9/20/2015

Welcome Families!

After an extraordinarily busy start to the year, I'd like to share some key information with you. This site has the option of utilizing several pages in a menu. I am going to try to incorporate most of our communications on the "Home" page. For parents who have children enrolled in our reading classes (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th periods), I have provided some reading information on a page titled, "Reading Essentials: Helping at Home," on the menu to the left. Our reading classes will be comprised of two programs that address decoding and what the curriculum company refers to as "Thinking Skills" that addresses comprehension issues. Reading comprehension is literally a "thinking issue." Readers are expected to engage in a wide range of strategies and activities in order to create understanding of the text they read. Their reading/thinking skills must be active, flexible, and ever-present. Reading is literally another form of problem solving. I like to think of it as a form of entertaining and challenging problem solving, but problem solving none-the-less. Another critical element to the process of becoming a stronger reader is the necessity of remaining engaged with the text for long periods of time. It is often a hallmark of struggling readers that their attention is fleeting, frequently drifting to variety of distractions that draw them away from their text. These distractions take an enormous toll on their ability to make accurate sense of what they read. We are continually addressing this in class. As I frequently remind the students, "your eyes tell the story." Eyes that are flitting about the room are strong indicators of disengagement from their reading. Sustained attention is the hallmark of strong reading. 

Assessments and Homework: We are completing a number or reading assessments the first several weeks. I am happy to share that information with families. We have also begun homework activities. Students always have a homework assignment to read at least 30 minutes a minimum of 5 days a week. Students are to log their reading minutes, book title, and pages read on a reading log card. Students received a log card this last week. Students also have a large index card they will be writing notes upon. They will turn this note card in as part of their homework. Students can checkout books from the Dimmitt library, our classroom library, Skyway library, etc. The key is that they are reading a book that is at an appropriate reading level. many students attempt to read books that are at a level higher than they should be reading. A book that is too high a reading level will include vocabulary that is too difficult and ideas that are very difficult to track and make sense out of. We want students reading books that are in their "zone of development;" not too hard, not too easy, just about right. Students should be able to pronounce and understand 97-98% of the words on a page. The more errors a reader makes on a page, the less meaning they will be able to construct of the ideas in the book. 

** I will address our 6th period writing class in the coming days. Thanks for your patience!

Doug

 

November 2:

My regrets for the time period that has passed since my last entry. An important note for today is information regarding the reading at home that students should be engaging in on a regular basis. Reading outside of school is extremely important for the development of vocabulary and to practice the reading skills we have modeled and used in class. There simply is no substitute for practice, practice, and more practice. Students who struggle with reading skills especially need to practice at home. Without this practice they may well continue to fall farther behind their peers. 

It is very important for students to be "active readers" while reading at home. It is through our "active reading" work that we develop stronger skills. This includes continuing to "have that conversation with our book:" Who/what is this about? Who are the important characters? What are the important events taking place? What problems are taking place? Who is trying to solve these problems? Are the problems being solved? How are the characters changing? What are the "clues" in the text telling me? What are the big ideas in my reading? What's truly important and which ideas are details? What do these new words mean? How does the story end? Can I summarize what I have read? 

Researchers have determined that students who engage in more reading at home tend to perform much better on reading assessments. This is, of course, is if the readers are using their "active reading strategies" while reading. Reading at home helps develop better reading fluency. It is very important for students to develop "automatic word recognition." This is the ability to correctly pronounce words without having to think about how to sound them out, or slowly sound them out. Students with strong fluency; smooth, accurate reading with strong "feeling," are more able to focus on the understanding part of the reading process. This is critical for developing better reading comprehension. 

Parents or siblings can assist in the reading process by checking in with their Dimmitt siblings and asking the questions I have posed several paragraphs above. If students are understanding what they are reading, they should be able to respond to those questions in accurate manner. They should be able to cite examples from their reading to support their answers.

Starting this week, students will use a small blue booklet to record some reading/thinking notes from their reading at home. This is in addition to the reading log card they complete for daily reading at home. In the blue booklet, we have made some notes about the elements of reading that students should be tracking. This should not be a lengthy process, but will reinforce tracking of information and help students organize their learning from their reading. On the last day of the week (Thursday this week.), students should bring to class their reading log card and their blue booklet. They should also come to class with the book they have been reading during the week as well. On the last day of the week, I will have students engage in some sharing of information about their books and complete some writing in response to their reading.