Monday, November 1, 2010

Chapter 3 Reflection

I found this chapter interesting and applicable to my job. At first, I was hesitant to read yet another chapter about reading comprehension strategies. This chapter paid off though. I was intrigued by the four “Dimensions of Comprehension.” The two that stuck out to me were the personal and social dimensions. I feel as though the personal dimension plays one of the largest roles in a classroom like mine. With students who cannot see the point of their education and have little care for their future, it’s hard to find ways to keep them engaged. As the book states, “Ignoring the personal dimension of adolescent learners when setting expectations for reading often leads to disappointment and frustration for both teachers and students” (48). I completely understand this statement.
Another strategy I liked was the language of process technique. I feel as though this is something I can do with my students. On some level, I feel like I already do it, but am not actively aware of it. Each bullet from making and checking predications to verbalizing points of confusion and demonstrating fix-up strategies can be easily executed in the classroom. My only concern is that these techniques will take immense amounts of repetition to begin to make an impact. Regardless, the idea of a “process statement” is genius – it forces them to think about the content statement. My students struggle with this all the time (I say struggle with some hesitation because I feel as though some are just apathetic or lazy). Many of my students are great at sounding out consonant and vowel sounds but have no idea what the sentence or passage is actually saying.
I’m a fan of these process guides that are discussed on page 60. I feel that these would work great with my students, especially in Latin. We spend a lot of time on workbook problems which are directly answered by passages in the book. Many of my students struggle with these even though I tell them over and over to use their book as a resource. Today was the first day I projected the questions on the board and walked them through how to find the answers in the book. I’m hoping that this will help them on future workbook assignments. We will definitely spend more time practicing this though. My only hesitation with the process guides is that puts a lot more of the work on the teacher. I know it’s only a technique to ease them into independent reading, but I share the same concerns that some of the teachers in the book revealed.
I also liked the idea of opinionaires because they force our students to have opinions about something! So many of them take the easy way out, but I like this technique. It’s another way to force them to think about a topic that hopefully we can discuss later. I do wonder, though, if my students would be capable of verbalizing their opinions. I can see them taking a side and then being unable to support it. that’s one of the reasons why I thought my classes weren’t quite ready for classroom discussions (which the book says are typical of high school classes). I feel that since our students are so far behind academically, that they haven’t quite reached this level of mature thinking yet. Who knows, though, it might be worth a try!


  1. I've felt continually hesitant, maybe even reluctant, to pick up this book, but time and time again it delivers. There's a wealth of really great strategies, and I'm always finding myself really excited to try them out. Sounds like you got quite a few that would be applicable in your classroom. Hope they go as well as you'd like them to.

  2. Charlie - my favorite part of the blog posting was your thoughts on opinionaires. So many times the kids don't really care about the what's going on or make up their mind. Even thought opinions aren't always the most academically challenging exercise, I believe it'd help with comprehension.

  3. Charlie,

    One thing I have found to be difficult even for my advanced Chemistry students is for them to use the book to answer questions. They refuse to read through texts to find answers. As we've been talking about literacy, I can't decide if it is because they can't read or if it is apathy. With my intelligent kids, I've come to find myself believing more and more that it is apathy.

  4. Paul, I agree with you. This book has really surprised me with its usefulness. I hope we get to keep them.

    Bill and Charlie, yes, forcing kids to take opinions is critical and so much harder than it seems, eh?

    Hanna, probably my main problem with my students is their inability/unwillingness to look in the text. You home in on a serious problem: literacy aside, there's simply an unwillingness to try.

  5. For me, my issue isn't even their unwillingness to look through the text (we don't have one), but to look through their notes! Obviously I try to build upon stuff we've learned before, but when I ask a question about something they did a week ago, i get blank stares. "Uh, Ms. S... did we do that yesterday, 'cause, uh, I wasn't here." They just don't understand the idea of looking through notes or a text.

    I also found the "personal dimension" section very interesting. Its really crucial to get them engaged in that way if there's going to be any success at all with a text.

  6. The idea of opinionaires is really interesting. I wish I could introduce more creative things in my classroom. I want my kids to think more. Think more about anything really! Take an opinion! I don't care whether its the morally correct one or not. Our students have viewpoints, they just struggle to put it into words.

  7. Re: class discussions. I have been mostly disappointed in my attempts to facilitate what is commonly called "discussion" in the teacher-textbooks. You can script it and work it out, and then students are bored with it and won't do it in an efficient way. If you leave it too open-ended, they won't try one thing without insisting that they receive some kind of help or hint.
    I wonder if there's a way to model discussion, but not with two live humans in class—like a Platonic dialogue modeling the dialectic. What if we constructed a script for students to read of two other students arguing about their opinions. As a class we analyze it and then try to ease students into discussions that resemble the discussion of the students in the reading. Etc., etc.

    Re: showing them how to use the book. I look forward to hearing if you see any improvements from your students after this demonstration.

  8. "Many of my students are great at sounding out consonant and vowel sounds but have no idea what the sentence or passage is actually saying."

    Well said, Charlie. I think a lot of our students are content with being able to "read." What they fail to understand is that reading and comprehending are two very different things. To be able to read aloud is one thing and I think their complacency stems from being able to save face in front of their peers. Like you said, if they can say every word they recognize and aptly sound out the ones they don't, then they don't have to worry. So here's the kicker!! We have to ask follow-up questions as soon as they're finished with the sentence or paragraph. We can't let them think they're off the hook as soon as they stumble through the last word.