Adventures in Literacy Land: Comprehension Connections

Showing posts with label Comprehension Connections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Comprehension Connections. Show all posts

Theme with Text Cousins

Each year poses its own unique set of challenges, changes, and surprises.  This is one of the reasons I love teaching so much!  We get the opportunity to try again, change, and grow with each new year.
Last year I had the amazing opportunity to invite Tanny McGregor, author of Comprehension Connections, into my first grade classroom to model a lesson on theme. As we planned for this current year, my teammate and I were excited to add this lesson into our curriculum calendar.  And I wrote about what we planned to do for the Growing Readers and Writers Blog Hop. we all know too well...planning and actually teaching are two very different things.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

Our goal was to teach our first graders how to uncover the theme across several texts.  We have devoted a lot of time this year to deep thinking, so we hoped that this would build off what they could already do.  We would use three texts each day throughout the week.  This would provide them with multiple opportunities for practice with theme or author's message.

We started off the week with the introduction of the word theme and a discussion about all the other words that can sometimes be used for the same concept: author's message, central message, main point, main idea, author's point, etc.  Then we dug right into what our students already knew.  And what they discovered is that they have been studying theme all year.

Throughout the year we read all the Otis books, Tacky books, and Tippy-Toe Chick Go.  So this is where we started: with texts that have already been read, examined, and discussed.  This proved to be a great decision because our time was not spent on the reading of the texts but on the bridging of three texts and their themes that had been previously discussed throughout the year.  We brought these three texts out again and asked our students to brainstorm what connections or possible themes that these three books have in common.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

Wow!  We wrote down all their ideas.  This was one tip that Tanny was sure to model for us.  There does not have to be one correct theme but possible theme ideas.  And she was right!  They came up with some great ideas.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

And so our lesson continued each day with three different texts: a poem, pictures from a story, and a book.

They used those three different texts to come up with possible common themes.

WOW!  What we found was that the lesson proved to have the right amount of challenge for them. At times they wanted to revert back to surface level.

For example, we used the texts This Way, Ruby, a poem The Secret Song, and Sidewalk Flowers.  One of our classes wanted to point out that there was a bird in all three texts or that there were flowers in all three.  These were connections that but they were not digging deeper into the theme or message of the text.

At the end of the week, my teammate took one of the themes for each set of text cousins and had it framed.  She explained that the theme or message is so important and special that it needs to be framed.  I LOVE this idea because it is another visual for our first graders to understand the importance of deep thinking when reading.

One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.One great way to use mentor texts is for comparison. Check out this post to see how "text cousins" can demonstrate theme.

I look forward to using these lesson again next year and seeing where it takes us.  What texts would you use to do this teach theme?


A Lesson with Tanny McGregor

Throughout the life of our Literacy Land blog we have posted several times about the lessons within the Comprehension Connections book by Tanny McGregor.  Her lessons have proven to make comprehension strategies "come alive" for my students.

Several months ago Tanny asked to do a lesson with my students....ummmm....YES!!!!

Her lesson centered around theme and my students left with a strong foundation of the meaning and purpose behind theme.  I go into great detail about the lesson and everything that took place over at Curious Firsties.

Within the lesson, Tanny used three different texts.  She called them "text cousins."
They were text cousins because they were each different but share the same possible or similar theme (much like cousins).  She explained this visually with a triangle and a heart.  The three texts make up the triangle and the heart is the "deeper" piece that they share.

She started with the poem.  The students heard the poem, read the poem about 2-3 times.  Then they had a quick discussion about the theme.  When Tanny moved on to the second text, Each Kindness, she used only the illustrations.  And not even all the illustrations.  Just a few of them.  Then students had a discussion about theme.  The third text used was Red.  Tanny read this story aloud and stopped briefly at certain points to discuss what was happening.  Then there was a discussion about the theme.

Now, there was much, much more to the lesson than this.  But the WAY that she used the texts sent me a powerful message.  And it got me thinking...

The lesson was probably 45ish minutes long (I was not watching the clock). Tanny used three different types of texts in one lesson within that time frame.  Each piece of text was provided so much meaning and connected well to the lesson.

The poem by Jeff Moss was short but immediately the students understood that someone was being left out, someone was being picked on, and someone was being mean.

I have no idea about the actual story from, Each Kindness, but we gathered quite a bit of information from the illustrations.  A quick discussion and some "turn and talk" time was completely sufficient for the students to make connections between the poem and illustrations.

The third text was read in its entirety.  Red was a beautiful story about the strength that children can have and it served as an excellent way to bring all three texts together.  But Tanny did not have to stop on each page and have a discussion for these connections to be made.  The story was powerful and clear enough on its own.

As I reflected on the lesson, materials, and pacing, I realized that I would not have thought to use multiple texts in one sitting, in one lesson.  I tend to use multiple sources over a period of days.  And I would never look at only a few illustrations from a picture book.  No way!! I would read the whole story, of course.

This lesson opened my eyes.

When planning lessons, I need to think outside my comfort zone.  Look at how I can make these text to text connections stronger for students by using multiple sources of information.  My teammate, Karen, decided that she could pair some nonfiction texts with fiction texts by merely using certain aspects of books (such as photographs, maps, or diagrams).  I will be sitting on this new learning for a little while.  I have a good feeling that it will be changing the way I approach lessons.

What are your thoughts?  Do any book pairs come to mind right away?


Wondering Aloud With Wordless Picture Books

Hello Royal Readers!

It is a quiet and reflective Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second  here tonight to share a few ideas I've gleaned from the wise and innovative Tanny McGregor.  This post is shorter and more succinct than my usual, but writing it has helped remind me of the importance of talking less and listening more during my teaching.

About two months ago, my fellow Lit Land friends, Carla from Comprehension Connections and Em from Curious Firsties, recommended McGregor's creative, artifact-rich, anchor chart-driven, sensory-based thinking strategy lessons to me, and I have been reading her books with reverence ever since.

In Chapter 5 of Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading, McGregor reminds us that we must make our classrooms a safe place for children to be naturally curious.  That we must take the time to let them just wonder about stories and poems and songs.

That we must encourage them to turn and talk to each other, and carry on conversations that are full of questions about what they are going to read and experience, or what they have already read and experienced.  That we as teachers must stop doing all the asking, and encourage our students to formulate inquiries that begin with these words.....

  • How?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Can?
  • Is?
  • Does?
  • Could?
  • Would?
  • Who?
  • Whose?
  • Did?
  • What?
  • If?

Tomorrow, as suggested by McGregor,  I will dig out rolls of adding machine tape from my supply cupboard, and use them as never-ending "question scrolls" for my students to write on before, during, and after I share two of Molly Idle's wonderful, whimsical, and wordless picture books, Flora and the Flamingo and Flora and the Penguin.

We will "talk back" to the pages as I turn them, not raising our hands to be called on, but just wondering and observing out loud about these two stories, where unlikely friendships are revealed through delightful illustrations hidden behind pull-down and peek-a-boo paper flaps .

We will use our own voices to describe, explain, add words,  and wonder out loud.  We will link what we already know to what we've learned with thinking stems like......
  • I wonder...
  • What if...
  • How could....
  • But why....
We will cover a giant "Q" drawn on chart paper with Post-it notes that we've filled with questions we have about the characters and events in each story.   We will honor the fact that questions help us do three important things as readers....
  • Before reading, they make us open our minds about the text and want to dig deeper.
  • During reading, they help us understand the text.
  • After reading, they keep us thinking about what we've read and help us connect it to our lives, other books we've read, or the world.
We might even set some of the questions we generate to music, in the form of a piggyback song! Maybe we will write lyrics about Flora and her friends, and set them to the familiar tunes of
This Old Man.  Maybe we will snap or clap or dance or twirl or skate (in sock feet on sheets of wax paper across the carpet) while we sing.  Maybe our original composition will look and sound something like this (as set to the tune of  I've Been Working On The Railroad.  It will most certainly make a joyful noise!

I wonder what Flora's thinking,
as she skates across the ice!
Do you think that Flora's thinking
that the penguin will be nice?

Will he be a better skater?
Do you think he will be her friend?
Can she even really help him?
How will the story end?

If any part of this post has resonated with you, plan to invest some time and energy into incorporating McGregor's ideas into your own reading lessons!  You will find more helpful ideas and photos {HERE}.

You will also find a wonderful collection of other wordless picture books that can be used as mentor texts for questioning lessons {HERE}.  An article that features interviews with Molly Idle, author of the Flora series, and stresses how wordless picture books empower young children, can be found {HERE}.