Saturday, September 24, 2011

Great Book Choice = Great Depth

This week, one of my reading blocks finished reading a FANTASTIC book, The Books of Elsewhere, Shadows, by Jacqueline West.

It's a fantasy book, with a female main character...sort of a Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew. I am not apt to pick up a fantasy book if I have the choice, but this book had me on the edge of my seat (not to mention all of them).

Those of you looking for WELL WRITTEN text for your child - here it is. The descriptive writing evokes wonderful imagery opportunities, and involves all their senses. The characters are complex and rich - you can analyze for hours!

We focused on a few aspects of character analysis and development:

The progression/change of a character from beginning to end
The traits inferred from her physical attributes, thoughts, words, and actions
Her actions and words as "windows" to a characters beliefs, biases, values, and background.
How characters interact and how those relationships affect events and choices
How characters' choices alter the events and events affect character's choices
How values affect character's motivations

We had amazing discussions and their thinking went deep.

I also began taking them to that next level: When we analyze the character, and with that new understanding, what do we better UNDERSTAND about the book/story? It's one thing to be able to analyze and know that inferential level, but take it further - how does that information affect YOU...the book...the author's purpose?

Wow. Second, Third, and Fourth Graders grappling with that on the 5th week of school...we've only just begun!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Working on Stamina

Well, school is settling in to week 4, and we are focusing on one of the most crucial aspects to teach to build stamina.

I liken it to my running. I tell them my goal might be to run a marathon.  I run every day, but if I stick with a mere 4-6 miles, I won't improve. My lung capacity will stay the same, my aerobic capacity will stay the same. I might be content, but if I want to meet my goal, I am going to need to push myself so that I go farther. I will need to put in the time, the effort, the practice. I need to run a mile more or a little longer each day. Yes, there are days where I may not want to, but I need to do it anyway. There's a bonus too: in the process, I may actually fall in love with running...find the joy in doing it, as well as accomplishing my goal.

Then I talk about how that's like their reading a book like Harry Potter. If they have read different books every night rather than sticking with one book, or if they only have the patience to read a chapter or two and then they abandon books, they will have an extremely hard time getting through Harry Potter and comprehending it. But if they persist and build their stamina, they will discover the joy of reading, the love of books, the feeling of getting caught up in a story - as well as accomplishing a goal.

Making analogies they can picture helps them understand what they are doing. Some kids just don't realize that they are doing themselves a disservice by not sticking with one book. They don't see that their choice to "fake" read or to "pretend" to read or even to skip from book to book is actually breaking their desire...

Find something to make an analogy that your child loves...maybe it's sports, art, about how they passionately spend time improving and how that relates to reading.