The workshop focused on thoughtful and reflective reading of nonfiction texts and the craft of nonfiction writing through mentor texts and modeling writing. Linda was joined by her writing partner Kelly Boswell for the session. Their book Solutions for Reading Comprehension was recently released.
I have pulled together a few of Linda and Kelly's thoughts and ideas and shared them below.
The National Commission on Writing has stated "Writing today is not a frill for the few but a essential skill for the many." In a report they named the top 6 problems with writing - accuracy (nonfiction text needs to be written accurately), clarity (writing on forms such as your taxes and insurance claims), spelling, punctuation (ending sentences with a period is still a problem in the fourth grade), grammar, and conciseness (dawn to dusk stories). The commission's report suggests that we double the amount of time we spend in writing each day.
A main problem today is our students spend most of their time in the classroom writing personal narratives, but little time outside of the classroom reading this type of writing. Students have a problem understanding their audience and purpose for writing. Students need to be given authentic experiences to write about.
Teachers need to demonstrate high quality writing everyday. Modeling is the MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do. Model in small group and model in whole group.
You must plan your modeling writing lesson in advance. Write down your thoughts and your plan. Have a cheat sheet. Be deliberate in your planning so that you can make the most of your time and model conciseness and clarity.
Here are a few strategies you can use to provide your students with authentic writing experiences...
Make it Concrete with Realia
When students lack prior knowledge, it is important that you find ways to provide it using real experiences and realia.
Introduce topics using video clips, photographs, and real objects. When using actual objects, provide students with the opportunity to touch them, examine them, and talk about them with a partner.
Realia helps the child who always says they do not know what to write about.
Check out this post, to read a little more about using realia. This article also provides information about using realia in the classroom.
Peter Johnson says that "Literacy is fundamentally social." We don't always need to make a Venn diagram or diorama about it. Talk about it!!
If there is one instructional strategy that teachers can implement to support the academic success of children, especially those in low socioeconomic communities, it is to let them talk. (Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, 1998)
Word prediction is a highly supportive strategy that helps readers actively access their background knowledge. The teacher guides students in previewing the text (examining the title, cover, photographs, headings, etc.) As students examine the text, invite them to predict words they expect to see when they read it. Make sure students explain why they expect to find those words in the text. This is a great strategy for growing vocabulary, developing comprehension, and building strong writers.
Sketch, Label, and Share
Students pause during their reading to make quick sketches and add accompanying labels for key words and phrases. Visual representations support content retention, boost comprehension, and strengthen writing skills. This strategy also helps English Language Learners. As always, teacher modeling is the key. Read aloud a nonfiction book. Stop periodically to make quick sketches on chart paper showing what you have just learned. Use stick figures, arrows, and labels to represent your thinking.
Once students are proficient in using this strategy, have them write about their topic using their sketches and labels. Be sure to lead students in a discussion about their sketches to help them grow as readers and writers.
The information and ideas shared in the workshop all came from these two books. I purchased the Solutions for Reading Comprehension. It is full of strategies for helping students navigate nonfiction texts. It is very user friendly.