Monday, October 15, 2012

Minilesson Magic: Coaching Our Reading Life

As promised, this Monday's Minilesson Magic focuses on my lessons for "Coaching Your Own Reading Life." To get this unit (and really our year) in reading started,  I talked to students about how a coach anticipates the challenges their team will have during a game and designs strategies to overcome those challenges. As readers, we can anticipate challenges that we might face in a book, and we can use many strategies that we already know to overcome those challenges. I wanted this unit to challenge my students to PUSH themselves as readers and to rely on themselves for the challenges they encounter.

My first lesson focused on how to use the book jacket to anticipate and predict the challenges we might face. I used The Seekers: the Quest Begins by Erin Hunter.I typed up the description from the book jacket on half sheets for students to place behind "Practice Time" in their reader response notebooks.
From this book summary, we could see that the number of characters was going to be a challenge and the different character names could be challenging if we didn't have a strategy for helping ourselves remember them. Another challenge is that it appears 3 different stories are actually going on in the book--three different settings, three different families, three different problems.

For each of these problems, we can decide on a strategy to use to help us overcome it. (It is assumed/understood that students are choosing just right books, but this lesson asks them to "up the ante." Rather than quickly deciding that a book is too challenging, students identify strategies that can help them persevere through the book.) Our strategy for keeping up with character names was to create a list of characters. In this case, we needed to keep them grouped by families. We then decided to create a chart of the three sets of characters, three settings, and the three sets of problems they are facing. We organized this so that we could keep up with each storyline. Keep in mind, this book did not turn into a read-aloud, but the book jacket information was perfect for the minilesson. (I also had a student in the class reading the book--and these strategies were perfect for helping that child be successful).

I also taught how to preview well enough that we figure out the structure of a book. I used The Seekers again. As we flipped through the book, we noticed that each chapter had a title of one of the character's names. We figured out that the story would flip back and forth between the characters. If we had not figured this out from the beginning, we might have been confused for a while, but since we were prepared for that before we started to read, we would probably be pretty successful. We could look back at our character/setting/problem chart each time we start a new chapter to help us remember what's going on with that character.

I used Schooled by Gordon Korman as another anchor text for analyzing the text structure. Basically, this story is also told by MANY characters in the book, so students need to be ready to read each chapter through that character's voice.

This may seem like an obvious thing, but I have a number of students who are great at reading words but struggle with comprehension. I have found that identifying the way an author has structured the book is one of their biggest pitfalls.  These students usually do not spend enough time previewing and specifically trying to figure out how the book is going to go before they start to read.

If you are teaching students to "coach" themselves in the lower grades, strategies like IPICK or the "3 finger check" for choosing just right books, identifying the genre and thinking about how stories like that usually go, previewing to predict what the book is going to be about, and keeping up with character names would also be appropriate. Teaching students how to use story structure to their advantage would also fit into this unit. Really, you can modify "Coaching Your Reading Life" to target any strategies you find students are not using independently that you think they should be. 

Have a happy week creating literate lives!

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