Monday, February 1, 2010

Step One

When kids are aware they don't understand something, and yet you have determined that it is a just right book for them, what do they do?

Yesterday we talked about getting them to become aware when they are confused or stuck, today I will give you one or two things they can do. Our goal is, as I just said, get THEM to do these strategies. But you will have to teach, model, and help them along until they become independent at doing them.

I want to preface this too: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF MODELLING IT FOR THEM (i.e. Show them). It is far, far better for them to visually see you do it as you tell them.

Ok. So let's just say your child is reading along and comes to a word they can't say. First thing you want them to do is STOP READING.

If your child has been understanding the story until this part, you want to ask them some questions...

"What makes sense here?"
"What clues in the story do we have so far that would help us?"
"What letter(s) does it begin with? What sounds do those make? What word would you put there that starts like that?"
"Does it start with a capital letter? Could it be the name of a person or place?"
"Look at the illustrations. Do we have any clues?"

The answers and the type of question you ask will take you into other strategies.

Today we will start with the last question, "Look at the illustrations."

I know that many books for older kids don't have many pictures. However, if you have an older child who is struggling through that chapter book that has no pictures at all, you may need to back up the level and use a book that is a tad easier and may have supportive pictures.

Point out to your child that every author/illustrator does EVERYTHING ON PURPOSE. They want kids to love and understand their books, so they give clues in the words and structure to help.

It's funny how as toddlers, they love the pictures -- they will point out minute details in them, study them, and rely naturally on them to give them story. But as they grow older, they begin to notice the pictures in a hazy way - they don't really examine them as help in understanding the words they are reading.

I am a firm believer that illustrators and authors work together very hard to create just the right images to help those readers. So kids shouldn't ignore them, especially if they are stuck.

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel is a young reader that does just that. They have lots of support in the pictures to help kids decode the words. As I was reading with the first graders last week, I found myself asking them to first look at the title of the chapter they were supposed to read, and then we did a "walk through" of the chapter...we simply looked at the pictures, page by page, and talked about what we saw and how we could predict the story in a general sense.

Later, as they were reading, when they got stuck on a work, I noticed that often times, there was a clue in the picture that would support them. I would simply say, "Oh, remember what we talked about on the walk through? What clues can we find to help us with the word?" That was a huge help. As the chapter went on, I noticed I didn't have to cue them to look anymore...they did it automatically.

Sometimes the pictures don't really help. I tell them that too. That's when you know you need to reach into your toolbox of strategies and get another one.

As kids get better, we do want them to depend less on pictures for the story, but as I said, with struggling readers -- the authors have them there - why not use them??? It would be as if you were reading an article about some wonderful vacation spot, and they had pictures of the hotel, beach, etc...but you wouldn't let yourself look at them. WHY NOT???

Ok, now with older readers. Less pictures. That's good, because we want them to be making images in their minds, but sometimes there are very complex descriptions of events, characters, and places that the author finds important to understand.

My Doom Machine book by Mark Teague is the perfect example. He has these very complex aliens that he describes, and I do sometimes find myself breezing through the description until...there is a small black and white illustration. Not on every page, nor every chapter. But when they are there, I look at them. That really helps. It gives support. Now, I can understand how the alien does something because I know it has these really weird legs...

In nonfiction it is even more crucial...maps, pictures, charts - they are all there to help kids understand. You wouldn't believe how many kids don't even look at the pictures in their Social Studies and Science books.

OK - Strategy one: USE THE PICTURES

No comments:

Post a Comment