Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks- My Take on What Brain Research Says About Reading as a Meaning Making Process by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks- My Take on What Brain Research Says About Reading as a Meaning Making Process

by

Dr. Sam Bommarito

1280px-Brain_diagram_fr Creative Common

 

 

I started teaching in 1970. Even though I’m “retired” I often joke that I am flunking retirement because I still do a such a wide variety of literacy activities. For instance, I write this weekly blog.  I work in an after-school program. I speak at various conferences. For the past several years I have taken part in BTAP, a program carried out by Harris Stowe University which is designed to train beginning teachers in the St. Louis public schools. I’ve written in this blog about my participation in various book give away programs. In addition, for the past three years I have been Co-Editor of the state’s professional reading journal. Throughout all this I try to keep current on what’s going on the world of literacy and education. Toward that end I am taking a three-part seminar that explores the implications of brain research for informing us about how children learn.  The course is called Teaching That Sticks: How to Teach so Students Actually Learn. It is being conducted by Willy Wood.

Willy Wood has long been an important fixture on our state’s literacy scene. He is the President of Open Mind Technologies and Educational Solutions International (https://www.willywoodteaching.comhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/willy-wood-81523620/)For a long time, his organization has implemented two annual conferences. One is the Missouri Early Learning Conference. That is the very same conference where Bill and I finally met Mary Howard face to face just last week. Mary did an extraordinary job of talking about RTI and guided reading.  The other is the annual Write to Learn conference. This is the very same conference where I first met Eric Litwin as he conducted a full day preconference session on using music in teaching literacy. In the way of full disclosure, the Missouri Literacy Association (an ILA affiliate) is one of the sponsors of each of these events. I am the president elect of that organization. In addition to organizing these conferences Willy also does presentations/keynotes all around the country on the topic of brain research.  From time to time he also does seminars like the one I am attending.  Participants in my session include a University Professor who teaches reading to pre-service teachers, classroom teachers, reading specialists, reading coaches and even a couple of math teachers.   The seminar is proving to be a worthwhile experience.

I’m learning a lot during his sessions.  Willy is going over the basic nuts and bolts of what brain research can teach us about how students learn and how we can use that knowledge to improve our own instruction. I’m learning about how short-term and long-term memory works. This is crucial, since the brain seems to be designed to forget much of what we take in, often within 24 hours of our first encountering it.  The trick for long-term learning is to get things we want students to retain to move from their short-term memory into their long-term memory. Willy was quite adept at doing this. For instance, he showed us a method for remembering a random list of 20 facts. He used a technique called pegboard. It really worked. By the end of the second class I was able to easily remember 10 facts. Please keep in mind I have long had the reputation of being the quintessential absent-minded professor, so for that method to work that quickly on me was truly amazing.  Some of my classmates were able to consistently remember all 20 facts. This was at the end of a single session. Impressive. However, there is much more to this seminar than simple memory tricks.  I relay this example to you simply to show the power of applying the principles of what he is teaching.

The aha moment for me as a reading teacher came when he started talking about what brain research shows about how we learn. We learn by tying the new to the old. This was the very same conclusion reached by advocates of the meta-cognitive theory.  What is different about this iteration is that brain researchers have actually started learning about where things are stored in the brain by directly observing brain activity.  This was the stuff of science fiction when I was growing up. Now it is a routine part of scientific research.  I believe that brain research clearly demonstrates that those of us who have been saying that building background knowledge and experience (please think- the Concepts About Print), were very much on the right track. My conclusion is that the sound symbol knowledge that some of my colleagues are so concerned about lately can’t happen until and unless the early learner first has a solid background in hearing the sounds, print experience and how print work.  Marie Clay was right about what she did in Reading Recovery. Perhaps that is why Reading Recovery remains the most effective early reading intervention currently available. I think of it as the bumble bee of the literary world. According to some theories the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly.  But they do. As a matter of fact, this bumble bee of the literary world flies better than any of the programs its critics recommend.  See my blog post https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/10/why-i-like-reading-recovery-and-what-we-can-learn-from-it-by-dr-sam-bommarito/ for the data that demonstrates that this is a research-based statement.

Another thing Willy demonstrated that has important implications for reading and reading instruction is the fact that we remember things best when they are learned in a meaning-based context. He divided our class into two groups. Both were given a memory task.  One was structured so the group was given the information in a meaningful context. The other was structured so that the very same information was given but given as isolated fact. The meaning-based group outperformed the isolated fact group by a factor of more than two to one. Willy then explained that there is a large body of research indicating that things learned in a meaningful context are much more likely to be remembered (Teaching That Sticks). That research-based fact makes me think that those of us that maintain that reading first and foremost is a meaning making process are on the right track.  It helps to explain why in my own experience, children who learn sight words via wide reading, or using things like Rasinski’s Fry Phrases (high frequency word presented in a phrase rather than a single word) learn their sight words much better/faster than students using the flash card method.

By now the reader is aware of where I am going with this.  Over-emphasizing breaking the code may produce good word callers. Check the “tests” advocates of such approaches use and you’ll find they are primarily tests of decoding, not of meaning making or reading achievement.  Add the element of meaning making, as Reading Recovery does, and suddenly you have an approach that measures well on both decoding and meaning making. It raises reading achievement. For my money raising reading achievement (INCLUDING COMPREHENSION!!!!) is the gold standard for judging the effectiveness of reading programs. What I’m learning from the brain research folks seems to support what the advocates of the position that reading is fundamentally about meaning making have been saying for several decades now.  In my opinion, there really is a very strong research base for the notion that reading is fundamentally a meaning making process,  In short, that position is very much a research-based position.

So, those are some of the aha moments I had during this seminar on brain research. Until next week, this is Dr. B. signing off

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka firm believer in the position that reading is fundamentally a meaning making process)

 

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

What I Learned from Reading Recovery and How It Helped to Inform my Classroom Practices (a repost of an important blog) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

by Dr. Sam Bommarito

This week I’ll be presenting at the Missouri Early Learning Conference. I’ll also be attending a keynote by Mary Howard who will also be at that conference. Really looking forward to both things. So, for this week I’m reposting a blog entry that set a personal record for me, over 1000 views. It’s about reading recovery. Hope you enjoy it (again!).

I’ll begin by saying what this blog entry is not about.  It’s not about trying to move Reading Recovery practices directly into the classroom or to create some pseudo Reading Recovery program. As I said in an earlier blog if you want Reading Recovery like results, then get your teachers trained by certified RR trainers and implement RR with fidelity. This blog entry is about following the advice I received at my very first RR conference. Before trying to move any Reading Recovery practice into the classroom, first visit the theory behind the practice and then adapt the practice classroom setting.

Like Dr. Mary Howard and many others, I mark my career in two parts, how I taught before my recovery training and how I teach now. What now follows are reflections on some of the most important takeaways I have from RR. They are things have helped me become a better teacher and a better teacher of teachers.

Takeaway one- I learned to be a kid watcher and to make effective use of my knowledge of the three cuing systems. Fit the program to the child, not the other way round.

Yetta Goodman coined the term kid watcher and laid the foundations for the science of miscue analysis. Her initial observation was simple but profound.  You can’t read a child’s mind. So, you can’t directly see how a child is thinking and problem solving as they read. You can however observe the child’s actions as they read.  By seeing what the child is trying (or not trying) as they problem solve their words you can get a sense of what strategies the child is (or is not) using as they read.  Quite a number of years ago at a Mid Missouri TAWL conference, Yetta reported that Marie Clay and her husband Ken Goodman concurrently came up with the idea of using the three cueing systems. Ken used the names given to the three cueing systems by his chosen field of linguistics. They were Semantic, Syntactic and Grapho-phonemic. Concurrently Marie Clay began looking at what I think are the very same three cueing systems naming them Meaning, Structural, and Visual. Both Clay and Goodman used the notion of miscue analysis.  By looking at what cueing system the child was using when making an “error”, one can tell which (if any) of the three cueing systems the child was using. So, for Clay and Goodman, errors were not really errors at all. They were attempts to use the cueing systems that misfired. Hence the name miscue.

By systematically recording which cueing system (if any) the child was using when their attempt misfired (miscue), teachers can glean a lot of information on what the child is attempting to do as they problem solve their words. Teachers can also tell whether the child is crosschecking, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems at the same time.  Suddenly teachers could know what the child was thinking as they problem solved their words. By careful observation and record keeping (especially the use of running records) teachers can get ideas on what the child needs to learn to make a balanced use of all three cueing systems. Our field abounds with excellent sources on how to make use of this incredibly valuable information.  It seems to me that by using this information teachers can become mind readers after all!!

Takeaway two- I learned how to prompt and most importantly learn how to prompt near point of error.

F & P and Calkins have written extensively about prompting. F & P even have charts and apps to help the teacher to know what to say.  Key prompts for problem solving words would include- Does that look right? (does it look like the word you just said), Does it sound right? (is that syntactically correct, is that the way we usually talk), Does it make sense? (does what you just said make sense, fit how the story is going?). Prompting to crosscheck includes calling attention to the cues not used. For instance, if a child says a word that fit the picture but did not fit the letters in the word you might say “What you said makes sense, but does it start with the right letter? What word would also make sense but start with this letter <point to the letter, maybe even say the letter sound>.  There are a host of other ways to prompt, including prompts to help comprehension, but right now I’m focusing on prompts for problem solving words.

It is crucial that prompts be done NEAR point of error, not AT point of error. That means waiting. Wait to see if the child self corrects on their own.  That means, when possible, you must allow the child to read past the error. Praise the child if they spontaneously correct the error (I like the way you fixed that!!!) Early in my training I learned that encouraging self-correction is GOLD.  For many children, when they start self-correcting, that is the turning point in their ability to read and to learn new words from when the read.  That is why determining self-correction rate is one of the things we include on the running record form.

There is a major problem in using prompting routinely in the classroom.  It is best used one on one. It is best used in that teachable moment when a child makes a miscue. How can one have a significant number of such moments in a regular classroom setting?  One answer I learned that increases the number of those teachable moments is to use staggered starts when doing small group reading. Here is how that works. Do your usual introduction/teaching point in your small group. Then announce that today we are using staggered starts in this group. The first time you use staggered starts you will have to take extra time to explain it. After using it a couple of time, most groups learn what is involved. DON’T OVER USE IT. Use it when you need more teachable moments in selected small groups. These are the groups whose members included children that need more work on problem solving their words. Here are the steps:

  1. Each child learns they are not to start reading until you say. When they read, they are to read aloud in a whisper voice. I have them use whisper readers (see picture). I sometimes face them in different directions. Both these teaching moves are designed to lessen the effect of having everyone read at once.
  2. Let the children know that once everyone is reading you will come around to work with some students individually. Let them know that EVENTUALLY everyone will get a turn, but it might take more than one session to do that. Also let them know that if the finish the story they are to IMMEDIATELY start from the start and read it again (and again, and again). They don’t stop reading until you say.
  3. Once all the children in the group are reading (I recommend using a group of 3-5), you are then free to circulate and sit in with selected children. I usually don’t do every child every time. BTY, besides getting in my chance to prompt with selected student, I sometimes use this same technique to get in a teaching conference with selected students. DON’T OVERUSE THIS, but it can be handy in a pinch!
  4. BOOK SELECTION IS CRITICAL FOR THIS TO WORK. Pick an instructional level text where the students are likely to make several miscues.  If there is a sound you are especially concerned with, pick a text that uses that sound a lot.  I use both predictable and decodable books during such lessons.
  5. You can stop circulating any time after you are sure that every student has been through the story at least once.
  6. Once you say stop, continue with the lesson as usual.Whisper Read Phones Free to Use Image

I’ll say this one more time. DON’T OVERUSE THIS. Use it when you genuinely need to do some one-on- one-word work with selected students who are having exceptional difficulty with problem solving their words.

Take away three- I learned to help kids write their way into reading. Doing the Elkonin boxes and writing short phrases was a powerful part of my recovery lessons. The general principal here is to sometimes let the kids write using the high frequency words they need to know. I currently use Rasinski’s Fry List phrases http://www.timrasinski.com/presentations/fry_600_instant_phrases.pdf. I ask them to copy a phrase and then write more about it.  I also do whole group story writing where I have selected Fry list words (or Dolch list words) posted on a chart and then and ask them to join me writing something using as many of those words as possible. This can be followed by them writing stories on their own, again trying to use some of the high frequency words in the story. This is not the only writing the kids do, but it is writing that helps build their sight word knowledge.

Takeaway four– I learned the value of observation as a part of ongoing assessment.  I think that today we over test and underteach. Constant summative assessments take away from teaching time. They can become counterproductive. Think about it. If you spend most of your time doing summative assessments eventually what you will find is that since you have not taken the time to teach something new, your students are not growing as readers (or writers). Now that I’ve had my chance to vent a little, lets be clear that assessment is necessary.  As a recovery teacher I learned that authentic ongoing assessment can be a very powerful tool. There are “assessments” that are not paper and pencil tests. They are instead rooted in careful and systematic observations.

I was brought into the world of workshop teaching, kicking and screaming. At first, I thought it would turn out to be a waste of time. Found out instead it was a way to become the ultimate kid watcher. It led to my learning to do systematic observations that became defacto ongoing assessments. It has become second nature to my teaching. F & P, Calkins, and Serravallo all have written extensively about how to systematically gather information about your students and to use that information to inform your teaching in a workshop setting. RR was my first experience in doing this. It made me more open and understanding about doing this when I did my workshop training.

There are many other takeaways from RR, takeaways I had as a teacher that I adapted into classroom use. I just gave my top four. I would love to hear from other RR teachers about their takeaways from RR, and how what they learned help to improve their classroom teaching. Please do chime in and make some comments!

So, until next week this is Dr. B. signing off,

 

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito, (a.k.a., the Kidwatcher)

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for it’s content

Please also visit my post about what my readers had to say about the profound impact reading recovery has had on their teaching:

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/08/16/a-message-to-reading-recovery-teachers-everywhere-well-done-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

Newest Edition of Missouri Reader includes interviews with Eric Litwin and Jennifer Serravallo: IT’S FREE

Link to this issue: https://joom.ag/7fWY

zMO READER

 

The Missouri Reader is a peer reviewed journal. It has been in existence for 42 years. Glenda Nugent and I are the current co-editors.  The journal is published twice a year. Each publication is timed to come out just before the state-wide conferences the Missouri Literacy Association cosponsors. The Missouri Early Learning conference starts a week from today, Friday Nov. 9th. Accordingly, our newest journal is being published today.

Some highlights from this issue include:

  • An interview with Eric Litwin, author of Pete the Cat- I Love My White Shoes, The Nut Family series and the Groovey Joe books
  • An Interview with Jennifer Serravallo about her new book
  • An article entitled Thinking Aloud to Build Students’ Comprehension by Dr. Molly Ness
  • An article entitled A Picture REALLY IS Worth a Thousand Words by Julie Bryant and Tamara Samek;
  • The 2018 MO-STAR List reported by Jennifer Fox- includes multiple links to the best new trade books in science
  • We also provide Information on Early Learning Conference in Mo
  • There are also many other articles, including ones written by teachers from our state (and beyond!)

We are grateful to all the contributors for the efforts and also for the diligent work of our editorial board. Our reviewers are well credentialed. Our journal allows beginning writers, often practicing teachers who are also university students in teaching programs, to publish right along side well known experts in literacy. We especially encourage action research articles published by teachers working with a university professor.  Our readers benefit from this eclectic group of authors. Our new authors get their first experience in publishing in a peer reviewed journal. All and all it is a win-win situation.  Readers of this blog interested in writing for the journal can find information on submissions on the last page of the current journal.

Let me invite you to go to the journal using the following link: https://joom.ag/7fWY.  I think you will find valuable ideas and information. I thank you in advance for having a look.

Missouri Reader is a publication of the Missouri Literacy Association (an ILA affiliate).  We certainly would like any of you living in the Midwest region to come to the Mo Early Learning Conference. As I said it is next Frida/Saturday and is held in St. Louis Mo.  Mary Howard will be one of the keynotes. So, we hope you will meet us in St. Louis!

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the co-editor)

CONFERENCE LINK:  http://www.missouriearlylearning.com

THE ADD FROM JOMAG FOR WILLY

Blast from the Past: Dr. B’s Cat on the Mat Song By Dr. Sam Bommarito

Blast from the Past: Dr. B’s Cat on the Mat Song

By Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

As my regular readers know I’ve been looking for things to help my after-school reading club. The club consists of a total of twenty 1st and 2nd graders. It meets once a week. It serves as a supplement to the regular reading program.  We always work on both comprehension and fluency/decoding.  I’m trying to include both analytic and synthetic phonics in what we do along with a strong message of “lets read (and sing) like a story teller”. While looking for materials to use with them,  I ran across a fluency song I wrote way back in 1999. It has a foundation in analytic phonics and it is a takeoff on Brian Wildsmith’s the famous Cat on the Mat book. Let’s first talk about that book and why I like it so much.

The Cat On The Mat By Brian Wildsmith

In my first year of teaching reading recovery this was one of the books I learned about when I visited another recovery teacher to observe a lesson behind the glass.  The book came up again while I was at a summer institute at Teacher’s College.  The staff was at Teacher’s College was abuzz about the fact that the previous summer Fountas (of F&P fame) had come to visit. She did some model lessons for the staff. It seems that she would go to the classroom library to pick out a book around to build a lesson. The staff quickly noticed that this particular book was one she picked multiple times. The story line of the book goes like this. At first the cat is very happy (see that smile on the front cover?). Then various animals come to sit on the mat. This sets up predictable sentences like “The cow sat on the mat.”; “The horse sat on the mat”.  As the mat gets crowded the cats face changes from happy, to upset and finally an “enough is enough” stage.  The cat says “Spsssst”.  All the animals leave.   The final page shows the cat, smiling once more, with the closing sentence “The cat aat on the mat”.  This book became my “touchstone/anchor text/exemplar for what a good predictable book should include.  It used repeated phrases with the new word at the end of each phrase supported by a strong meaning clue ( e.g. the picture of the cow or horse or … ).  The book had a genuine story to it. By the way that is  sets apart a poorly written predictable stories like “Tan Dan ran to the van to get the fan. He ran and ran and ran”. Tan Dan & company cannot begin to compete with well-crafted books like this one. In sum, an important part of a well written predictable book is that  has more than predictable language supported by meaning clues. A good predictable book also has a story line and/or teaches a lesson.  Very often predictable book have a surprise at the end. That is why I like this particular book and why I like the predicable books of authors like Eric Litwin or Joy Cowley (BTW she is the master of the surprise endings).  THEIR BOOKS (AND SONGS) HAVE A STRONG STORYLINE AND OFTENTIMES THEY HAVE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED. Teachers looking for predictable books to use in their lessons for beginning readers should know that these are crucial things to look for in the books they choose.

Below is my attempt to do that with a song of mine own.  I used this with my first graders for a quite a number of years. Here it is:

The Cat the Mat the Rat GOOD JPG

The song contains predictable language.  The pictures at the bottom support the words cat, rat and mat.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned “caring and sharing that’s where it’s at”.  Back in the day my students were more than happy to sing this song multiple times. BTW I monitored to make sure they “matched” as they read. That way practicing the song also practiced the sight words in the song. Beats flash cards all to pieces. My current after school children also seem to enjoy this song. There’s more to come.  I promised the Reading Club we would write some of our own books as a class. We’ll project my template of publisher story book using a smart board. The kids will “share the pen” and help me fill in the pictures and text for the book. We’ll do new endings and new twists on some Joy and Eric’s books.  We might even add to the saga of the cat on the mat. In this way the book club members will be gaining the background of experience needed to eventually write some books of their own.  By Christmas we’ll pick the best of the stories we’ve written to run off and share with their respective classroom libraries. To do that, It comes in handy to have a printer that does two sided printing. Here is a link to a blank book template for publisher and to a pdf with the song. Permission to use the song in classroom settings is given. Use in commercial programs et. al. requires my prior written permission.  https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PM16aIVAVLV-BPvgE1qmZG3hyUxisBB_?usp=sharing

To hear the song, click on the link below.

 

https://doctorsam7.blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/the-cat-the-mat-and-the-rat-by-dr-b.mp3

Notice that we clap on the line “What do you think about that?” So just like my kids from a long time ago, my kids today will be writing, and singing their way into fluency. That’s how I’m building some analytic phonics into my after-school work. That’s how I teach sight words. Repeated readings of books containing sight words does the trick every time.  Next week I’ll talk about the synthetic phonics component and my use of think alouds as I carry out the various phonics components. We’ll also review the importance of viewing  prosody as more than simple reading rate.  Until then:

 

Happy Reading and Writing.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, I write the songs and so do my kids)

BTW- Bill Kerns and I will be leading a panel discussion at the Write to Learn Conference in St Louis. It is being held on Bill’s campus, Harris Stowe State University.  Mary Howard will be a keynote speaker on Saturday.  Please consider coming. Here is a link to information about the conference:  http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/

Early Learning

HELD AT THE WILLIAM CLAY CENTER ON THE HARRIS STOWE STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS

 

Blog entry copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for its content

 

 

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three) By Doctor Sam Bommarito

 

MY COMPUTER &amp; PETE THE CATMaking use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part three)

By

Doctor Sam Bommarito

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about the work I’m doing with an after-school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary.   We call it the Reading Club.  My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist.  In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Last week I focused on my use of ideas from Megabook of Fluency.  This week I’m going to talk about how I am using/will use resources from Eric Litwin and from selected web-based site to help implement that program. I’m also going to talk a little about the way I teach word strategies.

The after-school program is meant to be a supplement to the building program, not a stand- alone program.  I’m trying to motivate the students to want to read, to read with prosody and to use word strategies based on both analytic and synthetic phonics.

For the kids I talk about two different ways to figure out words. One is to “sound them out” (traditional synthetic phonics). The other is to “say the first sound and think of the clues” (my adaption of analytic phonics).  I tell them to use the one that works best for you first.  I also tell them if one way doesn’t work, try the other. I want to point out to any readers who might be nervous about my promoting “word guessing”, that in fact what I’m promoting is “educated word guessing” based on crosschecking.  Marie Clay talks about “crosschecking”, i.e. using more than one of the cueing systems concurrently.  That means making sure that the “guesses” make use the visual clue (first sound) and work with the meaning clue (picture or how the story is going).  So if the child was guessing the word “sun” for something they see in the sky, but the text actually says star I WOULD NOT accept sun. I would prompt near point of error by saying that “ ’sun’ is a very smart guess, but does sun start with the ‘st’ sound and look at that picture. What other word would work here that starts with the ‘st’ sound and goes with the picture?  (The picture, of course, is a picture of a star).

As I’ve already mentioned I picked Eric and his books for our groups first favorite author because his work incredibly motivating and it promotes the use of crosschecking as I’ve just described it. They are predictable and engaging. They often include real life lessons or teach relevant literacy lessons in an entertaining way.   Kids REALLY want to read his books. I told my kiddos that I learned that it pays to find a favorite new author from time to time. It pays to learn all about them and to read lots of their books.  I told them that for our first favorite author, the after-school group would be explore books by Eric Litwin.  I also told them if they wanted to find their own new favorite author for the year I would help with that. They know that later in the year we will all talk about our other favorite authors and pick a new author for the group to focus on after Christmas.

Eric has turned out to be a very good choice for a first author. Several of the students raised their hand when I asked if they have heard of the book Pete the Cat Book- I Love My White Shoes. I then told them that Eric had written a new book, called If You’re Groovy and You Know It Hug a Friend (https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/books/if-you-re-groovy-and-you-know-it-hug-a-friend-by-eric-litwin/)

I read/sang some of the book to them. Rather than go straight to the full book, I then used the session to practice the song “If your Happy and You Know It”.  That fit in exactly with learning to read/sing a new piece and then practice it for future performance.

Here’s how I expect this to play out over the next few weeks.  Eric’s site is a treasure trove of songs and videos (see for yourself  https://www.ericlitwin.com/).  It includes free downloads of songs and lively video renditions based on his books.  For instance, the Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes has a free download of the song.  So does his new book. I’ll be encouraging parents to let their children visit the site and listen to the songs.  I’ll also encourage them to use these books as night-time read alouds, and even let the children join in the reading.  Parents are welcome to buy them if they want, but they are also readily available at the public library. Because we meet only once a week, the VOLUNTARY performance songs/poems practice during the week (recommended by Rasinski) will be done once a month rather than weekly. I’m also trying to get permission to use one of the several programs that allow students to share videos with parents and students within the class (and only within the class). In that way their “performance” is something they can share with the whole group. There are also other things going on within reading club, especially as it relates to direct instruction in phonics & other reading skills, that I will discuss at a future date.  This includes sharing how  to “talk big about little books” .

Now I want to take a moment to talk about an important UPCOMING EVENT here in the Midwest. The Early Childhood Conference, which is usually held at Lake of the Ozarks each year is being held at Harris Stowe University in St. Louis. MARY HOWARD will be one of the keynotes.  Bill and I will be leading a panel discussion at one of the sessions. If you are in the Midwest Region please have a look at the website.

Happy Reading and Writing

 

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, big fan of Eric Litwin)

(For Visitors from Twitter and Facebook, thank for coming. You can subscribe to this blog using the subscribe button on the right hand column of this entry)

 

PLEASE USE THE LINK BELOW THE PICTURE  TO GO TO CONFERENCE SITE

Early Learning

http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for its content

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part two) by Dr. Sam Bommarito

 

The MegaBook of Fluency

Making use of the Resources in the Megabook of Fluency and the books and songs of Eric Litwin (Part two)

I mentioned last week I’m working with an after school group. The group meets for an hour each Tuesday. It is voluntary.   We call it the Reading Club.  My partner in the endeavor is the building learning specialist.  There is also a 4th grade teacher who lets me meet in her room and who also helps with the students sometime. In addition to the 20 club members, who are 1st and 2nd grade students, there are also 6-7 upper grade students who come in to help with centers, paired reading et. al. For my part of the program I am using ideas drawn from the Megabook of Fluency and selected materials for Eric Litwin. Why those choices?

Tim came to St. Louis last spring and presented to our local ILA group. He has done that a number of times over the years (thanks Tim).  I wrote a blog about his presentation last spring.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/04/the-teaching-of-reading-as-both-science-and-art-a-report-evaluation-of-rasinkis-recent-presentation-in-st-louis-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

During that presentation he did a wonderful job of giving his ideas about the teaching of reading. He made a strong case that the teaching of reading is BOTH art and science and told us about his newest book (co-authored with Melissa Chessman Smith) the Megabook of Fluency. He told one story that really caught my attention. It was that of a teacher who made the practicing poems/songs a daily part of her classroom routine.  Fridays were “performance” days, children to perform the things they’d been reading all week. The teacher was getting major push back about this use of time, but she persevered.  Turns out that by the end of the year her class’s reading achievement performance dramatically improved. She became teacher of the year for her state. She seemed to be on to something.

When I asked Tim if he would write a piece for our Winter 2019 issue of Missouri Reader, which will be a special issue devoted entirely to the use of poetry and song, I mentioned that I would love if he included something about that story.  He agreed to write the piece for us. I just got a copy of that piece and he did include a relevant detail about the efficacy of this particular teacher’s practices.  Here is a preview of what he had to say:

“In a recently completed study, Mackenzie Eikenberry employed the regular use of poetry in her third and fourth grade dual language classroom.     Each day students were asked to practice and then perform for classmates a new poem (or other short text) using the Fluency Development Lesson format (Rasinski, 2010).    Each poem performance was followed with brief exploration of and instruction in words from the poem. In approximately a four month implementation (less than half a school year) of poetry reading and performance Ms. Mackenzie found that her 3rd graders made over a year’s growth in reading achievement while her fourth grade students made more than three quarters of a year’s growth.

The world is indeed full of poetry.  Yet, poetry (and song) may be some of the most underutilized texts in our reading classrooms today.  Perhaps it’s time for reading educators to rethink the value and importance of these wonderful texts. “
Want to read more about this- I’ll be blogging out the Winter 2019 issue when we go live and give readers a link to that issue. Please note that the gains made were accomplished in a 4 month period. Impressive!

So, that is what I’m going to be up to with my after school students. We’ll be practicing poems and song. I’m adding the caveat of think alouds with direction instruction. More about the “why” on that next time.

My newest ideas on how to help readers, especially younger readers, get off to a good start in reading seem to be crystalizing. Allow me to think aloud with you for a moment.

  • BRING BACK NURSERY RHYMES, we don’t do that much anymore and by not doing it we rob our children of some valuable literacy foundation and background.
  • Practice nursery rhymes and other songs during the week leading to a Friday performance. Different kids different Fridays. Lots of fun reasons to reread text during the week. It makes the needed drill FUN!!!!
  • During the practice of nursery rhymes and songs, include think alouds about how words work. Include direct instruction on the sounds that letters make as part of those think a alouds
  • Provide a print rich environment in both the classroom and home. Let the kids see the grownups reading. Let the grownups also read to the kids.
  • Provide choice based on interest for the kid’s independent reading selections (or what’s being read to them). A child is not a level. Levels are a teacher’s tool for selected instruction.  Fountas and Pinnell, Burkins and Yaris, Calkins among others call for classroom libraries organized by interests not by level. GIVE THE CHILDREN CHOICE- choice is the foundation for creating lifelong readers.
  • Talk to the kids about the books, songs and poems. Who was your favorite character (storybooks)? What new thing did you learn? (non-fiction). What did you like best about the book/song/poem?
  • Find out the child’s favorite author/series and if they don’t have one scaffold them into finding one.
  • And above all, READ READ READ READ READ (you get the idea!)

So I will pick up next time and report on how it is going with the after school students and including the practice of nursery rhymes and songs. I’ll address the issue of how to make sure the sounds can be learned in a reasonable sequence. Since this is a supplement to a main program, I’ll talk about how I am attempting to support the main program of phonics the children are using.  I think you can already guess that between the poems and songs in the Megabook of Fluency, and the books/songs of Eric Litwin I anticipate having no trouble finding the materials I need to support the children in teaching specific sounds and sound symbol relations.

So until next time

 

Happy Reading and Writing.

 

Dr. Sam Bommarito,  aka the “sound man from St. Louis, advocate of  both the explicit and implicit teaching of how words work.

(Visitors from Facebook and Twitter, if you like what you’re reading please consider subscribing to the blog. THANKS! Dr. B

Rasinski, T. V. (2010).  The Fluent Reader:  Oral and silent reading strategies for building word recognition, fluency, and comprehension (2nd edition).  New York: Scholastic.

Rasinski, T. V. & Smith, M. C. (2018).  The Megabook of Fluency.   New York:  Scholastic.

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for it’s content

Back in the saddle again: working with first and second graders and helping them sing their way into fluency

The MegaBook of Fluency

Back in the saddle again: working with first and second graders and helping them sing their way into fluency

By Doctor Sam Bommarito

(Readers Looking for the Serravallo Interview, it is the blog entry right after this one!)

In social media I list my status as retired sort of. The reason for the “sort of” is I have many activities one of which happens to be doing an after-school program for first and second graders at an elementary school. That program just started this week. We call it The Reading Club.  There are currently 20 members.  We meet once a week.  The learning specialist from the building and I run the program.  She takes half the group and I take the other.  We also have helpers from the upper grades who come in to provide some peer interaction.

This year I decided to draw on some of the things I’ve learned while blogging about the latest ideas and lessons for younger readers. Over the next few blog entries, I’ll be talking about what I’m trying with these younger readers and how it’s working.  I’m drawing from ideas suggested by the work of Eric Litwin and Tim Rasinski.  I’ve talked about Eric and Tim previously on this blog.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/11/singing-our-way-into-fluency-exploring-the-work-of-eric-litwin-and-how-he-brings-together-the-art-and-science-of-reading-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/05/04/the-teaching-of-reading-as-both-science-and-art-a-report-evaluation-of-rasinkis-recent-presentation-in-st-louis-by-dr-sam-bommarito/

What these two have in common is the belief that one path to fluency and comprehension can be found by using poetry and song.  Eric is the one who made me aware that students today often don’t know the traditional nursery rhymes and children’s songs. When I asked my students to raise their hands if they know the song Sing a Song of Sixpence, not a single hand went up.  I chose that particular song to start with because Tim and his co-author Melissa include an activity in The Megabook of Fluency based on that song (p 306-7).  The activity includes a sheet for parents.

I taught the group the song a couple of lines at a time. (I sing, you sing).  After practicing the two of lines the song a couple of times I did think alouds around selected words in the line.  I pointed out the “outlaw word” of (outlaw because it is not spelled the way it sounds). We found the words the and that”. These are both high frequency words.  We talked about how knowing the middle and end of word helps us tell words apart (the & that).

I noticed that at first some of the students weren’t even looking at the words at all as they sang. I asked them to make it match- that is point to each word as they sing each word in the song.  I have a little chant we do for that “Make it match, don’t make it up, that is what to do. Make it match don’t make it up, you’ll read your story true.”  A prompt I use to encourage matching is “If you see 5 words say 5 words, if you see 7 words say 7 words.”  In sum, don’t say any more words or any fewer words than what you see as you read or sing.  After introducing all the lines of the song (eight all total). The students then paired off and sang the song together in pairs. I asked the to make it match as they did. That means they pointed to each word as they sang the words.  We ended by playing a minute or so of “find all the “xxxx’s, e.g. find all the “the’s”. Point to each one and say it when you find it.  Reading recovery teachers will recognize this as a teaching move used by recovery teachers with students at the beginning levels.

Let’s now think about what I did and why it was important. One of the problems with little predictable books or other predictable text is that sometimes the child memorizes all the words in the text as one big block of text.  They really don’t know which word is which. This is because they are not paying attention to the visual cues (letters!).  By asking them to match, by making them pay attention to which word is which, I’m helping the students balance their use of cues. There is much more to it than simply matching as you read but matching as you read is an excellent starting off point. I’ll have much more to say about this in future blog entries

Eric Litwin if You're Groovey

This week the students will be singing this song each night.  They know they will have a chance to “perform” their song when they come back to the next reading club.  This is not the only thing we did at our reading club, but right now I’m focusing on telling you about how I’m using the rereading (resinging?)  of predictable text in order to promote fluency.  Next week I’ll be introducing the kids to one of Eric’s newest books, If You’re Groovy and You Know It, Hug a Friend.  It is patterned after the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. I’ll let you know next week how many of the kids knew that classic song ahead of time. I’ll also be reminding readers of Rasinski’s story about one first grade teacher who used a cycle of reading poetry/songs aloud and then perform those poems or songs on Friday. She got amazing results. More on that next week. In the meantime-

HAPPY READING, WRITING AND SINGING

 

Sam Bommarito aka the music man

 

P.S. About last week: It was very exciting to do the interview with Serravallo. I’m reminding my readers that the Serravallo’s interview and an interview with Eric Litwin will be appearing in the next issue of Missouri Reader. I will let you know when that comes out (just a week or two from now) and will do a special blog entry about it.

https://doctorsam7.blog/2018/09/28/an-interview-with-jennifer-serravallo-conducted-by-sam-bommarito-and-glenda-nugent-co-editors-of-the-missouri-reader/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Jennifer Serravallo Conducted by Sam Bommarito and Glenda Nugent, Co-Editors of the Missouri Reader

Understanding Texts &amp; Readers

An Interview with Jennifer Serravallo

Conducted by Sam Bommarito and Glenda Nugent, Co-Editors of the Missouri Reader

Tell us about your new book, Understanding Texts and Readers: Responsive Comprehension Instruction with Leveled Texts.

I really am exploring comprehension. Different threads go throughout the book, but goal is to explain and help teachers make sense out of comprehension. I also try to help teachers understand how to determine what skill to focus instruction on.

As part of her response to this question, Jennifer made several points about where she got the ideas for this book:

  • Independent Reading Assessments help teachers understand children’s comprehension. Some ideas explored in the book came from those assessments.
  • My Reading Strategies book was the source for ideas of different categories for comprehension strategies. Non-Fiction, main idea, key details, vocabulary and the 7 Comprehension strategies.
  • My thinking around comprehension is rooted in Rosenblatt’s work.

Tell us about the different parts of the book.

Part 1 talks about comprehension and is designed to help teachers wrap their minds around the whole concept of comprehension.

Parts 2-3 take a practical look at how texts get more complex. These parts are is meant to be resources to return to again and again.

The ending part of the book discusses different ways to focus comprehension.  It includes assessments. These assessments are meant for chapter books.

As you stated in the FB webinar, levels are being used and misused. What is your advice for using levels appropriately and avoiding the misuse of them?

Use of levels as reading identity is not a good idea.

The 2-page spread on pages 22 to 23 shows a timeline from 40’s through today to show how levels have been used.  Teachers are asked to report benchmark levels throughout the year. Remember, kids don’t have one level! The book explores variables on what impacts levels. A child’s level might be different on different days. Level as recording tool has gotten out of hand and misused. Do not limit child to reading only books at their level. The reasons for saying this are explored in book starting on page 15.

Once a book at the appropriate level is chosen for instruction, how do you know what strategies can best be taught?

Text level range is one aspect of that choice. Text features, complexity, challenge are additional things to consider. Pinpoint skills/goals children need to work on. Ask yourself, within books, where does the student need support? Character, vocabulary, theme – narrow down possibilities by determining categories of skill/strategy need.

One way to organize groups is to organize them around texts: similar instructional level; Determine what they have in common.

Another way to organize groups is to organize them by goals group by goals. For instance, if you want to emphasize character development – bring together a group around that topic, even if its members are on different levels.

Can you explain how teachers can use the two-page spreads in your book Understanding Text and Readers?

Parts 2 and 3 are designed so the information about a level or skill.  The fiction section is organized by 4 categories Plot, Character, Vocab, Theme. Look for the spreads starting on page 54 that show progression of skills. There is a separate spread for each level J through W.  Included are page spreads that show student work to see how the skill changes in response to the text. Text level helps teachers understand books in their library – They can compare their student responses to those in spread. This can give teachers a sense of what questions to ask about a book during conferencing, even if the teacher has not read that particular book. The non-fiction section begins on page 116 and gives a similar analysis based on the categories Main Ideas, Key Details, Vocabularies and Text Features.

Tell us about the resources you are providing with this book.  There are a number of resources, over 150 pages are online. There are Text Complexity Charts that look at a book in depth. There are record keeping forms for conferring. Every goal has a progression. Also included are note taking forms and questions you can ask children. Here is the link:

https://www.heinemann.com/products/e10892.aspx (the Companion Resources dropdown on this link states “To access the online resources for this book, click Login or Create Account above. Once you’ve logged in, select “Click here to register an Online Resource, Video, or eBook »“ enter the keycode and click register. The keycode for this book is the first word in purple on page 198).

How does this book relate to new and experienced teachers?

Some TIPS for Beginning teacher:  Use the book to get a sense of how to be assessing and what to look for. Find out what comprehension looks like. Don’t misuse levels. Guide students to right books, but do not shackle readers

Some TIPS for experienced teachers: Use the book to understand and study in more depth. One teacher recently characterized this book as a Graduate Degree in Reading in a book. You can go deep in it. New teachers can get the gist of things first and then return to it later to get more depth.

I hope the book helps both new and experienced teachers

Commentary:

The preceding are highlights of some of the questions Glenda and I explored with Jennifer. A more complete rendition of the interview will be found in the upcoming issue of the Missouri Reader. I will post a blog with a link to that issue when it comes out.  I predict this book will be added to the list of books that Jennifer has on the New York Times best seller list.  The most intriguing thing about this book is how it help teachers make better use of all of Jennifer’s books.  She has a link designed to help with that: https://www.heinemann.com/jenniferserravallo/.

One of the ideas being forwarded by many reading experts today is that teachers can and should help students learn to deal with complex texts. This book gives a “nuts and bolts” in depth look at how both fiction and nonfiction books are put together. It does so by specific levels.  My advice would be for teachers to start with the section of the book that deals with the text level they use most frequently. Get to really know that level. Then look at other levels as well. Make use of the online charts to help in this process. I think this book is destined to become the go to resource for teachers who want to help their students deal with complex texts, both fiction and non-fiction.

In sum, Jennifer has written a book that helps teachers make sense out of comprehension. She gives valuable resources and advice that will help teachers understand how to determine what skills to focus instruction on. By relating the book to her other strategy books, she makes all the books more valuable.  It is a must have for every classroom teacher’s professional library.

ONE MORE THING: There is a public group on Facebook called The Reading and Writing Strategies Community. When I wrote a review of Jennifer’s Strategy book for Missouri Reader (https://joom.ag/q9OQ pg 42), it had over 20,000 members. Now the group has over 50,000 members. Brett Whitmarsh and other Heinemann staff do an amazing job of running this site. Whenever I talk or write about useful resources on the internet I always mention this site as one that is the most helpful for classroom teachers. I characterize it as the worlds largest teacher’s lounge. Teacher’s come to it to ask questions and get answers about literacy issues. For instance, one recent question asked “Any suggestions on High Interest, Low Readability texts? We have a large population of older students who need interesting books at their level. Thanks!”  I often see questions like “What do you think of the “xxx” program, or I left my manual for “yyy” at home, what does it say to do for the “zzzz” activity?”   That second group of questions demonstrates teachers expect and get real time answers to their questions. Most recently Brett conducted a ½ hour podcast interview with Jennifer about this book

(https://www.facebook.com/HeinemannPublishing/videos/262743514447729/?hc_ref=ARQuixMA6GMW2GyA7yn4dWuRvW9nSUI76nVxS910xyu8Qk9nPM5LIuc1IdMlfZ1ryqw&fref=gs&dti=656857481113071&hc_location=group).

So…, if you need help using Jennifer’s new book, or you have a question about any literacy issue, you know where to go for answers from your fellow teachers. Jennifer even chimes in with comments and answers from time to time. So, until next week this is Dr. B. signing off.

Dr. Sam Bommarito

Co-Editor of the Missouri Reader

Thanks to Glenda Nugent, my Co-Editor who helped to put together the interview questions and carry out the interview. Thanks also to Jennifer for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to Glenda and I about her exciting new book!

 

Grandpa Bommarito is Taking the Week Off- Next Week see Dr. Bommarito’s Interview with Jennifer Serravello about her New Book!

itsaboy

Grandpa Bommarito is Taking the Week Off

This week was an exciting week. There was a new addition to the Bommarito clan.  Mom, Dad and the kids are doing fine. Grandpa Bommarito is taking the week off to enjoy his new grandson and help out where he can.  However Grandpa Bommarito (aka Dr. Bommarito) will have a very special treat for his readers next week. Let me tell you about that.

Glenda Nugent and I are the co-editors of the Missouri ReaderMissouri Reader is a professional reading journal. It has been publishing for 41 years.  It comes out twice a year.  It is peer-edited journal, and our editorial board has quite a number of university professors and other well credentialed folks.  We welcome articles around literacy topics. We especially love articles about projects carried out by classroom teachers with the help of the university professors.  We have a number of regular features.  Submissions/requirements details are always explained on the last page of each edition.  The next issue will include some very special content. Glenda and I just interviewed Jennifer Serravallo about her newly released book Understanding Texts & Readers.  The book is an incredibly valuable resource for anyone wanting to really teach comprehension. In the course of the interview Jennifer talks about both the content of the book and how to make good use of that content.  The good news is the interview will be included in the next issue of the Missouri Reader. The even better news is that highlights from that interview will be given in next weeks blog. So stay tuned, exciting things to come next week!

To hold you over in the meantime, here is a link to a Missouri Reader article I did a while back about Jennifer Serravallo’s  book Reading Strategies .  Her newest book is designed to be coordinated with her other two strategy books, so looking this over would be a good way to get ready to hear all about her new book.  The link is https://joom.ag/q9OQ. The article is on pg. 42. Enjoy!

Until next week, Happy Reading and Writing

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka Grandpa Bommarito)

Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for it’s content.