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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Into the Book: Learning Comprehension Strategies Online

Since this blog's inception I've received a couple of emails regarding reading skills: Which reading skills are most important? How do you teach skills that students will actually recall and use independently? Where can I access a list or description of reading skills?

Although I use several sources (which I'll discuss in future posts), one of the best online resources for teachers and students alike is Into the Book. (This links not to the main page, but to a page which shows all reading skills at a glance).

From the site:
Into the Book is a reading comprehension resource for K-4 students and
teachers. We focus on eight research-based strategies: Using Prior Knowledge,
Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, Summarizing, Evaluating
and Synthesizing. Watch our engaging 15-minute videos and try the online
interactive activities.
I love the site because all eight skills are not only defined in word, but also by video example. A teacher area gives teachers and parents all the information they need to begin using this framework, and the student area provides fun, interactive practice with each of the skills, using both video and online self-checking lessons. (The student area allows students to create a "key" for use upon return to this site; this way, no registration or release of personal information is ever required).

Teachers can benefit from additional resources including a discussion forum, a section on classroom design for literacy development (featuring a panoramic classroom tour as well as individual design tips), and dozens of downloadable songs, posters, and teaching guides, all relating to the eight specific reading skills.

If you're a teacher into picture books, these are the skills you need to make them extraordinary teaching tools, and this is the site to find them.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Transitional Books: The Best of Both Worlds

It's not a bad place to be: stuck between the vast and varied worlds of the picture books and the complex and conflicting worlds of the novel. That's where many children find themselves at age eight (give or take), when they're trying to make the independent reading leap from picture books to more difficult chapter books. Is the language in chapter books that much more complex? Not necessarily. But gone are the beautiful contextual clues provided by picture books' illustrations. Fortunately for these readers, we have what can be called transitional books.

Transitional books may, in fact, be chapter books, but chapter books which are liberally illustrated. One of the finest examples I've seen in recent days is Rosemary Wells' Lincoln and His Boys. Historically factual yet unswervingly human, the short and easy to follow chapters are punctuated by detailed full-color paintings (by P.J. Lynch, the talented artist behind The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey). The life of Lincoln and the terrible costs of the Civil War are skillfully interwoven as the years of Lincoln's election and presidency are viewed through the eyes of his sons (read an excerpt here). This is a apt choice for any classroom study of our 16th president, the Civil War, or the universal theme of perspectives (see a recent post on universal themes at my How to Teach a Novel blog).

Be sure to visit Candlewick for additional print and video resources and activities on some of your students' favorite books. My favorite: popular authors such as Kate DiCamillo discussing and reading from their upcoming books.