Monday, February 15, 2010

Watch Me Throw the Ball!

I am going to start with one of my favorite Gerald and Piggie books, although it is REALLY hard to have a favorite.

For those of you who think that you are going to have a step by step "lesson plan" for using this book with your reader, hold on. I don't want to give you a prescripted method, and I have very strong beliefs as to why I shouldn't.

Teaching is a craft. Yes, there are "lesson plans" - formats that work if you follow them from beginning to end. BUT - reading is very recursive, which means it goes around and builds upon prior learning and grows, and goes back around with different content...
so instead of a step by step, I am going to give you some general guidelines, and then you just need to be alert to your reader.

I know so many parents who say they feel "unqualified" and don't know what to say to their kids when they are reading with them. I want to take that burden OFF your shoulders...let your child be your guide, and enjoy. You are not there to be the "instructor." You are "coach and guide." Tell your kids that too. You know how they love to work with parents? (Note the sarcasm) Mine didn't like to work with me either, until I told them I wasn't their teacher, and I wasn't being Teacher when I read with them. I just told them I wanted to share what I knew about good readers and enjoy books with them. Try telling them this -- it will be news to them. Most often if you are getting resistance from your child when doing reading, your child is thinking they are doing a "homework task" for YOU or for the teacher, not for themselves. They see it as something they are being forced to do for someone else. Break down that wall.

Always sit down and give them a brief summary of what you remember doing with them last time you read together. If it was the same book, start out with "I remember so and so doing such and such last time we read. Have you read more since then? What's going on so I know where we are?" If it is a new book, remind them of it. "oh, remember yesterday in the book xyz, we read about xyz?"

Then praise them specifically for something they did the time before. "I love how you read longer" "I like how you went back to find that fact" "I like how you sounded out that tricky word" "I like how you used the context clues to figure out the word X" Be totally specific. You can be sure they will do it again today, if not even better.

Next, offer something by way of something you tried as a reader. You probably want to talk about something you know they need to learn. For example, if I wanted Ben to read smoother, I might say "Hey, the other day when I was reading my book, I was trying to read the talking parts smoother, more like the way people talk. Do you want me to show you in your book?"

Then MODEL what you mean. Show them in their books what you are talking about. So with the smoothness example with Ben, I would go to the first set of dialogue, remind him that I see quotation marks - which tell me that people are speaking. I would next identify the speakers, so I would know how to make my voice sound (and tell him such) and then actually read a few lines of the dialogue smoothly.

I would then say, very directly, "Hey, how about you try that today? I know you can do it!"

If they stumble with what you are trying to get them to try, support them. Model more. Don't jump in over them, just tell them, "Hey, you did great. Let me do the next one so I can practice." Give them enough modelling, yet enough time to try it on their own.

REMEMBER - NONE OF THIS IS GOING TO WORK IF THE BOOK ISN'T "JUST RIGHT" FOR THEM - go back to my earlier blogs on just right books if you don't know what I am talking about.

Here's some things (besides all the things from yesterday -- you can teach all those things too) that are specific to "Watch Me Throw the Ball."

The ball makes movement - watch the dashes for direction
The characters feel proud, impressed, confused, elated
Piggie does some current day "cheering" and happy dancing
Elephant is in a spot where he doesn't quite know how to handle telling best friend something
Telling truth
Doing something "just because it's fun" not just to win or be the best
Reader and Gerald know something and Piggie is clueless to it

Here's an example of how I would do a reading with say, Sam. He's read Gerald and Piggie before, so here's how I would approach him:

"Sam, remember G and P? How they are best friends? I think they are sooo funny." Today we are going to read this one. Here, let's read the blurb on the back."

He will read, and then I will ask him what the blurb said that got his mind ready:"What do you already know is going to happen?" If he gets it, we move on. If he doesn't, I will coach. "I know that G and P are going to throw the ball, and there will be someone who knows something that the other doesn't. Hm...I wonder"

"Hey Sam, last time we read G and Piggie, remember how they surprised each other by that rock? I also remember that you did an awesome job of watching the punctuation and making your voice stop when you came to either a period, exclamation mark, or a question mark. Today I wanted to tell you about womething I noticed in one of my books the other day. There was this character Joe (I made that up -- fake facts never hurt) who was in this situation where he had to tell someone the truth, but he knew it was going to hurt their feelings. Have you ever been in a situation like that? What did/would you do? Let's watch today in the book. I know that Gerald and Piggie are great friends, but can you pay attention to how they react to each other? I want to see what they do."

Then as he reads, I will stop him periodically to talk to him about their interactions. I will model first..."oh, see what Gerald did when Piggie asked if he could throw too?" and we'll talk about it. Eventually in the book I will throw it to him first "Hey, how did he react?" until finally, Sam will be pointing out what the characters are doing.

That's an example -- do the praise, the coaching, etc.

Here's another thing. Pick one area to work on. If your child is struggling with decoding, focus on that for a few days, even weeks, and don't worry about these other things. BUT - if your child asks a question like, "Mom, what does that squiggly line above his head mean?" By all means take that opportunity for the teachable moment.

Tomorrow, I hope Pigs don't make you Sneeze!

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