Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Reading Strategies Book: Goal 7

I'm back again (a little late) to discuss the book with some blogger friends! 


You can find my other reviews of goals below:
Goal 6 - HERE
Goal 5 - HERE
To see with the introduction and the first 4 chapters (which I missed) click {HERE}.  This link brings you to Kelly Malloy's site An Apple For The Teacher

Okay - onto this week's goal:


This weeks topic is Goal 7: Understanding Themes and Ideas!


According to the author, Jennifer Serravallo, understanding themes and ideas is important because stories are rich with them and they don't "jump off the page at you".  

Students that need help or extra practice with this strategy are the ones that might give you an answer based on a part of the story, but are not taking the whole story into consideration when identifying the theme.

I had an aha moment when I read this...I know students that are like that.  They give you an answer that's not wrong, but it doesn't encompass everything.  I always say that they are on the edge of the "circle" with their answer but not "dead on" or right in the center.  Now I have some ideas for helping them!  

NOTE: Jennifer does say that students need to have a good understanding of plot, setting, character and vocabulary consistently before working on this skill.

In beginning stories, the theme or lesson is clearly stated in the book but as reading levels progress, they are less and less obvious and are not stated.  

My Thoughts: I've been thinking that this is a skill that may need lots of practice for my 3rd grade students who come from low economic backgrounds.  I also see the connection for the need to  reinforce vocabulary prior to expecting them to do well with theme.

Let's Get Into the 3 Strategies!



7.1 "The Difference Between Plot and Theme"
Who is it for: Levels G-Z+
What Genre/Text: fiction
Skills Used: inferring, determining importance

This strategy involves thinking about whats happening in the plot and then infer the theme by asking what's so important or what's the "big idea" about that.

Jennifer says that students often want to talk about the plot as their theme answer.  She says students will tell you about something that happened and we need to take it a step further and guide them to tell us what is important about that event.

Jennifer writes that "Plot is what happens in the story and theme represents the bigger ideas of the story.  Plot carries the big ideas".  Students have to think beyond the plot to get to the theme.

Get students to stop at important events and take note of the bigger idea/theme/message.

In a whole group lesson, you can model doing this with the class.  An example the author uses is a T-Chart to list the plot events on one side vs. the theme on the other side.

Here's an example of what I came up with for a chart based on what she had in the book, with my own (made up) plot and theme.


Moving on to the next focus strategy.....



Strategy 7.15 - "The Real World in My Book"
Who is it for: Levels N-Z+
What Genre/Text: fiction
Skills Used: inferring, determining importance

Authors will write about real world topics and we can use what we read to think about these topics.  The focus of this strategy is to get students to stop and think about any events in the story that could be a real life event and then take it to another level.  Think about what the author is saying about this topic and then think about the importance of it.

Prompt students to take this time to think about these real world issues by asking:
What real issues are you finding in the story?
What might the author be trying to say?
What ideas do you have?
You've named something that happens in the book, think about how that connects... 

The third and final strategy for this post....




Strategy 7.18 - Character Change Can Reveal Lessons
Who is it for: Levels N-Z+
What Genre/Text: fiction
Skills Used: inferring, determining importance

This strategy involves getting students to think about the character(s) and their traits and how they may have changed from the beginning to the end.  If they think about this change, they'll often get a clue about the lesson, theme or message.

Jennifer's example uses a chart to list the traits of the characters into two columns: At the Beginning / At the End (like a T-Chart) and at the bottom of the chart have the "So...." section.  It's in this section that you would list the possible themes based on the changes listed.

An example that I'm thinking of in my head is the book is Poppy. (I know - I've used this before, but I love the story - so bear with me!)
Traits at the beginning: Poppy is fearful of Ocax; she blindly follows directions and doesn't question things; she doesn't speak up or think for herself

Traits at the end: Poppy is brave, she questions things, she starts thinking and speaking up for herself; she learns that porcupines are not her enemy but actually can be the opposite.

So....: It's okay to question things and think for yourself.
           Face your fears head on!
           Oftentimes, what we are afraid of is not as bad as we         think it is.
            Friends help friends with their problems.
These are all possible lessons/themes/messages from the story.

Well, that's it for this week's goal for me!
I have to say that I am truly enjoying this book!  The number of strategies per goal is amazing.  The strategies are easy to use and implement in a one-to-one conference, a guided reading group and with the whole class.

It's a big book but it's packed with lots of good, useful information!  I think this is one of those books that I will constantly refer to and will effect change in how I teach reading comprehension!  If you don't have it, I'd highly  recommend  that you get a copy!  

{Note - I am not getting anything for saying the above or by giving you a link to purchase below.  I just think the book is so valuable to have!}

Join us in reading this book!  Get your own copy HERE

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