Review by Michelle Huettenmueller
For this flex day I read two chapters from the book “The Reading Strategies Book” written by Jennifer Serravallo. This book contains over 300 reading strategies for readers in all grade levels for both fiction and non-fiction texts. The chapters are organized by goals and address a specific skill for either fiction or non-fiction. The following paragraphs outline what I learned about two different goals and how I can see them being applied in my classroom.
The first chapter I read was called “Supporting Comprehension in Fiction – Understanding Themes and Ideas”. This chapter discusses the importance thinking deeply about a text and searching for ideas that don’t always “jump off the page”. Teaching children how to think more deeply about a text is when reading begin to matters. In 4th grade, students need to begin thinking about the symbolism of a text and how a concrete object can represent an abstract idea (Fountas and Pinell). In the classroom, Serravallo recommends conferring with students to see how they are understanding theme in their books. She lists the following questions that can be used during conferences:
• What do you think this story is really about?
• What is a message/lesson/theme you take away from this story?
• What did you learn about from reading this story?
• What might the __________ symbolize?
This strategy is best applied with students who are able to understand plot, setting, characters, and vocabulary consistently as well as one that shows they are ready to think more critically about their books. The best part about this chapter is that, no matter what level your students are on, there are activities that can build the foundation for determining theme and importance as well as activities that can foster deeper understandings of things such as symbolism.
The second chapter I read was called “Supporting Comprehension in Nonfiction- Determining Main Topic(s) and Idea(s)”. I chose this chapter because in 4th grade students are working with harder non-fiction texts with multiple main ideas, headings and topic sentences. Due to these more complex texts, the main ideas often have to be inferred. Serravallo again recommends some questions you can either ask the students verbally, or administer for them to write their responses:
• What is this text (or chapter or book) mostly about?
• What is the main idea
• Please summarize what you’ve read so far. Be sure to include the main idea and supporting details.
These questions, for fourth graders, are best used with a text that has multiple headings and several topic sentences. Again, like the previous chapter there are many activities for readers of all levels. Regardless of the level, this is a strategy that requires a lot of support for the readers.
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