Chapter 5 in Vicki Vinton’s Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading, our #cyberpd book for this summer, explains how a problem solving approach can help students navigate texts when comprehension is most likely to go awry – at the very beginning of a story, when readers have to figure out the who, where, where, and why with the least amount of information. This is when many of my students tend to tend to get stuck without even knowing that they are stuck! Vicki neatly summed up these “sticky” areas of comprehension, and the types of problem solving we need to help them figure out:
I loved the step by step examples of what this kind of teaching sounds like in a classroom, especially the tricky work looking for, planning out, and creating opportunities to show kids how to do this work for themselves, for, as Vicki points out:
Giving students opportunities to wrestle with problems provides them with concrete examples of what monitoring comprehension can look, sound, and feel like, and it lets them experience how thrilling it can be to figure things out on their own, which can help them become life long learners. (pg. 80)
The “Core Practice” sections were full of explicit advice and strategies, and I tagged the following as guide posts to my planning:
Choosing a text: “For a problem-based approach whose end goal is meaning, you’ll want to choose a text based on two criteria: Look for a text that’s relatively accessible at the word level but is complex because the writer conveys information and meaning indirectly and that presents the specific kinds of problems your students could use practice grappling with.”
This thinking will allow me to sift through the shared texts (both fiction and nonfiction) that I plan to use over the next teaching year.
Crafting a teaching point: “At the beginning of a problem solving session, you’ll want to offer an initial teaching point that sets students up for the thinking work you’ll be inviting them to do.”
I will be looking at each mini lesson as an invitation to think and problem solve – this shift in thinking will be something I will need to practice this summer, and learn from as I go along in the school year.
Offering choice: “while students may not have a choice in what they read and how they read it, they have an enormous amount of choice in how and what to think as they develop and share ideas and theories.”
I know this will mean some messy sessions – but so worthwhile aiming towards!
Considering scaffolds: To model or not: “a you-we-I-model. This reversal invites students to think individually first (you), then share their thinking with the class…(we), as the teacher (I) notices and names what students have done in a more generalized way so the teaching can be transferred and applied to other texts.”
Making student thinking visible:Noticing and Naming: “Noticing and naming is…a form of feedback…It helps build students’ sense of agency and identity as readers, makes the invisible work of reading more visible, and by employing generalized language, turns one student’s thinking into a strategy that both he and others can use in other texts.”
Both of these practices will take a concerted and intentional shift in the way I conduct mini lessons – Vicki’s charts are helpful guides to what reading issues may surface, but I also know that this shift depends on my own flexibility in terms of teaching thinking. Listening carefully, and looking for the specifics of how students have problem solved so that I can name the way in which the reading thinking can be made visible to all students for future reading, will be the order of the day and what I need to prepare for.
My two big take aways from Chapter 6 were these:
Low stakes writing prompts which “can open the door for students to take risks and discover insights…”. We do lots of turn and talks in my classroom, but I don’t believe we do enough of these “writing about our reading thinking” when we meet to share a text and share our ideas. I can definitely see how this practice can set in motion the “contagion of thinking” that Vicki writes about – and that would be wonderful.
Bringing in the author: “Making students aware there’s a writer behind the scenes calling all the shots-and that their job, as readers, is to consider why she made the choices she did – helps students understand and internalize the concept that writers choose details purposefully to convey whatever aspect of people and life that they’re exploring through the story.”
This is something to aim for in a more consistent way in my own classroom. I think my students have this notion that writers just tell the story they are in the midst of reading, without giving much thought to the “why” of the way the story is told. This kind of intentional stopping to think about the craft will help them deepen their thinking about the story in reading workshop, as well as enlighten their writing workshop thinking.
Looking forward to learning more as I read Chapters 7 and 8 for our next #cyberPD “meeting”!