Vicki presented at the International Reading Association about her wonderful book, Information Generation. She is an awesome presenter with high energy and lots of ideas. Her work with informational text reminds me of my OWL strategy. She has the students Observe and Describe the information they see in the informational text. The students notice things around them. It is looking closely and carefully and thinking about what you notice. The students struggle to find the words so she has the students notice and observe using descriptive attributes:
-action: what is it doing?
-size: how big is it?
-shape: what does it look like?
-location: where is it?
-colors: what color is it?
-number words: how many?
-material: waht is it made of?
-touch/texture: what might it feel like?
Vicki suggested that when the children observe a bird nest, they notice its size, shape, and the materials the bird made it with, and its location (page 91).
Another suggestion that really made a lot of sense to me was encouraging kids to think about having students use verbs to describe photos. What actions are we seeing? She suggests asking “What do you think is happening in the picture?” “Tell me what is happening in the picture.” “What do you think is going on here.” She modeled with a short piece of text about Columbus. What are his actions? What are the verbs? Why did he complete these actions? How did these actions help us understand? What Vicki kept coming back to was the “WHY” and “HOW” of the comments we made. The students make a comment or a notice or an observation. Vicky asks how come or why. By using attributes the conversation shifts from labeling to describing. It is important to record what the children Understand in a chart. This allows for the teacher to model how to take notes (pages 91-93).
The next step in this process that Vicki discussed at IRA was Interpretations. There are two really important questions that we are going to ask today when we read: Why and How. Why is it that shape? Why is it that size? Why did the animal behave like that? How come the animal went in that nest instead of the other nest? How come the nest is on the ground instead of in a tree? How does the bird catch food? (page 118). The purpose of the interpretation part of the lesson is to move the children from fact gathering to interpretative conversation. The children take any fact and ask why. Why is this true? Why is it this shape? Why is it this color? Michael Pressley found that turning a fact into a WHY question pushes our learners to think about the fact, activate prior knowledge about the fact, and answer the question by filling in the knowledge gaps about the fact (Elaborative Interrogation, Pressley & Woloshyn, 1995; Pressley et al., 1992) (Information Generation, 118). Eventually students are taught to ask Where and When questions also. Where does the bird find food? Where does it live? When does it use its beak?
To find answers to their questions, the students are encouraged to (see page 121 for more ideas):
-reread the parts of the text that you need to find the answer (index, photos, captions, skim a section)
-find facts from the text
-think about what you know
The third step in this process is connections that matter! Vicki spoke about making sure that the children are comparing their concrete experiences (connections) with the information. We coach the conversation by asking, “How do you know that?” or “What experience have you had that proves or supports that fact?” “Have you seen this for real?” When we read a fact in a book, we think about where we have experienced that idea. The experience needs to support the fact. How is your experience like the information? How do they connect? Encourage your students to explain their thinking by saying, “I know this because…” (Information Generation, pages 125-130).
I combined the presentation notes with the page references so that everyone has more ideas to support your teaching.
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