July 26, 2006

Playing the role of Investigator

In our literature circle discussion tomorrow, as Investigator, I won't do any outside research but I'll try to (1) identify places in Gallagher's book where he draws on other texts and resources (like Harvey Daniels' Literature Circles) and (2) to identify places in our discussion (both f2f and online) where we refer to other works. So, I might interrupt you at times and ask for clarification about where a particular idea or strategy you mention comes from.

One thing I really like about the "specific roles in discussion strategy" is that it pushes us out of our comfort zones a bit. In a discussion, I usually jump right in with questions (discussion director) or pithy quotes I love (literary luminary), so I particularly wanted to try a different role. Although they can challenge us, having specific roles is also safe, in that the role is defined and manageable, we can rely on others to do things we aren't doing, and we don't need to feel dumb because everyone is role-playing. That safety makes Gallagher's metaphor of roles as "training wheels" an apt one for me. College teachers often disdain any form of training wheels, but then they complain their driveways are littered with bruised and bloody student bodies. (that extended metaphor is for you, Jen!)

Managing the overwhelm

Having just caught up on reading the group's blog entries on Deeper Reading, I 'm starting get into my own reflective mode about where this book left me. As Joan's last entry reminded me, I like how the last chapter brings together a do-able activity (the Newsweek "My Turn" lesson) and reminds us that we can't do it all. Rather than try to apply every strategy-- or use the same great tools with every text-- his "methodology" of thinking through what our students bring to texts, what we hope they'll glean, and how to scaffold to get them there seems very useful (see pg 198). And, if our students don't reflect on how they learned to read deeply with us, we've missed a crucial piece. So I guess I'm taking away an "act thoughtfully and with reflection" model of teaching from him. Or another way I might say it would be to "slow down, dig deep, and talk about the process of digging." Although Gallagher doesn't talk about it, I'm stuck by how the students I teach now are more overwhelmed by information than those I had 15 years ago, and they are tempted stay on the surface (as a way of dealing with all that information). But, when I see how engaged my students can be "unpacking" an advertisement, a painting, a poem, or a difficult article-- and what confidence it gives them-- I'm reminded why teaching reading is so important.

Blog for Final Chapters of Deeper Reading--Lynn

Within the past year I heard a statistic stating that 50% of our daily print information comes to us through charts, graphs, and tables. As teachers Gallagher places the responsibility of really reading the newspaper and knowing its contents on the teacher. Gallagher shares ideas to help begin the process of comprehension into the classroom with the responsibility falling on the student to unearth deeper meaning and to read with a critical eye or with questions about the articles.

I will begin using this process in the Fall. Newspaper Reading Minutes places children in the position of looking for the most interesting article to share with the class. Students sign up for a day on the monthly calendar and when they are slated to present everyone in the class prepares a one sentence response to the article. This method seems the ideal way to wet the feet of the students.

His next focus is "reading" the political cartoon. I plan to "shop" for appropriate cartoons to share with the students and analyze. A recent report shared the low readership of the 30 and under age group. There are so many ways to be informed however it is vital that the studnets I work with develop a deeper understanding of the print resource.

July 25, 2006

Good, Bad, and Ugly

After reading this entire book, I am amazed at how full it is of wonderful ideas to enhance reading comprension. So many times, I have been sitting frustrated with my students trying to figure out how to help them. Most of the times it comes down to throwing something tried and true that the kids have probably seen before. Now, I feel like I have a plethora of ideas for the fall and a great resource for years to come. My only critique is Gallagher's writing style. At times, he's long winded and over-explains some of his theories. For example, when he talks about when he was coaching his daughter's softball team, he goes on and on about the detail(132). I get impatient with this and wish he would do a bit more summarizing-but that's probably just me. Overall, I think this has been a great book!

What I liked about Ch. 9 & 10

In chapter 9, I liked the real world activites of reading product labels, comparing cellular phone plans, evaluating spam popups, writing an infomercial, and focusing on reading the newspaper. My reading in 10th and 11th grade is HEAVY on fiction with the hope that there is transference to the real world, but I don't reach out to the real world for reading material.
In chapter 10 I liked Gallagher's example of a lesson plan for deeper reading using "My turn" from Newsweek magazine. It was very step-by-step and practical. At the end of the chapter, I liked his parting warnings:
don't over teach the book
think of yourself as a painter with a blank palette
there's a difference between teaching and assigning
reading comprehension is complex and multifaceted

I gleaned many good ideas from this book.

Teaching or Overteaching

How much support is too much support? (215) This is my daily dilemma. I have to start out by arranging circumstances--practically aligning the planets, really--so that each of my students experiences his or her first literacy success, many times the first success since elementary school. Just like my own children, it's the weaning that is the hardest part.

Sometimes under pressure of time (because my students are with me for such a short time), I find myself doing so much for them instead of with them, hastening the process of building a positive, trusting relationship. It takes a long time to allow students to attempt, internalize, fail, and build enough resilience to try again.

Gallagher's last chapter is a powerful reminder to me to teach like I parent, with extreme patience and a long term vision.

If We Don't, Who Will?

Probably many of you feel like you need to re-parent your students. It's a dangerous psychological space to inhabit in my case. In many cases, I can't possibly bridge the divide between how my students have developed and mainstream, middle class, American cultural expectations and competencies. However, if I don't, who will?

Gallagher poses this question to persuade me to give up "a bit of the traditional curriculum" to make room for "learning how to apply reading skills in the real world" (196). I find that my curriculum tips the other way. My students have been in mostly packet based programs or special courses like "skills lab" to help them learn to navigate the world of work or renting or balancing a checkbook. What I fear they lack is what Ruby Payne and other researchers call cultural capital, an exposure to great thinking, literature, and art that would allow them entry into conversations with others who possess this capital, usually their teachers, employers, and others who have significant influence over their long term well-being, and that would help them "read the world" with its myriad allusions and references to cannonical pieces of culture.

Gallagher would not suggest that I abandon exposing my students to cultural capital, but I feel I need to stay aware with my population that "reading the world" requires a healthy dose of both classics, or traditional curriculum and real world communications.

July 24, 2006

Merchants of Cool

I have also used Merchants of Cool. Last year I noticed that my students thought it was dated and because Britney Spears has fallen off the teen-cool radar screen, they were less likely to give credence to the ideas presented in the video.

How quickly fads come and go--I guess the merchants of cool are doing their jobs!!!

Joyce Malwitz

Chapters 9-10

I felt that the authors almost felt pressured to include the final two chapters due to changes in the educational community that they don't approve of and that are beyond their control. Namely, the testing craze.

I was glad to hear them question the validity of massive testing. They have a national voice and most teachers would respect their work. I applaud their willingness, therfore, to challenge the insidious influence of political agendas on education.

That said, I found their nonfiction reading activities useful. For those of us who teach research projects, these analytical reading strategies are nifty. I noticed a rich combination of tried-and-true stuff (advertising appeals/logical appeals) and current issues revolving around the Internet, e-mail, etc.
Then, I liked the deeper appreciation of art activities at the end of chapter 9--reminded me of the thinking process we learned at the Weisman.

As I commented in earlier blogs, I like the way Gallagher includes lessons that could be used immediately in the classroom. It's always useful to have a cache of ideas on my desk.
Joyce Malwitz

July 20, 2006

Reading the World Resource

In my demo, I mentioned the PBS/ Frontline Merchants of Cool. Gallaghers advice on helping students "read the world," specifically advertising reminded me of this documentary. It's usable, I think, grades 7-12, and you can view it online at


Gallagher has a way of hitting the nail on the head. In Collaboration, he shows how accountability can be a huge factor in the success of groups. Hurray! I hate the idea that kids in small groups will some how magically morf together and great discussions will ensue just because you asked them to. Yeah, right. I have students get in small groups and produce some writing. The kicker is if one student wrote down all the "notes" from the group-this invariably is the girl; another student has to share results verbally and the other student has to write down summaries on the board. This works well for me b/c they know that everyone has to participate. Usually, it pulls kids out of their seat and into participation. I also love 10 strategies to promote higher level thinking. These are clear, easy to administer activities that I can see myself using in the classroom.

Deeper Reading Chapters 7 (metaphor)& 8 (reflection)

chapter 7
Last night as I was reviewing materials from the Weisman, the stapled handout entitled "Startegies to teach students to reflect critically and interpret meaning" number 6 emphasized metaphorical thinking, as did the Harvard site: If I hear it and see it enough, I'll get it. When I (or anyone else) speaks metaphorically in class, we' Il talk about its effectiveness, but I've never used metaphors as a teaching strategy. I like the idea.

Chapter 8
The response I get the most from students about the novels we read is: why is everything we read so depressing? A couple years ago I'd begin Mondays with the Dave Barry column, but no more Dave Barry column. Alot of what we read calls for more lifetime (personal) experiences than what the typical 10th grader has. So, it's not that they are whining necessarily. I think they need to see the relevancy of the theme more. That's why I like Gallagher's theme notebook idea where students pick a theme from the book and link it to 10 other sources.

I like Gallagher's question: "What do I hope my students will take from this book?"

Response to Joan, Deeper Reading

Hi Joan,

Off-task groups drive me nuts! Some things I've done to limit this--I don't think teenagers can ever be on task as much as motivated adults, however--
I've groups to prepare by doing some prethinking at home and bringing somethin with them--this can be very short, maybe just something on a notecard or in their notebook. Then, after the small group gets started, I buzz around the room and check to make sure they were prepared--just a yes/no in my gradebook.
I also limit what I ask groups to accomplish at the beginning of the course with very specific directions for each person. I make the task small and limit the time.
Every now and then I ask them to complete a group task analysis form--ask them to describe who is doing what, how the group functions.
If groups are presenting their conclusions to the class and I think some people have been coasting, I really put those people on the spot during the presentations and ask pointed questions, which they probably are not prepared to answer. Then I tell the class why that response was weak and what I expect. A little prodding motivation
Most importantly, because papers take up so blasted much time, I make all of this something I can check on in class.
Nothing earth shattering--Joyce M.

July 18, 2006

Ideas from chapters 5 and 6

I'm liking this book because it offers strategies that sound practical in the classroom.

Chapter 5
My reading mantra next year will be:
What does it say?
What does it mean?
What does it matter?
I've got some ideas to shake up the study guides. I have study guides available to students when we're reading a novel. but next year in lieu of that I'll try the strategy of multi-layered time lines. The fact that the timelines are a combination of individual and group work is appealig to me. I also liked the visual format of literary dominoes for for a quick quiz.

Chapter 6
Based on my learning experience this past week, collaboration is a weakness in my classroom. What I liked about this chapter is the section entitled "'Ten strategies to Promote Higher-Level Thinking in Samll-Group Settings". It drives me crazy when groups get off task. The success of the group hinges on everyone coming prepared and they don't seem to because of absence or whatever. Any ideas on handling the unprepared?

Theme triangles joining the novel's theme with a film's and some other medium or genre should make everybody happy. I like group work and the variety it can achieve. I've gained some worthwhile new ideas in these two chapters.

On to reading chapters 7 and 8. I find when I read for deeper comprehension I not only have to reread the text, but also reorganize or rework the material into a more meaningful schemata for me to think about..

Chapter 5 through 8

When Gallagher describes plots as dominos I could imagine the great ways this example could help some of my students understand how authors use a plan to write and to prepare to write. I know that from the early grades through the fifth grade students I work with students could benefit from using this visual. I could also imagine it being used as a collaberative tool when writing poetry or constructing a short story.

Response To Jen's Entry

Hi Jen,
I read your entry on Deeper Reading.. Turning the author's metaphor acivities into canned worksheets resonated with me. So many students end up doing the same activites over and over again in one form or another because teachers, in a well meaning way, recycle them through the ranks.

I'm not as concerned with artifically teaching metaphor as you are because I see students struggle to develop language beyond the literal--both in their creative and analytical thinking. For high school students, I think this marks the edge of their development, so anything that gets them to engage in the development of figurative expression is a good idea to me.

Perhaps, the constant reflection that is inherent in a strategy like this would move students beyond the cliche???

I'm not familar with the other authors you cited. Have you read them in another class at the U?
Have a great time preparing for the caped crusader party--
Joyce Malwitz

Deeper Reading, 5-8

I like these chapters immensely, more than chapters -4, which I thought repeated so many other writing teacher "how-to" books that I've read in the past.

I tried to pick just one of the chapters that I liked the most, but I couldn't narrow down my favorite to just one. My conclusion is that i like chaapters 5, 6, and 7 over chapter 8. While I see the importance of chapter 8 (personal reflection), I probably would limit the amount of time I spend on activities like this (perhaps just one?), merely because of the constant time crunch all teachers deal with.

As I commented on chapters 1-4, I think these activities are very purposeful and will deepen students' comprehension and understanding of the text, rather than merely being "fun" class activities. For example, the instructional scaffolding in chapter 6 to promote higher-level thinking in small groups was very useful. I'm going to try "Silent Exchange," "Trouble Slips" and "Mysterry Envelopes" in my grade 11 class, both regular and honors.

Also, chapter 7 (using metaphors) is filled with strategies to get students to think more deeply and creatively about literature. I especially want to try out the extended activities like the "Iceberg Metaphor" and then extend it to a writing assignm ent. I'm going to use in with The Scarlet Letter because so much of the characters' motivations are hidden.

Any other ideas or words of wisdom?
Joyce M.

Metaphors We Live By

Finally, I read chapter 7. The reason I wanted to be in the Deeper Reading group is that two years ago, I picked up this dense and wonderful book called Metaphors We Live By. I haven't finished it yet (each chapter sustains me for about a month's worth of thinking). Anyway, after the groups presented last year, I decided I had to get Deeper Reading because it suggests ways to teach with metaphor. Gallagher draws from Metaphors We Live By several times, but for me most helpfully here:

...George Lakoff and Mark Johnson contend that by teaching students to think in metaphorical terms we are helping them cultivate an "imaginative rationality." When we ask a student to think metaphorically, they note, we "permit an understanding of one kind of experience in terms of another, creating coherences by virtue of imposing gestalts that are structured by natural dimensions of experience. New metaphors are

Continue reading "Metaphors We Live By" »

July 14, 2006

Blogging as Gallagher's "meaningful collaboration"

Reading and commenting on people's blogs last night inspired me to go back and re-read and think more about the early chapters in our book. When I read again the following lines, I was struck by the connection between my own blogging experience and Gallagher's method:

The richer the text, the harder it is for any single reader to uncover it all on a first reading. Beacuse of this, it is important that students be given time to discuss what they discovered while reading ...the act of collaboration itself raises the reading comprehension of every student in our classes; thus, it's important for us teachers to build in meaningful collaboration time for our students. (17)
Reading and writing on this blog has given me a chance to share what I'm discovering and learn from the discoveries of others (even those who are reading different books, since what we are talking about is so connected). In college-- and I assume at all levels-- the pressure to cover a maximum of material in a minimum of time often means we short change meaningful collaboration (both in reading and writing).

And, as someone who coaches faculty on how to integrate writing into their courses, I find his assertions about our responsibility to teach students how to read effectively (particularly those that remind teachers about their self-interest) very helpful:

If we simply assign writing instead of teaching students how to write, we'll get poor writing. If we simply assign reading instead of teaching students how to read, we'll get poor reading. (7)
At first I was troubled (as I think you were, Kim) by his comment "As their teacher, I am the determining factor when it comes to how deeply my students will comprehend," but now I'm seeing that more as a polemic to keep us from "passing the buck" or acting like we can't do anything when it comes to our students' reading comprehension.

Preparing our students

I was uncertain about the fit of this book for my students. It wasn't long before I realized that it was perfect for them.

As an elementary teacher I found that setting the satge for my students whether it be with food, games, guest speakers, or video clips the set up was as imprtant as anything else that I planned. Beginning the book Deeper Reading and reading about Framing and the imprtance of it and reading some new ideas hooked me just as I hope I will be able to hook my students with a broader catalogue of options.

Each game and activity that was shared in the book will work in mmy classroom as is or with a bit of adaptability. Word Scramble Prediciton will set my students cracking codes and prediction like they've never predicted before (p49). The Word Game (p47) will help keep the "learning is fun" atmosphere in the room while helping me to assess the reading capabilities and accountability of my students.

During the 06-07 School year I will be working with students of grades 3 and 5 in the areas of math and literature. Many of the suggestions Gallagher gives will work for both curriculum areas. The other term that will cross the curriculum is "Assumicide." This word is so imprtant for me because I begin with 100 new faces in September, faces I've never worked with before so I must assume nothing. A wonderful term.

An area that Barbara Johnson has addressed in her work is questioning and I remind myself that teaching students how to question is a vital part of their learning analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
Using the question techniques from chapter 4 will help students to develop that important skill.

The Character Chart will serve many purposes for my students. As I recall the beginning of last school year students requested more time to express their thoughts through drawing. I see the Character Chart as an opportunity for that to happen.

For the perfectionists in the class the Little Bit Lost technique will allow them to ease up on themselves to be placed in an "everybodies lost sometime" opportunity and share in a go round to make the confusion piece of literature okay.

I read this text like a nov3el. Coming back to review it for my blog offered me the opportunity to review the rich suggestions and commit to this resource for the year to come.

July 13, 2006

Joan's comment to Kim "Baseball"

I totally hear what you're saying about the urgency to hand off a class room set of novels to the next teacher. For my students, oftentimes, they consider reading Cliff Notes as the first read and maybe opening the novel their second read. Do you think Gallagher was suggesting that specfic activities involve close reading of certain sections/pages of the novel? The second read would be a hard sell just because of the demands of six other classes.

July 12, 2006

Joan's entry to Chapters 1-4

I liked the questioning, inferring, clarifying, predicting, and evaluating activities Gallagher suggested to increase reading comprehension.
The questioning activity of turning headings or chapter titles into questions prior to reading on page 57 and "twenty questions" on page 58 sound engaging.
"Conversation Piece" on page 5 would be a good reading activity stressing the importance of inference while reading.
The web search activity on page 38 wherein groups of students are given different key words or concepts to search and report back to the class frames a novel by clarifying key background information.
The word scramble prediction on page 49 would give students a set of key words in order to predict the upcoming action and pique their curosity.
Focus groups ( page 59), each group given a specific literary element to trace while reading, sounds good for review. Another review strategy is "sentence starters" , ( page 70) where each student is given a different sentence starter to finish with information from the reading.
I liked the word attack strategy of memorizing the 30 most common prefixes, the 15 most common roots, and 10 most common suffixes of words (page 73). I also liked the 3-minute sponge activity (page 77) where students copied a sentence with a challenging vocab word, predicted the meaning based on context, and looked up and wrote the actual meaning of the word.
"Tuning into the reading channel" is a term I'll use from Gallagher and reminding students that confusion is natural is something I needed to be reminded of because it is the state I'm frequently in.

July 11, 2006

How can students internalize scaffolds?

In chapter two, Gallagher reminds me of what I learned as "pre-reading" in my teacher training. We need to warm-up students before they read by scaffolding to prior experience or necessary background information. Now that I've been teaching for 12 years, and after having read Kylene Beers last summer, I'm wondering how I can get students to internalize this step--to move from being dependent on me to working independently to warm up to a text. I can think of anticipations guides, journal entries, and other warm-ups for any text, but those are all teacher directed activities. Where is the strategy that will teach students how to independently approach a text in a way that will connect to their prior knowledge? It can't be as simple as examining the cover, really. As teachers who've read the texts, we can be very specific and focused in the warm-ups we assign. What's a reluctant teenaged reader miraculously beginning a book independently to do?

I've learned and used strategies for helping students to internalize during reading and post reading strategies, and even Gallagher lists several strategies for beginning reading. However, I want to learn to help them internalize a pre-reading strategy. Maybe it just happens in relationship with the teacher, as Gallagher describes in sharing the branches of his reading tree and how his past reading experiences have motivated him to seek out and read different books. But modeling, as effective as it is, is so immeasurable. I can't be certain that when an eleventh grader who has failed the Reading BST every year since 8th grade will have a concrete strategy for pre-reading a nonfiction text when he sits down to retake the test just because I've modeled my own reading process. Beers offers several great pre-reading strategies like tea party or probable passage, but again they are teacher prepared.

Maybe Gallagher will answer my question about internalizing prereading in later chapters, but if you have ideas please share.

By the way, this is Jen not Alex:).

Lynn Starts

This book was as exciting as reading a novel. The author was informative and interesting to read. I was unceratin about whether this piece would be of value to me and I am delighted that I chose it!

Joan's demo entry

I thought the lesson using the Earl Stanley Gardner mystery story for inference in reading was great. I will use this in the classroom.

Joyce's First Entry

I loved the story "Love." It was perfect--the boy's crush, Miss Brown's disappearance, their determination to see Miss Brown, the moment of realization about her illness. Just lovely.


I enjoyed reading the analogy of watching baseball to reading complex texts. At first, I thought this was ridiculous, but after the point was made about comprehending at a deeper level, it won't leave my mind. Baseball is boring to watch at first, but knowing the intricacies of the game make it much more interesting. I love soccer, too, and find that many people find that boring. I am reminded of how many books that I have taught that are boring to my students and realize that they need to know the intricacies to help build their interest and comprehension.

After reading the chapter, Teaching Challenging Texts, I found that I generally do not spend enough time doing pre-reading activities to prepare my students. Of course, it makes perfect sense now and I have thought of doing it from time to time, but time seems of the essence in our school. It is very common that classroom sets are handed off from one teacher to another and then to another. Our time to prepare, read and discuss is often rushed. I also struggled with Kelly's idea that the first read is like the first draft in writing. Where does a mainstream teacher have time for students to read a 2nd time? Perhaps he means that reading the second time means that students are focusing on a particular concept and not necessarily re-reading the entire chapter or passage.

How Jen Will Participate

Hi, Friends. I am not registered as as student this summer, so likely, I will only be able to comment, not post entries--at least not under my own name. If I write a long, rambling comment to your entry, please don't be alarmed. That will just be me shoehorning in the ideas I had wished to write as entries.

response to juggling class time

This entry is in response to the struggle to get students to read a novel/story a second time for deeper meaning.

I've started to more purposefully schedule assignments so that when we're working on revising a writing assignment in class, for example, I'm assigning a first reading of a novel (with some prereading acivities, of course!!). That way, I can expect a text has been read for the first time before we do in-depth work on it in class. Also, I may have already decided which parts of the text I want students to re-read and focus on those sections with class activities.

This doesn't always work, but it's a move in the right direction, I think.
Joyce Malwitz

Chapters 1-4 entry

I found this book very interesting to read and useful. I liked the connection to reading and writing, and I liked the way Gallagher organized the chapters around comprehension problems that students might face when reading new and challenging texts.

His work reminds me of the classic elements of effective instruction--anticipatory set, teaching for deeper meaning, teaching for transfer, etc., but the focus on high school English is really nifty.

I think this could be a a valuable companion book for any English teacher. For example, when teaching a difficult book like Their Eyes Were Watching God, I could go directly to "Effective First-Draft Reading" and use activities like Twenty Questions, Shift Charts, Trouble Slips, etc. I might even break the class into groups with different groups doing different activities.

I'm always looking for good stuff to do in class that has a purposeful bent. Again, I love the story "Love."