2. Fitting it all In: “Finding Time” for Close Readings
This post revisits definitions “close reading” and considers it in the context of a literacy block. We argue that you don’t have to “make time” for close reading, but can integrate it into existing structures, such as read aloud, shared reading, and independent reading.
3. Getting to know you: The Three Stages of Reading the Standards
In this post, we liken getting to know the Common Core Standards to getting to know a person. We discuss how at first our relationship is driven by our first impression and then as new understandings reveal themselves, our understanding changes.
Before, during, and (presumably) after the Common Core State Standards, thoughtful educators have worked to refine the questions they ask students. Questioning plays a central role with the Common Core, from connecting questions to texts or letting students do more of the thinking work. The following posts touch on a variety of aspects of questioning.
Asking “Good” Questions
The hallmark of a good question is that it gives readers something to think about and allows them to stay with the text and notice things that they didn’t notice previously. In this post we explore and question what really make a question “good.”
Old Habits Die Hard
One of the reasons for asking text-based questions is to train students that answers are not something you “know” but rather “seek” using the four corners of the text. This post addresses students’ habits of looking up rather than looking down.
Shift Four: Text-Based Answers or Text-Based Responses? Part 1
Shift Four: Text-Based Questions or Text-Based Responses? Part 2
While surely text-based questions train students to look back into the text in order to formulate their answers, in this series we question whether it’s answers or responses that we seek from students. We invoke reading standard number four and explore the connotative meanings of these words to help us explore what it is we’re really going for when changing the way we question students.
What Do Learners Need: Cognitively Challenging Work
In this post, we circle back around to the idea posited in “Asking Good Questions” that it’s not just about asking questions that can be answered using the text, it’s about asking questions that really allow students to dig in and think about what they are reading.
In this post, we move away from our conversation about text-based questions and address the need to formulate and think about bigger questions, essential questions, to prompt deep, intellectual exploration.
In Isabel Beck and Margaret McKeown’s book Improving Comprehension with Questioning the Author: A Fresh and Expanded View of a Powerful Approach, they open by paraphrasing Al Shanker, late president of the American Federation of Teachers:
…if folks from Mars visited our planet, they would report to their superiors that among the peculiar Earth behaviors they observed was that five days out of seven adults help children get ready to go to a building where they sit and watch adults work. (p.8)
This sentiment, published in 2006, speaks directly to today’s Common Core agenda for students to become more active participants in their learning. Beck and McKeown’s premise is that in order to build meaning, students need to grapple with the ideas within a text.
Close analysis of research about the ways readers learn to comprehend have led Beck and McKeown to the conclusion that “in order for comprehension to occur, the reader must connect and integrate information as she or he proceeds through the text” (p. 21). The question-the-author approach they suggest requires readers to “select relevant information to attend to and then connect it to one of two possible sources–either information from the preceding sentences or relevant background knowledge” (p. 21).
Rather than wait until after the reading is over to answer a series of questions, Beck and McKeown advocate teaching children to “grapple with the ideas on the page” immediately, while they are reading. Discussion is a key component of this approach, so that “students can share in the experience of learning how to build meaning from a text.” While students are busy making meaning, “teachers are right in there the whole time, as a facilitator, guide, initiator, and responder” (p. 29).
Beck and McKeown’s question-the-author strategy is a powerful way to attain the Common Core ideals of critical thinking, collaboration, engagement, and student independence. In addition, it offers teachers a way of meeting a wide array of reading, speaking and listening, and language standards while inviting students to be active participants in their own learning. This book is all about students taking charge of their learning, working hard, and thinking deeply. What could be more Common Core than that?