Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wayland Literacy Institute: Ellin Oliver Keene - Day #1

Yesterday's Wayland Literacy Institute helped me to think deeply about the teaching I do.  Through storytelling and research reported, Keene led us through a process of thinking about how we comprehend text and build understanding.  She shared with us the cognitive markers of deep understanding -- essentially, what we can look for, name and develop with students in our efforts to develop deep, broad comprehension.

As part of my own comprehension process, it's good for me to think deeply about an expert's words after a conference.  It's important for me to make decisions about how I'll put those words into action in the new school year to better teach my students.  Below I've quoted essential elements from Keene's talk and handouts as I plan the new year ahead.

Classroom Program:
  1. Return to the essentials of an optimal reading workshop model.  Make time to teach children reading workshop behaviors and routines.  Model those behaviors, establish and practice routines until the class has a steady reading workshop flow of "lengthy times for children to read" and "daily time to confer."
  2. Make time for daily interactive read aloud.  This is a good time to model and engage children in "thinking aloud to reveal their own thinking," "a wide variety of texts," "scholarly oral interactions," and "long term study of comprehension strategies." It's also a good time to introduce and read "a wide variety of texts," and "teach text elements and text structure."
  3. I will continue to focus on the essential cognitive strategies as outlined in Keene and Zimmerman's book, Mosaic of Thought: retelling, visualizing, monitor for meaning, making connections, asking questions, determining importance, inferencing and synthesis.  These strategies provide wonderful paths for understanding text.  They actually revolutionized my own reading process and comprehension (at a late age), and for that I'm thankful.
Professional Development
Keene expects teacher to be "readers and avid learners, constantly scrutinizing their own reading and understanding processes in order to provide the most precise and responsive instruction."  This notion supports once again the need for teacher prep and differentiated professional development.  An elementary school teacher's day is a highly task-oriented day.  As we move toward deeper, more meaningful learning for children in all subject areas, it's imperative that teachers have the time to read, reflect, collaborate and learn thus developing their own repertoire.  The flipped classroom approach supports this process for both student and teacher development.

Good learning begins with good questions.  I've created a list of questions I will use for my own reading responses, my discussions with students about reading, and for anchor charts and posters throughout the classroom.  The questions are based on the cognitive markers of deep understanding explained by Keene.
  • "Readers experience empathy: We sense that we are somehow in the book." 
    • Which character did you relate most with in the book?  Why?  What would you have done in his/her situation?
    • Was there a particular place in the book that you related to?  Why?  How did you know that place?
    • Was there a conflict in the book you could relate to?  Why?  How would you have solved that conflict?
  • "Experience the Aesthetic"
    • Was there a section of the book you wanted to reread or stop and linger?  Did you find that section "beautiful, well-written, surprising, humorous or moving."
  • "Ponder"
    • Was there a place in the book that made you "pause and dwell in new twists in the text?"
  • "New ideas and new possibilities"
    • Did this book make you "generate new ideas and new possibilities?"  If so, what were they?  How did the book help you to create?
  • "Advocate and Evaluate"
    • Were you cheering on one character in the book over another?  Did you hope for a particular outcome, event or series of events in the book?
  • "Patterns and Symbols"
    • What patterns and symbols did you recognize in the book?  How did that help you to understand the plot, characters, theme or author's voice with greater depth?
  • "Global Conclusions"
    • Did this story help you to create, develop or change a big idea you have about the world, people or life in general?  Did this book change your beliefs, actions or thoughts in any way?
  • "Author's Intentions, Values and Claims"
    • How would you describe the author of this book?  What kind of a person do you think he or she is?  Why do you think that?  
    • Did the author of this book impact your "beliefs, values and opinions?"
    • How would you describe this author's style?  What tools does he/she use to "manipulate" our thinking?"  Do you want to, or will you, replicate this author's style?
    • Did you "argue with the author" as you read this book?
  • "Readers Remember"
    • Are there parts of this story that you'll never forget?  
    • How might this story impact your decisions and actions as you move on in life?
Keene brought us back to what's most important as we teach children the essential skills of reading and understanding text.  She also prompts us to think more deeply about the ways we develop and assess students' comprehension related to text in a myriad of contexts.  Finally, her talk once again illustrated to me the need for well-researched, responsive professional development that moves educators toward deeper, more reflective, responsive teaching to best benefit all students.

I've also blogged about Day 2; please take a look if interested.  As always, your thoughts are welcome.