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Comprehension Connections

What I’m Reading Wednesday – Comprehension Connections Part 2

Comprehension Connections
Here’s the second part of my little book study on Tanny McGregor’s Comprehension Connections.  To see part 1 – go here

Chapter 5 – Questioning
The older students get the more fearful they are to ask questions. They’re afraid because they don’t want to seem silly or wrong. I’ve seen this firsthand as I’m sure many of us have. Asking questions is important. It gets kids thinking. Gives them a chance to challenge themselves and dig deeper. As teachers we need to support this and provide time for kids to take chances with asking questions.
 Tanny suggests adding machine tape to show how questions go on and on. For me, that seems like a management issue but would be a good concrete way to show it early on. After demonstrating with it, I’m thinking of my kids having a questioning section in their reading notebook where kids can write down questions as they think of them.

Questioning Thinking Stems
I wonder…
What if…
I don’t understand…
It confused me…
How could…

Love the concrete lesson with object that’s special to you. It gets passed around the class and kids ask questions about the object. Great way to introduce it.

Questioning is important to do before, during, and after.

Chapter 6 – Determining Importance
Kids need to learn how to determine what’s important in reading. They need to “know how to filter out the fluff and focus on the facts.” (page 76). Tanny suggests starting with everyday life. Kids can decide what’s important to them so starting with the own life is a great way to introduce it.

Determining Importance Thinking Stems
What’s important here…
What matters to me..
One thing we should notice…
I want to remember…
It’s interesting that…

I’ve used the concrete purse lesson and the kids loved it. They were so engaged and thought it was so cool to see inside their teachers purse. What helped was that they were familiar with the items so they were able to discuss and determine which items were important for a walk and which were not.

Chapter 7 – Visualizing
Visualizing is another important strategy for readers. Every reader visualizes differently. Some are able to draw out their image while others have a better image in their head.

Visualizing tubes are a great introduction. Basically you take toilet paper or paper towel tubes and have kids use them when looking at objects. They then visualize where the object might be and their image gets more descriptive.

Many times I’ve read books aloud to my kids and had them sketch their mental images at different points in the book. I got this from Debbie Miller’s Reading with Meaning and Tanny suggests it too.

Visualizing Thinking Stems
I’m picturing…
I can imagine…
I can feel (see, smell, taste, touch, hear)…
My mental images include…

Chapter 8 – Synthesizing
Synthesizing is difficult to teach so concrete lessons are a must.  Tanny explains it as “changing your thinking along the way.” (page 106) Nesting dolls are a great way to start. One of her students said it well – “Big ideas are made up of little ideas.” (page 105)

A spiral is another way to show synthesizing. New thinking gets added and the ideas and thoughts get bigger as you go.

Synthesizing Thinking Stems
Now I understand why…
I’m changing my mind about…
I used to think _________, but now I think…
My new thinking is…
I’m beginning to think…

Now, that I’ve finished re-reading Comprehension Connections I feel like I have some new ideas and ways to teach reading strategies for this upcoming school year.  Especially since these kids are working a year ahead I want to make sure to keep challenging them and the lesson ideas Tanny provides will be a great way to do so.
Next week, I’ll be sharing thoughts and ideas on another Tanny McGregor book – Genre Connections. I like her style of writing so I’m excited to check out her next book.
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What I’m Reading Wednesday – July 2

Comprehension Connections

I’m currently rereading Tanny McGregor’s Comprehension Connections. I read this as a part of a school book study a few years ago but decided to revisit it because I feel it works well with the middle to older elementary grades. Having taught first for many years a lot applied but some of the concepts kids struggled with relating too. Now that I’m teaching second grade again and even second graders working with third grade material I thought it would be good to brush up on her comprehension ideas. So here’s part 1 of my thoughts and take aways from the first half of her book. Stay tuned for part 2 next Wednesday.

I love when Tanny talks about how “thinking replaces the right answer” (page xii).  So many kids these days focus on did I get it right rather than the thought process that gets them to an answer.  Kids can be scared to think for themselves and it’s our job as teachers to help them learn how to do it and also feel comfortable doing it.
Another important thing to include is time for kids to talk about their thinking.  I’ve called it eye to eye, knee to knee (from Debbie Miller’s Reading with Meaning), but it could be called turn and talk, partner talk, etc.  I love giving kids time to talk to each other because it gives everyone a chance to share their thinking and allows students a smaller audience to share with. Some students are scared to talk in front of the whole group, but are more comfortable sharing their answer with a peer.
Chapter 1 – Bridge Building:
In Chapter 1, Tanny sets up the way she lays lessons out. The primary take away from this chapter was the importance of concrete examples.  Thinking abstractly is difficult but if we show them how to do so starting with concrete items it makes it a lot easier.
 The other important part is that teachers show their thinking process.  Thinking takes place in the brain which no one can see. By teachers making their thinking visible to their students, it allows them to see how to do it so they can in turn do it themselves.
Launching Sequence for Lessons:
1. Concrete experiences
2. Sensory exercises
3. Wordless picture books
4. Time for text
Chapter 2 – Metacognition
Tanny explains metacognition as thinking about your thinking.  Kids need to be taught to do this.
Lesson Idea – Salad Bowl
This lesson is a great way to get kids thinking about the importance of them thinking while they read.  It delves into the difference between fake and real reading.  It also incorporates the concrete ideas by comparing reading to a salad.  A salad is a mixture of things – reading is a mixture of thinking and text.
*I’ve done this lesson with a first grade class towards the end of the year. They loved the salad bowl concept and it helped that I had the materials in front of me so that could see the reading salad coming together. I highly recommend this lesson. It is teacher led at first, but as students start getting it they start joining in and sharing their thinking. Great introductory lesson!
Lesson Idea – Thought Bubble
I love the thought bubble idea for students to hold up to show the difference between their reading and thinking. I haven’t tried this one yet, but some 3rd grade teachers I know did and their kids ate it up! It was a great way for them to see the difference and of course kids love being the one to hold up the thought bubble so you get engagement and participation!
Color Cards – I love the use of paint chips as color cards.  This is one I want to implement early in the school year. The color cards are used as a way for students to rate their understanding – are they clear or foggy or in the middle?
Sentence Stems – I love sentence stems as a way to help students explain their thinking. Some kids (especially ELL and lower kiddos) get stuck on how to get the words out and how to start what they’re trying to say. When you provide sentence stems, I find students much more willing to share because they have a starting point – they’re more comfortable and willing to take risks then.
Metacognition Sentence Stems – p. 25
I’m thinking…
I’m noticing…
I’m wondering…
I’m seeing…
I’m feeling..
Tanny created an anchor chart with the sentence stems on them so they were present and available during discussion. I love, love, love anchor charts – and will be creating these with my class!
Chapter 3 – Schema
One takeaway from this chapter is the importance of using the actual vocab with the students.  Kids can use the word schema and use it correctly if you teach them what it means. Instead of dumbing down language to all kid friendly terms – it’s important to teach them the actual vocab – they can and will use it. I’ve seen this first hand with my first graders in the past. They love learning new words and especially fancy words like schema.  They can get it and it’s important we allow them the opportunity to expand their vocabulary.
Aha Moment – The lint roller. I’ve explained schema multiple ways – but love the lint roller idea! The main concept is that your brain sticks to things it comes into contact with (p. 32) and this is your schema. What a great way to introduce this concept to kids!
Schema Connections
 – Text-to-self connections – comparing text to your life
– Text-to-text connections – comparing text to another text
– Text-to-world connections – comparing text to things in the world
For schema, it’s important to use text that gets kids thinking. The cutesy stories don’t always work for this. In Tanny’s book she shares an example about using a song called “Rachel Delevoryas” which deals with bullying.  Even those these are hard topics it’s important for kids to talk about them. I’ve found through past schema lessons with students that using thought provoking songs, poems, books, etc really provide a chance for students to think deeper. They are capable of it and even though I was a naysayer at first thinking that my first graders couldn’t possibly understand these concepts – they did and the conversations that came out of it were amazing!
Schema Thinking Stems – (page 42)
That reminds me of…
I’m remembering…
I have a connection to…
I have schema for…
I can relate too…
I like how Tanny provides a few different thinking stems. This way kids can find one they are comfortable using or change it up based on what they’re saying.
Chapter 4 – Inferring
Kids infer every day and love to guess.  But, as Tanny mentions, when you throw text into it…it can be come a different story. It’s important that we help kids see how to infer with text so that it can be enjoyable.
Neighbor Mystery – Inferring Lesson
I’ve done this lesson many times and it is always a favorite with the kiddos.  In this lesson, you fill a garbage bag with a few items – empty pizza box, toy catalog, plane ticket, whatever you may have. The kids have to help you figure out who your neighbors are based on their garbage.  This is a fun lesson because it gives them the chance to practice inferring while using concrete objects.  Kids can look at the plane ticket and infer that maybe it’s a business man who travels a lot, maybe it’s someone who likes to take vacations etc.  This is always one of my starter lesson for making inferences!
Here’s an old blog post with how I used it in my class – Garbage Lesson.
Inferring Sentence Stems (page 51)
My guess is…
It could be that…
This could mean…
I predict…
I infer…
Shoe Lesson – See how I used this in my classroom in my old blog post here
Wordless Books – I haven’t touched on this one yet, but Tanny is big on using them with all comprehension areas. Wordless books are wonderful because the kids are free from stressing about the text. It’s a great way for them to practice the various comprehension skills without stressing about the text.  Wordless books are also great for inferences. Kids can make inferences about what is going on in the book based on using the clues from the pictures and their schema.
That’s it for part 1 of my review of Comprehension Connections. Next Wednesday, I’ll go over my thoughts and ideas from the second half of the book.  
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Comprehension Connections, I highly recommend it. It’s very easy to read and it’s teacher friendly with lessons that are right there ready to implement!
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Making Inferences – Part 2

Anchor Charts, Comprehension Connections, Debbie Miller, Reading, Reading with Meaning

We spent a total of three weeks of making inferences so that the kids really had an opportunity to master the skill.  The first blog post part 1, shows some of the introduction ideas we used. As I mentioned in that post, we started by teaching concrete examples and later moved to making inferences about text.

Day #4 – From Tanny McGregor’s, Comprehension Connections – Shoe Inference Lesson
For this lesson, you bring in a shoe and the kids have to infer who’s shoe they think it is and why.  Now, I live by myself so I knew if I brought in one of my shoes they’d easily guess it, so I asked my dad if I could borrow one of his sandals.  The kids had so much fun trying to come up with ideas of the owner of the sandal and using the evidence from the sandal and their schema. See chart below…

Day #5 – The Mystery Box – idea from Inspired Apple’s Blog 

For this lesson, I pretty much followed Abby’s example on her blog and even used the valentine as my mystery item (the timing worked out well with Valentine’s Day a week or two away). We made guesses about what was in the box, then I gave the kids clues, and they filled out the mystery box sheet that Abby has in her TPT store. Great lesson and the kids had fun trying to guess the mystery item.

Day #6 – Making inferences with pictures
Today we used pictures as our evidence for our inferences. I found this great pinboard on Pinterest that has a ton of pictures that are perfect for making inferences. I put some of the photos into a Smart Board file and I was all ready to go for this lesson.  For the first few slides, we made group inferences.  We talked about what some of the different clues or evidence in the picture were that led to our inference.  Then, after multiple group inferences, I showed them two more pictures. The kiddos had to pick one picture to make an inference about. Then, I showed them their inference paper to fill out. They needed to write their inference using one of the inference phrases (see chart below) and then also explain how they go their inference.  Most students sentence frame looked like this…”I infer _______ because ______.  The kids did a great job with this activity!

Day #7 – Inferences with Short Pixar Videos
Our school literacy coach told me about this great idea – using Pixar short films for inferencing. I found a number of them on Youtube and chose the bird one that if I remember correctly was in one of the Toy Story movies.  The kids thought it was so funny and we watched the video a few times.  The last time we watched it (it’s only like 3 minutes long) I stopped it a few times and asked some questions to get the kids thinking about inferences they could make.  Then, I gave them the same inference form they used with the pictures and they had to write down one of the inferences they made from the video.
This student wrote “I infer the big bird wanted to be their friends because he waved at them.”
Day #8 – Mystery Box again
The kids had so much fun with the mystery box that I decided to do it again. This time I put green sprinkles in the box and used the following clues:
1. It is green.
2. It can be eaten.
3. It is small.
4. It goes on dessert.
See our chart below of our guesses before and after the clues.
Day # 9 – Making Inferences with a Poem
Day 9’s lesson came from Debbie Miller’s, Reading with Meaning chapter on making inferences.  I wanted the kids to start exploring inferences with text and thought a poem would be a great way to start.  I used the poem from her book, which is about an animal, but the kids don’t know what animal it is. They have to infer from the clues in the poem what possible animals it could be. The kids love animals and this was a great way for them to start inferring with text since poems are a little shorter.
Day #10 and 11 – Where Are You Going, Manyoni?
For day 10 and 11, I again used Debbie Miller’s, Reading with Meaning. We read the story, Where Are You Going, Manyoni? and inferred what some of the different words meant. See our chart below…
Days #12 and 13 – The Royal Bee
Day 12 and 13’s lessons are also from Debbie Miller’s, Reading with Meaning.  On the first day, we read a few pages of the story, The Royal Bee and inferred what a few of the vocabulary words meant – yangmin, Royal Bee, etc.  Then, we stopped at the part where the kids had to infer what would happen next for the main character Song-ho. I charted their inferences on the first day. Then, on day 2, they got to see if their inferences were correct.  Then, I read to the part where it came down to the winner of the Royal Bee and the kids had to predict/infer whether Song-ho or the yangmin student would win.  The kids had great answers and great evidence. See a few examples below…
I predict Song-ho will win the Royal Bee because Song-ho is smart and his whole class picked him to go to the Royal Bee.
I predict Song-ho will win the Royal Bee because he stand at the door and listened to the master’s lessons.
That about covers it for our 3 weeks of making inferences. This was probably one of my favorite units to teach this year.


Making Inferences – Part 1

Anchor Charts, Comprehension Connections, Reading

This week we started teaching inferences in first grade.  We decided to start with concrete examples this week and then move into making inferences with text once they had the inferring skill down a little better.  For teaching inferences, I’ve gotten many ideas from Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor. She has wonderful ideas that are scaffolded to help support student learning.  I also got some great ideas from the blog, The Inspired Apple. Abby has some fun ideas for how to intitate inferring with students. 

On Day #1 – we started with The Inspired Apple’s – What is in my teacher’s bag?  The kids loved this! They thought it was so cool to be able to see things that were in my purse. I carefully selected my keys, wallet, iPod, cell phone, gum, and water bottle.  The first day we talked about each item and came up with reasons why it might be in my purse. We then charted those reasons. On Day #2, the kids filled out Abby’s cute page for What’s in my teacher’s bag? 

Our Chart
Thank you Abby for these great student sheets!
On Day #3 – I used the idea from Tanny’s book, Comprehension Connections called “Neighbor’s Trash.” You start off by explaining to your kiddos that you have a mystery that you need help figuring out. The mystery is that you have no idea who your next door neighbors are. You’ve never seen them, never met them, never heard them, etc, but you know someone lives there.  So, one morning you saw their trash outside and decided to take it to investigate. At this point, my kids thought I were crazy. Why would Miss V take her neighbor’s trash? Some of my kids suggested, why don’t you just knock on their day and be friendly lol.  Little do they realize this is all trash from my house. Like the teacher bag activity, you show them the items you found and they come up with inferences for who might live there based on the trash.  In my “neighbor’s” trash, we found a large pizza box, Ace bandage, empty Capri Sun pouch, Gap bag, receipt for a new TV, and a plane ticket.  See the chart we came up with below.
We also came up with an inference chart for ways to talk about inferences – my kids have gotten really good about starting their inference using the phrases below…
More inference ideas coming soon!