stops at various places to have the children talk about their thinking. I liked how she talked about character empathy, setting empathy, and conflict empathy.  She explained that when the students connected with the text it was for a purpose of helping them understand the story. When a child had empathy for the character, it helped that child understand how the character felt because the child had felt the same way. When a child had empathy for the setting, it was because the child had been in that same setting and could visualize how it was in the text.

Ellin says it like this: "Advocacy implies that a reader may follow one character or plot element more intensively and may have the sense of being "behind" the character, wanting events to evolve in a particular way."

It is important the think alouds take the students deeper into the meaning of the text, but not tell them what to think!

Happy Reading!

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