Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Picking Up Three - From My Stacks

We're in our second week of taking a look at "Determining What's Most Important" as our thinking strategy of deep study.  As readers, we've been having the most interesting discussions.

I'm challenging learners to think about two guiding questions:

  • How does purpose affect the ways I determine what's most important?
  • What are the specific decisions I make as I determine what's most important?
Together, we're delving into our learning with these two questions as our guide. The beauty of posing questions like these is that the questions that readers are pondering personally are more intriguing, engaging, and purposeful than the two I proposed we study.  

Several readers are trying to think through how adding new words to their lexical system adds meaning to their reading and understanding.  Several readers are thinking through how their notebooks serve as a place to record their noticings about how determining importance affects their understanding.  Several students have been chatting about how knowledge of a specific author helps determining importance work more effectively.  Several readers are just grappling with the idea of stopping to ponder instead of barging through text (without disrupting meaning, of course).  It's been a grand two weeks. 

I've chosen the following three texts to use as "shared think alouds" as we continue on our journey.  Choosing texts that help define and redefine a strategy in the minds of young readers is one of my favorite parts of planning.

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber

This book lends itself to determining what's most important for so many reasons.  The introduction alone leads to a grand discussion of how choosing just the right words can convey meaning with clarity.  I love the narrative interspersed with "bee" facts.  And, the "Save the Bees!" closing is perfect.  

I'll share part of this book with my students and then turn the text over to them so that they can devour it as individuals or in pairs.  I'm sure the room with hum with comments like "I think this is important, because..." or "This sentence carries a lot of weight, because..."  

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins

Who doesn't love to be scared out of their wits by things in nature?  The short pieces in this book are frightening, yet intriguing.  To determine what's most important, readers have to pay close attention to the details on each page and find the essence of each short snippet of text.  

I see coupling each page with the nonfiction pieces in the back of the book.  Great talking points for readers about what's important and why.  And, these short snippets serve as provocative mentor text for writers as well.  I see us talking in pairs about a specific animal in the text and chatting about "What's most important... and why... and how do you know?"  

Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan

I love this book.  Listen to the first lines... "Come August, with corn strutting high in the fields and tomatoes plumping out on the vine folks get to talking about tuning up and heading over twisty mountain roads to hear fiddle players and banjo pickers make music under the stars." 

Because it's inspired by two musicians, the author's note will help lead our discussion through somewhat unknown music territory.  This text might lead to a conversation about how our schema is related to determining what's most important and how we sometimes have to build it at the same time we're applying a new strategy.

I love couching our thinking in both narrative and nonfiction text (and poetry) as we student determining what's most important.  If we truly believe that these thinking/comprehension behaviors are what wise readers do to make sense of text, we have to offer students a chance to think in a wide variety of text.  These three texts (and others) will be used during the crafting portion of of reader's workshop sometime in the next week or so... and I'll offer them to students to read during their composing (independent) time.  It's always my goal to give learners a flavor of what's possible and then let them have a go.  As my colleague says, "Just offer them a little hook and let them go swimming in the bigger pond with support."

So... until next month, here's your homework.  Choose three books from your stacks.  Think about these ideas as you read (this may sound familiar):
  • How might this text fit into my current strategy study?  If it doesn't how else might I use it?
  • If I were planning a study of determining what's most important what might I need to investigate further?
  • Who might I run ideas by as I plan my next study?  Who will give me the energy to follow through?  
  • What ten texts might I use with my students as readers, writers, mathematicians, or scientists that would build the essence of this "important" thinking strategy?
  • What language might I use in my crafting that bests focuses the learners in my care on their own use of the strategy of study?

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