Guest Author - Mary Ann Graziani
How can students develop deeper meaning in reading, stimulate deeper thinking, develop more motivation for reading, and bring about better comprehension? There are two important ways to help accomplish this. One is to be flexible and the other is to allow students to form their own meaning from the text.
Being too rigid or inflexible destroys motivation and interest in reading. It is very important to keep students motivated and interested so that they will want to read. Let students be free to draw their own interpretation of the text instead of the teacherís interpretation. This will help to increase comprehension and motivation. In order to do this there should be student based literature discussions so that students can be open to making their own meaning of texts. This strategy will increase studentsí personal motivation to read and comprehension of what they are reading. Students can discuss and question their meaning of the text with each other in literature groups and interpret what the text means to them. Encourage open discussion that allows students to form their own meaning from the text.
Another way to be more flexible is to allow students to read from a wide range of topics and genres at multiple levels and text styles in order to motivate them and keep their interest. Leveling books and having students only read books at their levels will decrease motivation to read. Revise the way you think about leveling so that you can be more flexible when it comes to decision making about the use of leveled readers. Use your own judgment and flexibility as a guide for what is best for students when it comes to leveled reading.
Characterization is a very powerful literary element. Following a character through the text provides insight on plot and helps students comprehend complex texts. When a reader follows a character through the text and understands the characters traits and goals, the reader almost feels that they have become that character and they can relate fully to the character. This will allow students to read more deeply, understand plots, ponder themes, and increase comprehension. Students can bring in an object that relates to a character or dress and act as a character in order to clarify character action. Give students time to meet in groups to have character discussions and let them determine what motivates or drives the major characters in the story. Students need to know what the character wants (purpose) in order to fully understand that character.
A method to use that will help motivate students' interest in reading is to use the imagine, visualize, predict, and confirm strategy. This strategy is designed to motivate students to read and enhance their ability to comprehend and write descriptively. Give students each a large unlined paper chart with four columns. Label columns like this:
1. What I feel and hear from my visualizations
2. Predictions of what will happen in the story
3. Predictions that are confirmed
4. Prediction that need to be changed based on reading.
Before reading look at the title and illustrations in a book and have the students imagine what will happen in the story by closing their eyes and visualizing. Next the students elaborate on these visualizations with what they feel and hear. Students then use these ideas and come up with predictions of what they think will happen in the story. Finally, the students read and then confirm their predictions or change their predictions based on the reading. Students can fill out their charts while doing the picture walk and while teacher reads. After the story is read students can fill out the confirm and change predictions. Students can then use the details from their charts to provide support for writing their own ending to the story. This strategy should provide more descriptive writing and hopefully, more enthusiastic writers!