Sunday, February 3, 2008

Teaching the 7 Keys to Comprehension

Teaching the Seven Keys to Comprehension
Presented by Susan Zimmermann
Denver, CO

Six Chets Creek teachers attended Susan Zimmerman's session on Teaching the 7 Keys to Comprehension. Most of the time, we try to divide and conquer so we can attend as many sessions as possible in order to debrief our new learning with the group. However, this time no one was willing to compromise...we all wanted to see Susan Zimmerman in action, because we have read Mosaic of Thought and were fascinated to see her speak and learn more.

She began her half day session sharing, in her opinion, three things that are universal in great teachers’ classrooms using great anecdotes to craft her point.

1) Belief. The belief in the unwavering capacity of each and every student. When you enter a great teacher's classroom, the feeling upon is palpable--You know something is different. The bar is set high.

2) Practice. Great teachers provide continuing opportunities within a safe environment for students to practice, practice, practice. Students can feel comfortable to fail and then keep practicing. She reminded us that Walt Disney went bankrupt five times before he was financially successful with Disney World, and that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

3) Joyfulness. Reading must be a joyful adventure for children. People who read are more involved in their communities. We must bring joyfulness into our classrooms.

Why is this so vital today? What was once good enough is not good enough today. We cannot afford to leave one child behind. The world is not what it used to be. We must embrace the teaching of reading for educational equity.

What is Reading? Reading involves six vital cueing systems include the visible ingredients of Surface Structure Systems and the invisible ingredients of Deep Structure Systems.

The Surface Structure Systems include:

Grapho-Phonic System
This system provides information about letters, features of letters, combinations of letters and the sounds associated with them. Susan illustrates the importance of this system by placing a Greek passage and a Korean greeting under the Elmo and asking the audience to raise their hand if they can read this. The audience cannot read the passage nor greeting. Kids need to break the code, to decode the text, but that is not enough.

Lexical System
Provides information about words, including instantaneous recognition of words, but not including the meaning associated with the word (visual word recognition, visual memory for words. To demonstrate the importance of this system, Susan asks the audience to read, “Si todos los rios son.” The audience reads this flawlessly, but most don’t know its meaning. She shares the translation--If all rivers are sweet, where does the sea get its salt? from Pablos Neruda in the “The Book of Questions.” Some kids can read beautifully. They can decode, but don’t comprehend.

Susan also shared this sentence and asked us to read it:
Aoccdrning to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinvervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is in the rghit pclae.

Syntactic System
Syntactic Systems provide information about the form and structure of language, including whether or not the text sounds correct. Meaning is linked by how we string our words together and how we punctuate text. In punctuation, there is power.

For example:
woman without her man is nothing

Woman, without her, man is nothing.
Woman, without her man, is nothing.

Reading is all about meaning.
The Deep Structure Systems include:

Semantic System:
The Semantic System provides information about the meanings, concepts, and associations of words and longer pieces of text (word meanings/associations). To exemplify this point, Susan provided a few examples:

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
Since there is not time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

Schematic System:
This system provides information from a reader’s prior knowledge and/or personal associations with text that permit him/her to understand and remember information from text (prior knowledge that helps govern storage, retrieval and understanding of information).

To illustrate this system, Susan shares these examples:
Do you know what this means?
*P3, SL next 2 STS to cable needle and hold in front, k2, k2 from cable needles, rep from*, end P3 (Only those that are knitters understood what these instructions meant.)

Can you read and understand these terms?

If you text message, or instant message on the computer, you would probably recognize these terms fairly easily as Be Right Back, Got To Go, Talk To You Later, Wait One Minute, and You’ve Got Mail. If you don't use text messaging, you probably struggled with reading and understanding these terms.

Background knowledge is critically important to understand text.

Pragmatic System:
The system provides information about the purpose and needs the reader has while reading. In other words, what the reader needs to understand for a specific purpose and audience (a reader reads differently depending upon the purpose for reading).

Susan shares a story about her family going white water rafting. She got a River Guide to read. She was reading for one keep her family safe. Reading for different purposes allows the reader to attack the text to suit the purpose. What do you read purposely? Recipes. Menues, Travel books, directions for assembly, contracts, bank statements etc...

All these cueing systems; grapho-phonic, lexical, syntactic, semantic, schematic, and pragmatic are imperative ingredients for reading meaning.

Next, Susan concentrated on sharing the 7 Keys to Comprehension Thinking Strategies...
Using background knowledge (schema)
Creating mental images
Determining importance
Monitoring for meaning (fix-ups)

To demonstrate these thinking strategies she turns the audience to a short passage entitled Custodian. Susan reads it aloud to us, asks us to read the piece a second time and be conscious of what we did to make sense of the text, and then asks us to share the meaning of the text with our table groups. At our table, two teachers immediately understand the meaning of the passage, (one a special education teacher who immediately linked her prior knowledge to the reading), one was still grappling with the ending which was made clear with table dialogue, and another went back to read the text again. This reconfirmed the power of student discussion.

After the table discussions, Susan pulls the large groups back together to share and Susan recorded on a chart the thinking strategies the audience used to make meaning of this text.

To teach reading, teachers should link reading and writing. There are specific instructional practices that cultivate awareness and engagement amongst students. The Teacher's Role includes thinking aloud, modeling, practicing, conferring, discussing, "going public", and writing.

As Susan was conducting her session, the Chets' Teachers were eagerly thinking about the possibilities. Will we buy next year's Books of the Month and teach each of the 7 keys to the faculty? Will we buy 7 Keys to Comprehension as a school-wide book study? You'll have to stay tuned to see how we implement our learning, but one thing is for sure, we'll make sure that each teacher in our building benefits from this learning and implements our new learning into their classroom instruction. After all, isn't that what it is all about?

1 comment:

Dorry Lopez said...

I loved your article! It was so informative! Thanks for including Susan's examples and she demonstrated The 7 Keys to Comprehension.