Inference – the Jam in the Doughnut: Reciprocal Reading – Part 1

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with reciprocal reading but it is a well-researched method of teaching reading comprehension.  The researchers Palincsar and Brown developed the idea and their work is very accessible on the internet, including long term studies.

Reciprocal reading focuses on four key strageies that are predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising but which need to be taught within the context of a rich reading curriculum.

We use our  doughnut of reading to try and explain this.

jammy donutIn this diagram we acknowledge that whatever we do in  reading we must allow children time for personal response and time to develop their own reading habits.

The next layer is the dough and this is generally the knowledge or content that we teach in shared and guided reading when we focus on the elements of character, organisational features etc.

But we are still not quite at the jammy heart!  In fact we need to focus on some key skills or strategies and they are the ones that reciprocal reading identifies as being core skills: predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising.  These can help direct us to the jam.

The next few posts will consider what we can do to teach these four key skills and how we can develop them in our teaching contexts.

For an overview of strategies that can be used to develop reciprocal reading see the blog post  Reading with Meaning

Have you tried reciprocal reading?  How do you organise it?

If you would like to experience reciprocal reading and find out more about the key skills come and join us on the 24th November.

What all teachers ought to know about the benefits of animation

class1a on animation from Matty Dawe on Vimeo.

During an animation project that has spanned this year, I have been concentrating  on what progression in animamtion looks like.  Now that I have a little time I want to spend some time reflecting on what the animation did for literacy learning.  I want to think beyond the work that has already been undertaken about camera shot and the level of detail written,  the link between scenes and paragraphs etc.  These have all been well documented  as part of the bfi work.

Because the animation was linked to poetry three times during the year, the teachers involved in the project found that their choice of poetry changes as we moved through the year.  By the third animation they were quite clear about choosing poems with strong images that were accessible to children.  Not revelationary but in terms of the poems they would have normally chosen for literacy there was a difference.

So how did linking poetry and animation affect learning in literacy?

Creating images from words (reading)

  • Animation and poetry are both about images, amongst other things, and we know that good readers often visualise or create images from the words they are reading.  By linking the two together the children became much more expert at creating images that were suggested by the words in poem.  The animating ‘forced’ the children to think in terms of images.  This impact on their reading was quite pronounced as the children were expecting the poems to create images for them which had not been the case duirng the first animation.  If you have children who do not comprehend texts effectively, animation may be one tool that can support this development.

Creating words from images (writing)

  • For some of the children, creating  images and then creating  poetry from the animation allowed them to tap into ‘dormant’ vocabulary.  That is vocabulary whicc we have but don’t often use in our every day interactions.  The Anglo-Saxons called this our word-hoard.  We use approximately 5000 different words in our day to day communication yet we know so many more words.  For developing writers it is important that we show them how to tap into their word-hoard to bring words forward.  It is also important that we show them the process of seeing images and attaching words to them.  This is after all what many writers do and what Pie Corbett in Talk for Writing calls imaging.  Animating allows us to make these two invisible processes visible for children.

Storyboarding (planning)

  • It was interesting to see what the children did when storyboarding.  Writing is normally a task undertaken by an individual, although many schools do encourage children to write in pairs.  Many primary age children do not understand the concept of planning, writing too much in the plan and then writing out again for the actual text.  The primary purpose of storyboarding when animating was to create a shared visual understanding of what was to be made.  This demanded many skills of the children; the ability to articulate ideas, persuade and negotiate.  It was this process that meant that by the time the children had storyboarded they really had a clear idea of what they were about to make. The purpose of planning was clear to the children and had an impact on the planning that they did when writing supporting the understanding of the two processes – planning and then writing.

These ideas mean that animation is an ideal learning tool for use in literacy and not just once a year.  What else should teachers know about animation?

Other posts about animation

Developing Reading Comprehension

Yesterday I worked with a group of teachers thinking about developing children’s inference skills.  As we talked about the range of strategies that we needed to offer in our classrooms, I was reminded once again of the power of synonyms in reading.  I quite often see synonyms being taught for writing purposes, e.g. other words for ‘said’ but rarely for reading purposes.

Coherence inference looks at how we make sense of a text as we move through it; how pronouns link back to nouns and how we use anaphoric reference, in other words how we use synonyms to refer to objects or people throughout a text so that we don’t repeat the same word or phrase. For instance the text might mention ‘the ship’ towards the beginning and then move onto ‘this vessel’, we might have tigers, big cats and  these animals. In both these instances as we move through the text the synonym becomes less precise or more generic. This can also be linked to antonyms which are opposites. I remember my class sitting an end of KS2 reading test and thinking if only they understood the title of the reading paper ‘Friend or Foe’ they would get so much more understanding out of it.

So, how can we help children extend their understanding of synonyms?

  • One of the first places I would explore with children is a thesaurus.  Have a look at the synonyms for the noun ship in the concept thesarus
  • collect synonyms and order them along a continuum.  These could then be recorded on those paint sample cards to show degrees of intensity.  What order would you put these synonyms for cold; arctic, bitter, chilly, brisk, nippy?
  • There are several games that are worthwhile for children to play try here and here
  • for a get up and go game give each child a piece of paper with a word at the top.  Everyone writes one synonym for that word on their piece of paper and then on the say so all move seats and write a synonym on the piece of paper they are now sitting at.  Keep going for as many moves as possible. Go back to original word and share the synonyms with a partner.
  • Using non-chronological reports, text mark all words used to refer to the object that the report is about.  For example on this great website there are several synonyms for lions in the first snippet of information. However in the longer text, which you can see as you scroll down, the word lions is used each time they are referred to.  For me as a reader it feels a bit clunky.