Posts Tagged ‘writing about reading’

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I have been having a Voxer conversation with some teachers on the subject of Writing about Reading #WabtR. Last week we discussed theme and the difficulty students have in identifying the theme of a given story. So I wondered, what if we give them the theme up front? Julianne responded with 5 common themes she had gathered from Cornelius Minor at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project #TCRWP this summer.

Lori tweeted out to authors this question.

author theme tweet

The responses flowed in, so I retweeted and tagged some of my favorite authors. I just have to comment here on how cool it is to connect with authors in this way.

These seeds were planted, so I decided that students needed to see all of this in an interesting way. I created an Emaze presentation. As the week went on, I got more advice from the group and added slides. Students can see the 5 common themes, the progression from topic to theme involving a character change or a problem and solution. I added in a student reader response sample from a 4th grader along with some of the author tweet responses.

Feel free to use this Emaze in your classroom to teach, review, or reinforce the concept of theme. (Note: On the slide with the video, you have to pause the presentation to be able to watch the video.) I’d love to hear your results. Tweet @MargaretGSimon with the hashtag #WabtR.

Click on the image to go to Emaze.

Click on the image to go to Emaze.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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I don’t think Sunday morning is the time to launch into a research project, but when I typed “Graphic Intelligence” into the title line, I wondered, “Is this a real thing?” A quick search in Google turned up a book with the title, “Graphic Intelligence: Possibilities for Assessment and Instruction” by Barrie Bennett. Looks like this is a book all about graphic organizers from the least complex to the most.

My use of the term is not related to graphic organizers. What I am questioning early this morning is the presence of an intelligence for graphics. Not the use of a graphic organizer. In my field of gifted education, I am always trying to think outside the box, away from constraints like graphic organizers and more toward creativity. Creative problem solving leads students to deeper thinking at a higher intelligence level. The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy puts Creativity on the top rung. Create means to put elements together to form a coherent whole; reorganize into a new pattern or structure.

As I continue to explore writing about reading with an online group of teachers, I decided to try out using Canva to express my thoughts. Canva is a poster-making app. The site provides numurous images (many of which cost $1 to use). You can also upload your own image. I decided to use simple images and arrows. I don’t think my canva is a particulary brilliant construction, but I noted during the process that I had to synthesize my thoughts about the characters.

I could have used the well-used and time-tested Venn Diagram to compare the female characters. But if I give my students this tool, they don’t have to think beyond the comparison aspects. If I ask them to define characters in a new way using a graphic of their own making, I have now added the element of creativity to the assignment.

When I start working with my students in the next few weeks, I will show them the graphics I have made for response to reading. I hope to encourage and motivate them to try creative graphics to represent their thoughts about reading.

The female characters (1) copy

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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HOS journal

Twenty years ago this summer I became a fellow with the National Writing Project summer institute. That summer completely changed my ideas about teaching. In the institute, teachers were teaching teachers. There was not one guru in the room imparting knowledge. The writing workshop of Donald Graves became my own. We were all learners and teachers, collaborating, writing, coaching.

I kept this model for teaching writing all these years, but I hadn’t thought about applying it to reading. This week I have participated with an amazing group of teachers in a cyber book club around Cynthia Lord’s Handful of Stars. I was not intimidated about joining in because I had already read the book once. Also, my friend Julianne Harmatz was spearheading the project, and I wanted to support her efforts. I had no idea that it would change my entire philosophy about teaching reading.

Because I teach elementary gifted students at varying grade levels, I have to create an individualized plan for my students. A few years ago I read Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know How and implemented reader response notebooks into my curriculum. I have gone from requiring three responses a week to requiring only one. After this week, I think I know what has been missing. Note-taking.

As I was reading Handful of Stars, in order to be ready to write my response for the group, I took notes. I found myself writing down quotes. Quotes that spoke to me. Quotes of wisdom. Quotes that showed a change in the character. Here is a sample of my writing from a quote.

“People want us to come and work, but they want us to be invisible.” Whoa! Similar to the quote above about change. Being invisible is how so many racial and socio-economic prejudices play out. Maybe if we ignore them and go our own way, no one will really notice. Like that damned flag. We need to be having these conversations, as tough as they may be. We need to make the invisible, visible. All lives matter!

I was surprised at what this quote bubbled up in me. Writing fleshes out and helps you understand more fully yourself and your response to text. This is a powerful realization for me. I have felt that my reader response assignments have been just that, assignments. Now that I have experienced writing about reading in such a supportive environment, my passion for noticing and noting has grown. I will be more intentional about the note taking during reading.

All of us in this group of teachers have experienced revelations such as these. I learned about tools such as a pressure map for the main character and a what I know/what I wonder chart. I have new tools in my tool box and a fresh outlook on reading workshop.

Julianne created a game for finding quotes in a book using an Uno card game. Take a look at it here.

Our group will be having a Twitter chat on Tuesday at 7:30 PM Eastern using #WabtR. Join us and see what new thinking arises. Working with a group of like-minded and dedicated teachers has fueled me this summer. I have so many new Star Friends!

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