Literal level questioning must take place in order for deeper connections and questions can present themselves. If students cannot access basic context, they will struggle connecting with deeper meaning. As Fisher & Frey (2015) state, “understanding the literal level of a text is a gateway to analysis and conceptual thinking” (Fisher, D. & Frey, N., 2015, p. 26).
I use divergent questioning in my classroom, along with rich questions, which enables readers to connect to other text, world events, or themselves. I find classroom discussion pivotal in reading instruction, and small group. Students must take ownership of the text; hold their own discussions (genuine conversations amongst themselves), and begin this habit forming questioning technique. I am so proud to say that the discussions and questioning that take place in my classroom are rich and stem from how I have modeled how to question text. When I have them write questions about the text, we create thick and thin questions. Thin are the literal types of questions. Thick are those deep connections, which make readers dig and inspect the text. I tell my students daily text is more than just the printed words…it’s everything encompassed on the page.
My school is big into taking AR (Accelerated Reader) tests and demonstrating accuracy of read material. I think AR tests are a great way of tracking books read, and a great school-wide initiative, but at the same time I find that it lessens the importance of rereading, and deep connections with the text. If my students could speak right now they would say that I want them to not just read a book quickly to take a test and earn points so they can switch right to the next book. To me, that is not enjoyable, and is not deep connected reading. Furthermore the questions on AR are literal questions, they do not dig deep into the story content. Whenever possible, I try my hardest to get my little guys to meet with me on books they’ve tested on an explain how they connected to the text, or provide text evidence for why a certain event happened, or what the author’s purpose/viewpoint was for the text tested.
I found the part in this chapter about distinguishing key details from irrelevant details important. A lot of times, students will tell you anything and everything about an event or situation (As they are required to do on the DRA…), however, I encourage students to get to the point of what they are addressing and identify the most important events and add in essential details about the event. There are many irrelevant details exposed to students in all text, but it helps supply meaning and understanding for an overall picture. However, when asked to verbally demonstrate understanding, or to craft a specific writing, identifying key details and recognizing major events in the story is vital for student growth.
I agree with you that distinguishing key details from irrelevant details is important. In my 4th grade classroom, I find that the students often struggle with this too. When asked to write a summary they write a complete blow by blow retell instead. That is partially because the DRA asks for a summary but really wants more of a retell and partially because they don't know how to distinguish between important and unimportant details. I use a lesson from the book, Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor to teach determining importance and then reference back to the pasta/strainer concrete visual throughout the year. If you teach at the elementary level that book is a must have!
I absolutely agree with you! I became familiar with Tanny McGregor when I taught in Baltimore. I used that book repeatedly...excellent resource!
As a Title I reading teacher I work with struggling readers in grades K-3. I feel that literal level questioning is important. It is a "start of the journey", (Fisher, D. & Frey, N., 2015, p.31) . If students don't understand the basics of comprehension they will become frustrated when asked about the more complex concepts. They can't analyze the character of a story if they don't know who the characters are. As stated on p. 26, "understanding the literal level of the text is the gateway to analysis and conceptual thinking." (Fisher, D. & Frey, N., 2015) I need to scaffold the journey from literal to deeper meaning.
I like the idea of being "text inspectors." I have had students be word detectives, but the inspector idea will be great to utilize in my small groups!
Discussion about the text is vital to becoming a stronger reader. I agree with the authors when they talked about developing meaning from text is not meant to be an independent activity. In my small intervention groups I have students partner with a "thinking buddy" and provide specific questions for them to discuss. At the beginning of the year I teach them to recall details from the story, but as they become more confident readers they are able to elaborate on their thinking about the story.
I use the Fountas and Pinnell (2009) Leveled Literacy Intervention with many of my students. They provide the scaffold of Within the text ideas to Beyond the Text thinking.
I work on a learning support team and have students that range from gifted to those who may read at a DRA level 18 or lower. I find that these student differ greatly and I agree with you wholeheartedly that you can't move forward until you have a solid foundation. What we assume all students understand is not usually the case with the struggling students. For example, we recently read a passage about the California Gold Rush and it mentioned that once the findings became smaller and fewer people moved out and the towns became "ghost towns." When I asked one of my learning support students why the towns were called ghost towns she responded it was because of the ghosts that lived there. Some students need to spend more time on the literal than others but as teachers we must ensure they are all prepared to move forward when ready.
I like that the authors use the word "inspection" and relate the tasks to what an inspector does to describe what students do when they explore what the text says. I find that 4th graders can easily grasp this meaning and quickly understand what the role and expectations are during this reading step.
I have found that the students enjoy working in small groups and having the freedom to share their opinions and ideas. They enjoy talking through issues and coming up with their own conclusions. I
I have also found that my students frequently ask questions that I would not have thought of asking since it can be challenging to think like a 4th grader reading a text for the first time when you are as old as I am.
Students are empowered when they have permission to pose and answer questions themselves. (Of course a lot of teacher modeling needs to come first so they will understand which questions are best to use in this phase) When they are "doing" rather than just listening, the levels of engagement and understanding are increased.
In my school, students are required to always go back into the text to cite evidence when answering a question. As my experience as a teacher grows, I realize that once students clearly understand the expectations, they are typically able to meet them. The better I become at modeling the expectations, the more I see transfer.
I wholeheartedly agree with the authors that the ability to provide and explain evidence is a habit as much as it is a skill.
I love that the authors encourage student independence - something I have always fostered in my own classroom. Once students understand how to engage in meaningful talk, they can take the reigns and form a solid foundation of what the says as they get ready to move into the deeper exploration of what the text means.
I agree with your comments on students working and thinking together. They come up with some great questions that aren't always the focus of the lesson, but extends their thinking about text! I have my small groups share their text evidence with a partner and they learn more about another student's thinking.
I think that the literal level of questioning is important as a first step. We as teachers need to know that the learners understand what the text says before we go deeper. I especially agree with the authors' opinion in that this shouldn't be done alone. Discussion is what activates the learning. I also needed a little reality check and do some self reflection in the area of frontloading. I am thinking of changing my routine of vocabulary discussion until later so that I am not "breeding dependency". I don't want them to rely on me to interpret the text.