Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thinking: Coming Soon to a Reader Near You!

Yes! Maurice Sendak on the big screen! I just can't wait until October 16th. Where the Wild Things Are has been one of my favorite picture books since it was first read to me in the 1960's, and now Spike Jonze is bringing it back to me 40 years later. I recall begging my mom to read the book slowly, to draw out those 10 sentences so I could wallow in the eerie-funny-imaginative world of disobedient Max.

10 sentences read aloud by my mom. One half-hour of fantasy for me.

10 sentences written by Maurice Sendak. One feature-length film from Spike Jonze.

This is precisely what we desire for every reader, isn't it? Thinking that travels deep into and beyond the printed page, thinking laced with emotion and escape. So what can we do to maximize the chances that this kind of real reading is available to every student?

There are obvious opportunities we can provide. Read aloud each and every day. Allow for student choice of text as often as possible. Build classroom libraries full of high-interest, level-appropriate books. Publicly model your own personal love affair with reading.

We can also get kids into the reading/thinking habit if we begin to offer and prompt metacognitive experiences. Through the years I've been banking a collection of thinking prompts, gleaned from conversations with colleagues, lab observations and online chatter. Partial list below.

  • How do you know when you don't understand something?
  • What do you do when your brain freezes/gets stuck?
  • How can making mistakes help your brain grow?
  • What kinds of questions do you ask yourself when you're reading?
  • When do you know you should stop and reread?
  • What do you do when you're reading and something just doesn't make sense?
  • Why do you sometimes abandon a book?
  • What kinds of connections do you make while reading?
  • Have you ever noticed your mind wandering when you're reading? What do you do then?
  • Do you ever make predictions while reading? Have you ever been right? Have you been wrong? How do you know?
  • Which of your senses do you use in your brain while reading? Can you see? Smell? Hear? Taste? Feel?
Consider offering up one of these ideas at the beginning of class as bell work, or at the end of a lesson for closure. Sometimes you have an unclaimed minute here or there, or need a journal topic for a quick-write. Keep this list handy for times just like that.

Thinking. Let the wild rumpus begin!


Far too numerous is the herd of such, who think too little and who talk too much.
John Dryden

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