Thursday, December 11, 2008


If you are a reader, you probably have a small stack of books put aside that you are looking forward to reading during the holiday break. As readers we do not always have enough time to read, but we always have a book or two waiting to be read.

Not so with our reluctant and struggling readers who not only have trouble finding books they like but making time to read as well. We can teach those students how to choose 'just right' books but if they never sit down to read them, they will not improve as readers.

Franki Sibberson, a teacher and writer, gives her students a few guiding questions to help them find the time to read during vacation.

  1. When will you have time over vacation to read? Will it be short bursts or long periods of time?
  2. Will you be in the car or on a plane for a long time? What kind of books might you take?
  3. What places will you visit that you might like to read about?
  4. What magazines or quick reads would you like to have on hand for short bursts of reading?
  5. Which relatives might you like to read with? What might you read to/with them?
With a little planning and a couple of 'just right' books to take home all of our students can return from winter vacation more practiced readers!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Summarizing: Getting the Gist

Summarizing is an important skill and one effective readers use all the time. When we summarize, we 'get the gist' of the what we are reading. But summarizing can be a very hard skill to learn and to teach.

Summaries differ from retellings. Unlike retellings that include everything that happens in a story, a summary requires the reader to be selective, to include only the most important information.

When summarizing fiction, ask students to tell just the names of the characters, the setting where the story takes place, the problem facing the characters, the important events that happen to the characters and how the problem is eventually resolved.

Summarizing nonfiction is different. We read nonfiction to learn new things. So when summarizing nonfiction, ask students to tell what new things they learned! Who, what, when, where, why and how? What surprised them? What do they still wonder about?

Whether reading for pleasure or to learn new things, summarizing is a key strategy for students to use to comprehend text.