Friday, November 16, 2012

Comprehension Through Adult Eyes

"Rural England, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a summer's day at the start of the 1960's. The house is unassuming: half-timbered, with white paint peeling gently on the western side and clematis scrambling up the plaster. The chimney pots are steaming, and you know just by looking, that there's something tasty simmering on the stove top beneath. It's something in the way the vegetable parch has been laid out, just so, at the back of the house, the proud gleam of the leadlight windows, the careful patching of the roofing tiles."

This is the first paragraph in the book by Kate Morton: The Secret Keeper.  It is our November book club book.  When I began reading it this week and started off with those words, I knew we had a great book.  Right away I started visualizing the scene.  I think I 
even heard soft piano music in the background. It became a movie in my mind. 

This is what we want children to do as they read. No one said to me, "Now, Kathy, you need to visualize as you read this book."  It just happened. There was no assignment to use my comprehension skills. I didn't have to find a self or the world.  I do believe that children need to be introduced to all the comprehension strategies so they know what they are doing as they read...or learn to do it.  But after that, it is time for them to discover what works for them with each book they read.

Also, as I am reading this book, I realize I have to synthesize constantly. The book is written in three time periods and it goes back and forth between them all through the book. It starts with 1961, flips to 1938 and then comes back to 2011.  The constant in each section is the main character's mother. There was a murder back in the mother. Why did it happen? What was the connection? The book takes you through the family story to find these answers. Definitely a page turner! Definitely a need to synthesize the action.

Since the reader is always going back and forth trying to keep track of the action, this is a complex text. That is something that we want students to be able to read since the new Common Core State Standards are requiring more rigor. As a reader myself, I want to experience what the students are doing in their learning. Reading complex text myself, helps me to work through things that I will be asking of students. How did I figure out what was going on?  Did I infer it or did the text state it? I am constantly questioning about what just happened or what was going to happen.

I use comprehension to help me understand and enjoy the text. I use the strategies I need when I need them. We want children to enjoy reading and understand what they read. Using these skills to better understand and talk or write about what they read, will allow them to do all those things. Comprehension now becomes something to help students...something they do naturally as good readers. Comprehension strategies give them a way of talking/writing about what they are reading. Comprehension has taken on new meaning!

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