Thursday, March 5, 2015

Family Literacy Night

My school hosts a Family Literacy Night every year during the first week of March.  We invite students and their families to spend the evening celebrating reading and literacy.  The first grade classes usually open the evening with a couple of songs about books and reading.  Then we have break-out sessions.  Each session lasts 20 minutes and there are three different choices during each time slot.  Our evening involves presentations by the students, as much as possible.  They give book talks, present reader's theater, showcase book projects, or share research reports that they've done.  Our kindergarten teachers do a puppet show that is a big hit every year.  We have "Are You Smarter than a . . .(third grader, fourth grader, or fifth grader) where parents compete against their kids in answering test questions similar to those found on end-of-year tests.  The local public library is invited to share resources such as free e-books. One of the big hits of the evening are the free books that are given to each of our students and their pre-school age siblings.  These books are purchased with Title 1 funds.  There is a room assigned to each grade level where student can choose a book of their liking.  This evening also is the culmination of our One School, One Book project.  About a month ago, each family was given a copy of a novel, this year it was "The World According to Humphrey", along with a reading schedule.  Students have been winning prizes all month for correctly answering questions about the book.  At Family Literacy Night, the whole family gets to work together to answer questions about the book.  Prizes are given to the families with most correct answers.  The evening is capped off with ice cream.  As students and their families leave the building, they are all given ice cream sandwiches.  This evening has become an important tradition at our school, and is looked forward to by students and their parents, alike!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reading Comprehension: Fix-up Strategies

Good readers automatically monitor their own comprehension.  They know when they don't understand the text, and they use various fix-up strategies to make sense of what they are reading.  Poor readers, however, often do not recognize that they don't understand.  They muddle through, reading in the same way and at the same rate, even though the text is meaningless to them.  Sometimes poor readers don't expect the words they read to make sense.  They are so used to failing at reading comprehension, that they don't know any different.  For these kids, explicit teaching of fix-up strategies is essential.  Listed below are strategies that can help poor readers improve comprehension.  They can be used separately, or in combination:

1.  Stop and re-read.  This is the most important fix-up strategy.  Don't just keep going if you don't  understand.  When you reread, you might find a word that you skipped or misread.  Sometimes a single word can make a huge difference. 

2.  Slow down.  Read slowly and carefully when things don't make sense.  Vary your reading rate, depending on your understanding.

3.  Question yourself as you read.  Think about whether or not the sentence or paragraph makes sense to you.  Could you retell it to someone in your own words?

4.  Read ahead a few sentences.  Maybe getting a little more information will make things clear and help with the confusion.

5.  Visualize.  Make your own movie in your head and "see" what is happening or what is being described.

4.  Figure out words you don't know.  Look for prefixes, suffixes, and base words.  Use a dictionary if you need to.

5.  Make predictions.  What do you think will happen next?  Check to see if your predictions were right.  Make new predictions as you read further and get more information.  Predicting can keep you focused on what is happening in the text.

6.  Look at pictures, diagrams, charts, and maps.  Read captions and sidebars.  Especially in expository text, a lot of understanding comes from sources other than the paragraphs. 

Struggling readers can benefit greatly from the explicit teaching of these strategies.