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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Good Readers Pay Attention to Patterns of Behavior

As the year winds down I am reflecting on the teaching I've done this year. There are many parts that I am proud of, however, sometimes I tend to dwell on the things that I could have done better.  I am writing this post to lay my thoughts to rest once and for all about this particular comprehension piece of instruction.

We were teaching our kids that good readers pay attention to patterns of behavior in stories.  I was reading Cynthia Rylant's book Pinky and Rex and the Bully.  With the help of my fabulous literacy facilitator, I created this anchor chart.  I had never taught student to look for the pattern in a character's actions so deeply and I was very excited to see how far I could go with the students in such close reading.

It wasn't just noticing the pattern of the actions.  The students had to evaluate the main character's response to the bully and then look for a pattern in his response-something first graders would probably not do on their own.  We noticed that Pinky was always insecure about himself and that he always was allowing someone else to solve his problems. After realizing this, we had rich discussions about why Pinky does what he does throughout the story: He wants to stop being called Pinky (his favorite color) and decides to give his beloved stuffed animals away to his sister.  Instead of being confident and standing up to the bully who is teasing him, he decides to change who he is. 

So far so good, right?  Kind of.  We had an awesome discussion, and many students fell in love with this book.  I could tell, because they constantly wanted to write about it in their Reader's Workshop Notebook. 

But then reading assessments came at the end of the year. It really didn't effect the kids who were at grade level, but it mattered to a student who was above grade level.  You know the student who will learn and remember everything?  All you have to do is teach it right the first time and he/she will remember and apply everything.  The sponge.  During a reading assessment, she noticed the pattern of the main character's actions.  I was so proud.

And that is when I realized I had failed to emphasize one important detail.  As I looked at the assessment rubric, I realized her answer was not sufficient.  What she was not able to do was to explain how the character's action at the end (when the pattern changed) effected the story.

So I added the green words on the bottom of the anchor chart. We revisited Pinky and Rex and I asked her the questions.  We had a wonderful conversation and I think she would have been able to do it had I just taken it one step further. What a wonderful growing experience.  For me.

17 more days until summer.  I hope you all had a wonderful year.