Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nudging the Talk

Read-alouds are an opportunity to introduce any type of conversation in the classroom. Depending on the book chosen, many different topics can be brought up by children making personal connections to the reading. They can also connect a story to another text or something in the world. Although we will often hear students making these connections on their own, if we nudge the talk, we will find how much conversation can be brought about from a simple topic or story.

Before a story begins, some questions you can ask to get students thinking are the following;

-What do you think this might be about?

-Look at the cover. What do you notice?

-Where do you think this story takes place?

-What might we learn in this book? (if it is nonfiction)

-Who do you think the characters are?

-Can you think of any words we might hear in this book?

During and after a read-aloud, you can ask these questions:

-What are you thinking?

-Talk about what you like about this book so far.

-What do you think will happen?

-Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know?

-Does this story remind you of anything?

-Does this character remind you of anyone?

-What are you picturing in your head?

-What are you wondering about?

-What do you notice in the illustrations?

-What do you already know about ______?

-What did you learn so far?

The questions and conversation starters are nowhere limited to these options, but they are some to get you started. You will be able to ask more specific questions or make comments more directly related to the story as conversation goes on, and you will be surprised with all of the connections that students can make!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Poetry as a Medium

Poetry is useful for all of its connections that can be made to the curriculum and to fulfill standards, but it also has the power to open minds to different thought patterns or ways of describing emotional and other experiences. Students will be able to personally connect with the combination of words that they will hear, read, and most importantly, be in conversation about. The conversation will force students in a subtle way to hear and make sense of others' interpretations of the poetry.

The ambiguity of language is a main point that should be adressed, and this idea that the words from a poem and the way that they are combined and arranged can mean very different things to different people, will show my students that differences exist in the understandings that they each have, but no interpretation is the correct one. No one will know what exactly a poem is saying unless they are the poet, therefore bringing up the magic of this type of literature. It carries with it the facility to unify a classroom through shared dialogue that brings mutual understandings that everyone is unique in but valued for their interpretation of poetry, and therefore unique in and valued for their culture, beliefs, appearances, and other realms of differences.

Having said that, the ways that poetry can be incorporated into a classroom are many: one of these ways is through choral reading. A teacher can give an example of how a poem can be read aloud and then spur conversation on how this poem can be read as a class, emphasizing word volume, speed, and pauses that are important to the meaning of the poem. Students can then break into groups and decide in their groups how they will perform a poem of their choice. Once again, confidence in feeling proud of themselves will come from this activity, and it will promote the ability to work as a team and include each students' input in the final product.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Literacy teachers of young children often find themselves struggling to match their personal philosophpy with the mandates of their state, district, or school. Tests like ISTEP and IREAD have strict skill based requirements that children must be able to meet by the middle of the third grade. Up until this point, teachers are required to give assessments based on skills and conventions that will lead the students to do well on these tests.

Passionate, intentional teachers have the desire to fulfill their students' literacy lives by implementing developmentally appropriate activities into the curriculum. They want actiives that will inspire children to use the resources that they have around them to attmept the usage of challenging words and invent spelling and conventions as they progress on their journey to correct conventional writing.

The harsh pressure to reach certain skills by certain times may actually be hindering the stduents abilities to reach those goals becasue teachers feel pressure to reach these goals by taking a path that they do not believe in. The question is, where to go when there are two (often times more) different angles coming towards you about how to promote literacy. Teachers and administration need to work together to form a combination of discources that fit their school environment and individual students.