Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3 Chapter 5

Miller talks about the nonfiction features (pictures, captions, etc.) that make texts more accessible. What strategies do you use to make difficult texts and concepts more accessible to your students?

Miller also talks about using the big file folders to demonstrate and make schema visible to students. Do you talk to your students about schema - using that term? What strategies do you use to help them understand and utilize schema? Tell about a lesson you have taught, or that the reading made you think you'd like to try, that helped students with schema.


  1. I finished reading the book during winter break and I knew we were starting a new science unit. We were starting a physical science unit about force and we were going to study magnets first. I thought it would be a great time to use Debbie Miller's file folder idea. We had already talked about schema during reading workshop. My students knew it was everything they already knew in their brain, or a big file cabinet in their brain. On the outside of the file folder, we listed our schema about magnets, or what we thought was true. This lesson alone took one entire block of science. Then, after each lesson about magnets we added new learning to the inside of our file folder. My students also changed some of the post it notes that were under our schema. They added or changed facts, so we moved the post it note to new thinking. My students really loved the file folder. They could see their thinking changing and growing. It was awesome!!

  2. I have used this strategy in the past with first and second graders and found that it worked well. I recently decided to use it in a fourth grade title reading group with a book about the Underground Railroad. I didn't originally plan do this, but as I was introducing the book I realized that even at fourth grade these student had many misconceptions. It was interesting to me how it played out. The actual book we read was a non-fiction story about Allen Jay, a Quaker who helped a runaway slave. As we recorded our new learning and made connections the kids were surprised to realize that they learned more about slavery than about Allen Jay or the Underground railroad. The inferences that they were making were very strong and they didn't even realize that was what they were doing. I plan to think about how I can use this strategy as well as some of Debbie Miller's other strategies in my reading groups. I have just always thought of them as whole class lessons, but that is really silly.

  3. What strategies do you use to make difficult texts and concepts more accessible to your students?
    When my students are reading a difficult text (mainly difficult because of the new words-Kindergarten) I talk to them about words that they already know and can use to help them. For instance, I had a boy reading a new book and it had the word PLAYGROUND in it. I know that he knows the word play. By having him look at just the beginning of the word and then relating it to the picture he was able to come up with playground! (He was very excited!) I try to remind my students that they are able to read constantly. I have a few kids with low self-esteem and they get nervous when they choose new books to read with their book buddies. I have them choose a book from their leveled basket, and practice it at their seat. If they can’t figure a word out, I tell them to use the clues that they have. If they still cannot figure it out, we will talk about it in our one-on-one reading. This seems to encourage their abilities. I have seen tremendous growth in their confidence and their reading skills. When they are working with me one-on-one with their book, I try to relate unfamiliar words with another book they have read, etc.
    Do you talk to your students about schema - using that term? What strategies do you use to help them understand and utilize schema? Tell about a lesson you have taught, or that the reading made you think you'd like to try, that helped students with schema.
    I talk to students about schema, but I just use the phrase “what you know”. I think that reminding them to constantly think back when they get stuck or confused is a great way to utilize “what they know”. We use a lot of KWL Charts about the different themes in my room. My students are FULL of questions. I try to answer them as best as possible, or we find the answers elsewhere (in a book, online, peer, etc.) I think that the file folder idea is similar to a KWL chart but the connections are being made and it is visual, to aid in memory. I think that I will try to use a file folder to work with my students about the upcoming theme-Groundhog Day and Shadows. I want to know what they think they know already and what they have learned throughout the week.

  4. Strategies for dealing with difficult texts – We do not use a lot of “text” in my classroom so to speak, but we certainly use visuals which might include prints of artwork, online gallery or museum tours, and the occasional art associated publication. However, do not disregard difficultly in interpretation just because there may not be many words involved. I encourage my students to use the visuals to identify things they are familiar with or have learned about in previous lessons. What consistencies are found in the artwork and what questions does the artwork raise? This leads to some great discussions where students are actually communicating with each other (something I feel is being lost). Of course, since art truly is a personal experience I could have a class of 25 all come up with different conclusions and that would be just fine.
    Schema – nope, do not like how the word feels when I say it. However, I use the concept of the word but like Alexis stated I also use “What you know” or “what you infer”. I want students to grasp the bigger picture of what they are learning, how does it apply to them, and how will they use it for their future endeavors. Every lesson that we do is building on the past knowledge. With that, I want my students to go on a personal journey with their art and really create pieces that appeal and speak to them; therefore, they need to understand the bigger picture in order to create original pieces that are not reproductions. While I like a lot of what Debbie Miller says, as an art person concerned about aesthetics, her sticky note system would drive me insane.

  5. Strategies for difficult texts- Besides using pictures, I try to remind the students of the reading strategies that we have covered. Depending on the word, I'll have them think about what would make sense in the sentence, taking the word apart, etc. Like Alexis said, I will often encourage my students to look for parts of the word that they recognize to help them figure the word out.
    Schema-When I taught kindergarten I would usually say, "what you already know". We also used a lot of KWL charts, but I really like the idea of Debbie Miller's file folder. That's definitely something that I would like to try.
    I do use the word when I talk to my first and second graders because I know that their classroom teachers use the term with them frequently.

  6. Schema - I have never used the actual term with my students. We always talk about what we already know about a topic. I probably won't use the term 'schema' with my kids. I do like the idea of using an chart with file folders. I have used this idea with KWL charts and the kids really enjoyed the KWL. We have a weather unit coming up and I'm looking forward to using the file folders for this activity.

  7. What strategies do you use to make difficult texts and concepts more accessible to your students?
    The kinds of texts students encounter in the music classroom are usually quite abstract. As you think about lyrics to a song, it can be quite a feat to get students to look beyond the black and white and step into the interpretive gray area when analyzing the meaning of said lyrics. I usually first ask students if they have any questions about what the song means. A lot of time they'd rather just sing/perform it than analyze it, so they don't ask questions. If that's the case, then I ask THEM questions; this forces them to analyze & interpret. We'll brake down the song into verses, or smaller segments then create motions, skits, or even pictures to help them better understand what the words mean to each and every student. After this process, when they perform the song, it means much more to them and the emotion/value they put into their performance makes it much more entertaining.
    Schema is kind of like data to me- I can use it and get the kids to use it without using those words (especially with elementary students). In music, we are almost always using what we already know when looking at or listening to a piece of music; and each time we learn a new concept, we add that to the “music file.” Usually when I introduce a new concept, we’ll focus on that concept for the first class then use it with what we already know the next couple of weeks. Learning becomes more comprehensive this way. I also try to help students see where what they are learning fits into the bigger picture; the grand SCHEME of things. There, that’s the closest I’ll get to using the word “schema.”

  8. I try to break texts into smaller chunks. I think sometimes part of the difficulty that kids have is because they’re overwhelmed by the amount or size of the text rather than the content itself. Especially when they start trying out more complicated books than what they're used to. I think by helping kids learn to break bigger tasks (words, full texts, writing, projects, anything) into smaller pieces makes it look and feel more manageable.

    I do use the word “schema” with kids. A way I heard a colleague of mine describe it is that your schema is like your backpack in your brain. If you think about all of the information and things you carry in your backpack/bag, your schema does the same thing. It holds onto all of the information you’ve learned. I would love to try to the file folder idea! I know Beth Ann used it with her 2nd graders and we talked about how well it went for her kids. I think it would be great to use with 4th grade as well, especially to help clear up misconceptions.