Saturday, April 15, 2017

Serial Reading

Do you remember the first book that really hooked you as a reader?

When I was the same age as my students, I have vivid memories of the Nancy Drew series. I devoured each book. I loved collecting them. I read and re-read them. I shared them with my best friends. I longed to be a detective like her. Nancy Drew was where I remember myself as that kid whose sat in the back seat of the car or on the bus with my nose in a book. More recently, many of us got caught up in the joy of anticipating and devouring the next Harry Potter book as each came out. I remember helping with a kid's book club at the Calgary Public Library back in 1998. We read the first one and I was astounded at the kid's enthusiasm and love for this book. They inspired me to get the next one and the next one and the next one when they came out. Many of us have enjoyed getting lost in a series.

When students say that they don't like reading, what we should be hearing is that they just haven't found the right book yet. A series is a great way to help a student get hooked on reading. When children are younger, they love to re-read their favourite picture books. I am pretty sure I can still recite Are You My Mother (P.D. Eastman) after reading it to my daughter again and again and again. As children grow in their reading skills, a series gives them this same joy as they discover predictable patterns help ease the comprehension process. This predictability makes the work of reading more enjoyable to those working on strengthening their reading muscles.

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Austin
This term, we practised this with The Magic Tree House series. We started off by reading book one, Dinosaurs Before Dark, together. We made lists of what we learned about the Jack and Annie's personalities, about the tree house and about the setting. We found some of the information in the book, and many times we had to infer to gather information. We tied the layout of the book to what we knew about the Barbara Mariconda writing diamond. We noticed the elaborative detail about objects like the tree house and the mysterious medallion. We learned about foreshadowing as we realized the cover gave us good information about who the helpers would be in the story to save Jack and Annie from danger.

Once we finished the Dinosaurs Before Dawn, we divided up into groups and started on book two, three and four. Each of the books had something to do with a time of the day. There were a number of comprehension strategies we have become familiar with in Open Court that we were able to practise as we read and discussed The Magic Tree House books.

  • We got to know a bit about the author, Mary Pope Osborne, and considered her point of view. We even tweeted her to satisfy our curiosity about patterns we'd noticed in the titles of the first four books: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning and Pirates Past Noon. 
  • Some chapters we read aloud together to work on our listening skills as well as our ability to follow along. Some chapters we read with a partner and we worked on reading aloud. Some chapters were read independently so that we could work on our ability to clarify our understanding as we noticed clunks and turned them into clicks.(See for the Click Click Clunk strategy that helps with improving comprehension)
  • The covers gave us a chance to notice foreshadowing as we noticed animals  that would be integral in keeping Jack and Annie safe. We noticed that indeed, on the following books, the cover did give us information about who would save them from risky situations.
  • It was delightful to watch students make predictions linked to what we'd noticed about Jack and Annie's personalities. They acted just as we expected them to in different situations. Jack was always a little cautious and calculating, and Annie was impulsive and less careful.  
  • We practised our re-telling skills as we made comparisons between all three books. During discussions everyone kept each other on track when we re-telling to make sure we told the most important details and that we told them in order.
  • We compared and contrasted. We continually looked for patterns and made connections as we noticed many similarities between the three books. Even the chapters began to have a familiar pattern as each story unfolded.
  • Knowledge of the characters and how we expected them to behave helped us to make reasonable predictions. We enjoyed predicting how they'd respond as they got into and escaped danger. 
  • We practiced visualization skills through re-telling and by recording our favorite parts of the books.

Kaeleigh's notes she made to prepare for her
job to re-tell Chapter 3 in Pirates Past Noon

Evelyn's notes as she prepares to re-tell the ending of Pirates Past Noon

  • We learned to make connections. We found connections between the books in the series as we focused on some of the signposts in Notice and Note strategies. We made connections to other books, to ourselves and to the world.

Austin made connections with the unique language the 
guards used in the castle in The Knight Before Dawn

  • We checked our understanding by discussing the stories and then formally, by completing Open Court style summative assessments. This allowed us a chance to practice our skills in writing full sentence answers that we have practised in our decodable comprehension homework throughout the year.

Where do we go from here? We are excited to continue reading Magic Treehouse. We discovered that each set of four books that follows has something in common. We have made partnerships for DEAR reading and students are tackling books together in their own mini book clubs to discover more patterns.

This is our bulletin board where we keep all the books and notes on the books in the series.
Each ziplock bag contains four books. Students sign up to read books independently or they can
also work on it with a partner. We are hoping to find the themes and patterns in each of the groups 
of four books in the remainder of the series.

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