Sunday, January 23, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

What am I reading now?  UNBROKEN CONNECTION (Angela Morrison)

And . . . what do I think so far?  I purchased (to read on my phone Kindle ap) TAKEN BY STORM (book 1) on the recommendation of a friend. I liked it so much, I immediately downloaded this title and read it straight through with abandon. Seriously, I'm in love with Leesie and Michael being in love. The writing is beautiful and emotional. The images make me want to learn to scuba dive just to see if it is anything like I imagined during the reading.

Decisions, Decisions
We've been having an ongoing conversation at work this year about the decisions students have to make during learning and the resulting kind of learning they have at the end of the process. Probably the most common question I hear from teachers asks how they can help their students read faster. See that's a trick question. Students usually read at the speed they can process continuous text. So if they read slow, they are probably processing text slowly. 

          I know there are exceptions to this. I've taught a few students who just didn't realize they could read faster and when they tried they found they could. After a couple of weeks of doing some 1-minute timings, their speed increased to an expected rate. Problem solved. I'm really not talking about those students when I say that reading rate might signal a processing problem.

          Other students could be timed to death and see little improvement in reading rate. You might ask why this is a problem. For many children who read slowly all work involving reading becomes slow and laborious. Where most children will finish work in school, slow readers have to take it home to finish. Then top it off with more work assigned as homework (which will also take them longer because they read slower) and we might see a very unmotivated student. 

          If we could peek inside their mind during reading we might hear something like this:

          "These are the same que--ques--questions special (No, that doesn't say special. I should just skip that word. No, my teacher won't let me do that. Okay, look at the first letter again and guess another word. No, my teacher doesn't like when I do that either. I know I'll ask her the word.) Teacher what's that word."
          "You try it."
          (I was afraid she was going to say that. Maybe I could mumble something close and go on.) "sentsn ask when the stay the world."

  Here's the gist:
        Look back. How many decisions did the student make? 8-10, right? Depending how you look at it. Each of those decisions take time. Because this student doesn't know what decisions to make to solve a tricky, unknown word, reading takes a lot of time! And it's painful.
          So, here's what you do. 
  • You ask the child to read a passage that would be a little hard. They should make about 1-2 mistakes every 15 words or so. 
  • Be sure to write down what the child said instead of what they should have said, so you can compare the two. 
  • Then ask yourself: What didn't the child know what to do? Make a list.
  • Finally, highlight those items on the Book Level Traits page (click here to download)

          Now you have a list for what to teach to plug the gaps for that reader. Start with the highlighted skills closest to the top of the page and work your way down. Focus your teaching on what decisions the child will have to make to do that reading skill well. 

I would love to hear from you about your readers.


C. K. Bryant said...

I just loved those books. Did you know Angela is writing book 3, Cayman Summer, and she's posting it on her blog as she goes. She's up to Chapter 32 now and you can read the whole thing here:
I'm totally hooked. Enjoy!

Renae W. Mackley said...

Great insight! Do you have any info for older students who have good vocabulary and processing but do it slowly? Tests like the ACT are very much reading based. Many students don't get through even if they would have known the answers. And take me, for example. I think my reading skills have slowed since doing a lot of editing just for the careful combing fact, but it overlaps into pleasure reading. Any future posts on this would be helpful since reading affects all of us. Thanks for the post.

Canda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canda said...

Um, yes I removed my own comment.
: *
Slip of the mouse.
And, try again!

She has 32 chapters of book three? That's like a whole book--HAPPINESS!

I'll post soon on the most common gap for older readers soon. Thanks for the idea.

Joan of Ark said...

Two of my daughters had reading problems. They ended up doing an eye therapy program that cost thousands of dollars each. They became much better & faster readers. Some of the therapy consisted of playing jacks with an eye patch, and working on left versus right activities, etc. Wish I'd had a book of all the simple games and projects they did before paying so much but a mom's gotta do what they can to help.

Rachelle said...

Totally loved Angela's books too! Her characters are so authentic.
Wow--I've never thought of the decision process/questions in reading lags before. That is so interesting. My oldest is really taking off in reading lately--she's 7--and it's been so fun to see the world of words open up to her. She frequently reads over my shoulder on the computer now. :)