Modeling what matters

If we say that reading is important, we must prove it by modeling it ourselves.

In December, we had a Reindeer Reader day in the Media Center. Each grade level was invited in for a grade level reading time hosted by our very own Principal and me ~ co-teaching  and leading a discussion. The idea: pair a fiction and informational text~ have fun~ and have discussions.

So, we started off with the book Imogene’s Antlers by David Small.  In the story, Imogene wakes up one morning with antlers- and we share in her family’s reaction as well as how she spends her day.  No matter what grade level was in the Media Center- we asked questions including:
  • How do you think you would feel if you had antlers?
  • How is Imogene feeling in this part of the story? How do you know? 
  • If I were Imogene, I wouldn’t be very happy about having birds sitting on my antlers.  Can anyone tell me why I might not be happy about that?
  • What is a milliner? How do we know?

The illustration on the next to the last page has Imogene settling in for a good night’s sleep. The following morning she wakes up from her sleep- and the antlers are gone…but she has a new animal characteristic.  I have to say, aside from the question regarding how you would feel if birds were above your head and why that might be an unhappy event, this is my favorite part:
  • Did anyone see the hint in the picture of what her new characteristic would be?
  • Me talking now: Guys, no matter how old you are- no matter how great a reader  you are- you should still read books with pictures. I mean- read the pictures. What details are there?  What ideas does it show you ahead of time? They add to the story!

We transitioned from that story by simply asking what animals had antlers? Enter two new texts: one  print, Reindeer  by Kate Marsico , and  one digital, Wonder #82 from  Ms.
Bradshaw led a discussion to help the students recall functions of informational text :
  • What do you know?
  • What do you want to know?
  • Do I need to read the entire book to find out?
  • What parts do I need to refer to in the book?

She had them watch the video intro on Wonderopolis about the reindeer, and in some grade levels triggered the read-aloud text. Among the next questions:
  • What have you learned about reindeer that you didn’t already know?
  • Why are reindeer important to the economy of the village?
  •  If you had to describe the climate and biome of where the reindeer live, how would you describe it?Can you name a climate/biome that reindeer would not survive well in? Why  wouldn’t they trive there?
  • Did the reindeer in the book and in the wonder match your picture of reindeer?
  • How do we view reindeer in comparison to how the man in the video viewed reindeer? (What a great conversation on global awareness took place!)

At the end of this very fun and tiring day, I asked Ms. Bradshaw what she thought of the experience. She loved it! “When can we do it again? I love the questions and the responses they gave! Amazing. Can we do centers next time? Can we keep them longer? ”

We followed up the following week with a revisit and some reader-response opportunities for kids. The teachers were provided with the links to the digital article, and with a link to the video of Imogene’s Antlers  from Discovery Education. Then, depending on the grade- they had choices of prompts:
  • If you woke up tomorrow with an animal characteristic- what one would you want to have and why? (Pictures or  descriptors were fine)
  • If the story continued, how do you think the family would try to disguise the peacock feathers? 
  • If the story continued, what would Imogene look like next?

I’m still smiling several weeks later. The teachers enjoyed it. The kids enjoyed it. My principal and I enjoyed it. I’m sure we all gained satisfaction for different reasons- but mine was selfish: I modeled what matters. Reading. Thinking. Responding. 

See, it’s not just simply about the mechanics of reading- and it’s not about the perfunctory questions that are asked. It’s about getting the reader to think beyond the basic. It’s about getting the reader to think big thoughts- to understand someone else’s point of view.

Reading is about growing~ and forever being changed by what you’ve encountered.


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