Saturday, September 09, 2006

Better Late Than Never!!

Wow! Friday comes fast in a shortened week! My apologies for having the Friday book posted on Saturday morning!!

Since it is the first week of school for kids, I thought I would share one of my favorite adult reads that has a poignant story right in the middle. Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros is a collection of stories about Mexican-American women. Throughout the book, the author uses powerful descriptions of people and places that excerpted would be wonderful examples to show students about the power of details. (My own copy has many, many Post-It notes for this very reason!)

However, the most compelling lesson and one that extends far beyond writing, is in the short story “Eleven.” This quick four pages tells the story of a girl on her eleventh birthday and a powerful moment in school that will mark that day forever in her mind. It has great descriptions, powerful voice, and is sure to evoke many memories from the reader.

My favorite writing activity to do after reading the story is to have the readers retell the story through the eyes of another character in the story (the worksheet and directions for this can be found on my companion wiki). It is great to hear the stories that come from participants with this activity and more importantly, to ask them where the inspiration for the story came from. In fact, many are reluctant to put the writing away and often finish it so that they can share it with their students. A great lesson exercise to practice the trait of voice.

Happy reading!


Melodee said...

It has been an interesting two weeks of school. My days have been filled with talking about how to implement the reading strategies in ELA and the content area subjects and using writing rubrics with teachers to help children become more vested in their own writing progress. I just finished rereading the story entitled, "Missing May" by Cynthia Rylant. There were so many connections to this book for me. I had forgotten how many. I seemed to relate to it at an even deeper level the second time I read it. (It just goes to show Gallagher's second reading techniques do get the reader to that deeper level of thinking). There were feelings stirred from my childhood memories of the stories my grandmother and grandfather told me about West Virgina (where they were born) to the feelings evoked inside of me from the influence May had on Summer's life and the impact of May's death. As I read this, I thought to myself if we could just create this type of feeling in our children when they read. We need to continue to strive to encourage our teachers to try and help children build background knowledge to help them make connections. This in turn would help them feel and see the relevance of what they are reading. Motivation would come so easily then. I know as a reader, after the research I have read, I too am a different reader. I have tried to practice what I preach.

Shirley said...

It certainly has been a hectic first two weeks of school! I'm just beginning to work with students and teachers. I work as an AIS Remedial Reading teacher and my students are from kindergarten to fifth grade. Working with students of varied ages I often wonder: Why is it they can read the words, but don't seem to understand the message? The challenge is clear. We need to provide instruction that promotes understanding. The children need to be engaged. They need to connect, ask questions, predict, etc. Their brains must be active as they read and write so that learning ocurrs.
As I organize myself to begin another school year I try to keep the big picture in mind. It's all about understanding. If I keep this uppermost as a priority, perhaps I'll be able to deliver effective ELA instruction that engages my students and helps them to understand what they read and to write about their understanding in ways that reach out and touch others. I will not focus so much on push in, pull out, assessment, testing, etc. Instead I will try to remember to encourage students to make connections, ask questions, and comment on what they are reading. I will model, model, model and will work so that every student gets something our of what we read and write.
This year I'm also working with a new first grade teacher to assist her in developing her ELA program. Reflecting on what makes for good reading and writing instruction takes some work and thought. I've taken this opportunity to ask myself questions about best practice and priorities. This is an exciting process full of possibilities. I keep telling myself to teach for understaning and reach for the stars.