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Monitor: Idiot proof.

This stream in my Reading Rockets’ feed caught my attention today:

Sound It Out

Monitoring self-monitoring

I recently read a post about recognizing, teaching, and supporting self-monitoring behaviors in young readers. The post describes two readers: David, who asks questions and self corrects word errors as he reads, and Frannie, who plows through text regardless of errors that either change the meaning of the text, include nonsense words, or don’t make any sense at all. The author stresses how important it is for readers to think about what they are saying as they read. “From the very earliest reading experiences that we have with children, we need to send the message that reading is supposed to make sense and that it’s their job to be checking that their reading IS making sense.” See more at Catching Readers Before They Fall.

This post resonated with me because of Becca, a first grader I just started tutoring. She’s an on-grade level reader (Rigby 7/8, Guided Reading E) but she REALLY wants to be reading chapter books like some of her classmates. Her reading speed (about 60 words per minute) suggests that her fluency is still developing. She’s still a choppy, word-by-word reader. So, although she’s a bit slow, it’s partially because she does a great job monitoring her reading. She frequently stops and self corrects herself. She questions when her decoding attempt results in a non-word. She listens to herself and expects what she reads to make sense. This is great, but it does slow her down.

As her tutor, I’m thrilled with her reading behavior. Moving forward, we’re going to focus on strategies to increase her fluency while maintaining the expectation that reading makes sense. Last week I introduced a re-reading chart (165 KB PDF)* from the Book Buddies manual on which Becca is using tally marks to track how many times she’s read the three books I sent her home with. This week, we’ll add new books to her rereading bag and try a timed repeated reading. I think she’ll like that strategy, although not every child does!

What do you do to help a child monitor their comprehension while developing their fluency at the same time?

“Begged questions:”

I have no issues or concerns with the author or article. What I’m digging into is this: why read at all?

When I pose this to students, I can gauge their level of maturity in their responses:

Immature: Because the teacher made me.

Mature: “Oh, Mrs. Love, The Hunger Games is SO GOOD – I read it all weekend and couldn’t put it down (this comes from both girls and boys). Do you have the next book? The next book? The next book?

I worked as a barista at a well-known world-dominating coffee establishment while I was working on my master’s. The cash register went to a symbol system, with codes, etc., and most instructions for the layout of the shop were “idiot proof.”

Be cautious, people: are we making the world so ‘idiot proof” that we marginalize ourselves even further.

I”ll just keep talking away – telling students that everything, and I mean darn near everything, is improved in my life because of my rich reading life: food, experiences, travel, time with family, conversations, know-how, confidence, friendships, choices, and any social interaction, writing, creating, crafting, developing, and breathing – it’s all better.

Perhaps I just answered my own question.

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“The character of me.”

From the episode, Contents Unknown, the last act relates the story of a man who, because he got a horrible illness and some bad medicine, he lost his memory.


Act Three. The Answer To The Riddle Is Me.

On October 13, 2002, David MacLean woke up in India with no memory of who he was or how he got there. He had no choice but to let the people who recognized him—and even strangers—fill in his identity. David co-directs the Poison Pen Reading Series in Houston. He is working on a book about the experience of losing his memory. (20 minutes) 

We are all writing the story of our lives as we live it. We edit memories, revise the past, crop and dodge those areas that are too stark and painful. I look in the mirror now and through my mind’s eyes expect someone different – but there I am. Now.

The holidays are past for this season. Ground-hog’s Day doesn’t count, but oh, is its timing perfect. Collectively, seasonally, we must feel this repeatable urge for diminished shadows and spring…spring…spring…something to jump out, be brave, and stay.

And with groundhogs, and their repeatable patterns, I have this question popping up and finding its shadow:

My current creative burning question is: How do writers write? How do they create narratives that are not them? This omniscient, omnipotent ego must be essential for writers to bravely spring characters and narratives that are independent and separate: break them free from their own internal dialogue, narratives, relationships, etc. Is this what actors and actress do when they are in character? Is this why they sometimes (!) have trouble maintaining personal relationships, or do they feel they always have to be “on?”

It is this: writing independently of one’s own ego takes maturity and responsibility. And more importantly: No Apologies.

Adolescent students are often shocked at the epiphany that most writers are NOT their characters in disguise; this is probably due to the fact that students are in the flux of creating their personas, and  cannot imagine that a writer would not BE the character(s) they are creating.

This is not to say that writers don’t genuinly love the characters they create. They have a relationship with them, and explore this third life. If you ever doubt that there are other dimensions and vortexes out there, spend some time developing a character whose life story is far different from your own experiences. You will fall down a groundhog hole.

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Do we bless each other enough?

And I’m not speaking from any religious or non-secular view: I mean, do we recognize the need for a kind word, a soothing tone, a hint of hope?

Perhaps I have been dehydrated of warm words of late to take such notice during a customer service phone call the other morning; motivation had withered like crackling crust over my heart. The gentleman on the other end was truly kind and knowing; not only did he answer my quick question (and those who know me know…I rarely have quick anything) but did not dismiss or wave me away once I had the simple answer.

January is almost over. I feel capable of attacking the one final challenge of my Natioanal Boards: I have the rest of late winter to complete this. I will be methodical, purposeful, strategic, and organized. I will remind myself that five points is just that: five points. And having been teaching for only four years says, yup, that’s pretty good to have “only” missed it by five. But as my beneficial benevolent benediction bequeath-er told me, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades…” in a slight southern drawl, hubris will get me nowhere either. I am lucky that I can still count on my family’s support, I have encouragement and insight from colleagues, and am in a place and time I can complete this journey.


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Out of context: Language barriers.


Has anyone ever called you “thick” before?

Well, according to more updated slang, it doesn’t mean stupid or dumb.

We (teachers) know there is power in words and word choices. What I think we forget sometimes (and perhaps I am just speaking for myself) is that we adults lose the magic pixie dust power of invented language. Adolescents will always create new uses of words to suit their own time and needs. They have their own codes.  By the time we grown-ups start to use the word in our everyday vernacular,  that word or phrase has disappeared in a puff of smoke.

It’s not attractive or necessary for anyone over the age of 30…35…40…to keep up with current slang, per se. It doesn’t seem natural or dignified; in fact, it’s somewhat dorky and awkward. But if you live in that world, how do you negotiate the language of youth? Think back to when you were a teenager, using slang and code to create a communication barrier between you and your parents, and how quaint and cute you may have thought your own parents to be when they tried to use a word/phrase? I have become that doddering old fool.

In the past week, I have misused or misunderstood the following:

“QQ” – means crying eyes

“Thick” – means a Rubenesque feminine beauty (and kids — if you don’t know what Rubenesque means – look it up — got one on you!)

Zerg: Means a bee-like swarm

One word I have an issue with is students’ use of the “n” word. And now a publisher has sanitized Huckleberry Finn so as not to “offend” and get that book back in the hands of high school students. Slang can be hateful, and isn’t always a barrier. Sometimes it’s crystal clear what someone is saying: the slang is a racial, religious, or ethnic slur. And it’s our job to make those reasons clear, and expose the hate. When a student uses that word as slang, even in an affectionate, friendly context, I ask: 1. Is that even possible, and 2. Does that take the power out of a word, more or less effectively, than a nanny-mother hen publisher?

I don’t have any simple answers – just more questions. In the meantime, I’ll try to swallow my own pride and keep referring to Urban Dictionary or asking my own sons and students. Even if they laugh at me, (which they have) at least I’ll know.

Because ignorance is even less funny.

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Losing it.

cup of sunshine

Need to mark my calendar for the days before Winter Break: Do Not Attempt Thinking.

Suffice it to say, my mind left me. I can blame it on stress, age, lack of sleep, vitamins, sunlight, or cream in my coffee, but dang, I have been distracted.

But for some reason, perhaps it’s the increased sunlight in the northern hemisphere, or having a concrete yet plastic, flexible schedule laid out, I am feeling somewhat less tangled.

When I go to my job, career, profession, avocation, passion, and classroom I am cheered and motivated by my students – they want to be here, and I want to, too. And that has definitely filled my cup.