Monday, March 6, 2017

Generative Questions

Image result for asking questions

Our students need the skill of generating thoughtful questions. The ability to routinely generate mental questions while reading, listening, or viewing something not only boosts attention and alertness but also strengthens comprehension (Duke & Pearson, 2002). We want them to be critical thinkers!
What can we do to help students develop the practice of questioning while reading or listening? One way is to use generative questions (handout). Generative questions are questions asked by the student to deepen meaning and comprehension as they read. Use these questions interactively with any text read with students. Provide instruction in how to pose these questions while reading to develop understandings and deepen comprehension. Create an anchor chart with students so they can refer to questions on their own as they learn to ask these of themselves. The goal should be that students routinely and independently ask questions like these of themselves.

Generative Questions
Generative Questions are questions students can ask THEMSELVES to develop meaning and deepen comprehension as they read any text.
What do we know so far? How do you know?
What else? …What else?
Let’s reread.
What are you seeing? How did you figure that out? What words or phrases did the author use to help you paint that picture in your mind?
What does the author want you to think? How did s/he accomplish that?
Who is the author writing for…who is the audience?
What is the tone? How do you know? How should our voices reflect that?
What is the author trying to do here? What words or phrases did the author choose to show that?
What does the author want you to feel? How did s/he accomplish that?
What DON’T we know? What questions do you have?
What words did you have to puzzle through mentally to figure out possible meanings?

Jennifer Young, 2012

Clemson University's Reading Recovery website has more information on questioning. Check out Introduction to Answering Questions! 


Sunday, December 4, 2016


Image result for fluency

Fountas and Pinnell tell us that there are three components to reading fluency:
1. Accuracy (also known as automaticity, the person’s ability to read words correctly in a text)
2. Rate (the speed a person reads)
3. Stress, intonation, and pauses

(Fountas & Pinnell, 2009)

To gain a deeper understanding of fluency and how it supports or hinders reading, I recommend the work of Timothy Rasinski.
 "It may be helpful to think of reading fluency as a bridge between the two major components of reading – word decoding and comprehension. At one end of this bridge, fluency connects to accuracy and automaticity in decoding. At the other end, fluency connects to comprehension through prosody, or expressive interpretation." Assessing Reading Fluency
Building fluency involves decoding and comprehension! We can work on fluency in Reader's Workshop. Some of my favorite resources for helping students with fluency are listed below:

Fry Phrases by Rasinski- These can be on cards or you can find power points that have them on each slide. Students can practice them in pairs or it could be  part of a guided reading lesson. They are based on sight words. I have found that the phrases work so much better that just one word.

Readers Theater- This is a great resource. There are many links!

Poetry- This is a lesson with resources. Any fun poem will do!

Songs- I love the idea of using popular songs (Frozen). Don't miss this great resource!

I hope that this sparks your interest in building fluency in fun ways!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Informational Text

Most children like to read informational text. If they are interested in the topic, students can engage in this genre with excitement. There is no disagreement that children will need to be fluent readers of informational texts as they move forward in their learning. So, what do our students need to know about informational text?

Google or Pinterest the topic and you will see that the main focus of instruction is text features. I call these the "tricky parts" of reading informational text. While they are important, there is so much more to teach. 

Out goal is to create readers, writers, and researchers. Students must be able to comprehend informational texts and use them in authentic ways. This requires the teacher to model the reading of informational texts and teach reading strategies that will promote reading comprehension. Explicit teaching of comprehension strategies can foster comprehension (Duke & Pearson, 2002). Here is a book that will help you understand the importance of comprehension strategies!

Teachers must differentiate instruction within the classroom. Selecting books on different levels will help teachers meet the needs of their students.   Here is an exceptional article with videos that will encourage you to support all students. Don't forget to refer to the Continuum of Literacy Learning to see what the text demands are at each level. 

Mentor texts are a vital part of informational text reading and writing.  Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli in their book NonFiction Mentor Texts, offer a wide range of mentor texts and show how these models illustrate the key features of good writing. This is a great resource!

I encourage you to think beyond the "tricky parts" and go for the development of the genre. We want our students to comprehend and enjoy a wide variety of informational texts. To authentically read and write about topics of interest. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Background Knowledge

A person's background knowledge, often called prior knowledge, is a collection of "abstracted residue" (Schallert, 2002, p. 557) that has been formed from life experiences. 
In the context of schools, background knowledge can be defined as the knowledge students have learned both formally in the classroom as well as informally through life experiences. Previous studies (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in reading comprehension (Hirsch, 2003).

So, how do we build background knowledge?

In this article by  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & Diane Lapp, you will find ideas that will work with students of all ages. It is written for middle school, but the ideas will work with elementary.

"The first step in addressing background knowledge is to determine what core background knowledge (as opposed to incidental knowledge) students will need to understand the new information to be learned. We must ask several questions:

1. Representation: Is the information foundational or essential to understanding the main concept (core), or is it merely interesting but peripheral (incidental)?
2. Transmission: Does the information require multiple exposures and experiences (core), or can it be easily explained or defined using a label, fact, or detail (incidental)?
3. Transferability: Will the information be required to understand future concepts (core), or is the information specific to one topic and not likely to be used in the near future (incidental)?
4. Endurance: Will the information be remembered after the details are forgotten (core), or will it likely not be recalled in the future (incidental)?"

The next step in the process of building background knowledge is to determine the extent to which students possess relevant core background knowledge. They offer several different ways to assess students. I like the idea of asking students to write captions for illustrations or photos. They discuss the importance of vocabulary and how to model new vocabulary for students.

I encourage you to read the article and find ways to build background knowledge. It starts with what students know and leads to what they need to know!