I Read It But I Don’t Get It
What great insights Cris gives to the process of teaching reading comprehension in her book. In my experience, most “reading programs” and teachers tend to emphasize the products of comprehension and neglect its processes. I know, because I too was guilty of this to some extent in my beginning years as an elementary school teacher.
What I have gleaned from my experience with teaching reading strategies to students is that there are two sets of processing skills that are paramount to teach students to read. The first deals with monitoring skills and the second involves using clues in the text to generate, evaluate, and revise hypotheses about the past, current, and future events in the text. Moreover, these two processes involve a number of comprehension skills, which Cris covers, such as questioning the text, making inferences, and making connections. In addition, these skills can be difficult concepts to teach 5th-graders, the grade level I teach because they are just beginning to read for information and not just for fluency.
In summary, I highly recommend all new teachers read this book, “I Read It But I Don’t Get It.” In addition, would also encourage parents, with small children just learning to read, to get a copy and read it… it will make a significant difference in assisting your child to become an expert reader.
My ten favorite quotes from I Read It, But I Don’t Get It by Chris Tovani, (2001) are:
Quotes cited from “I Read It, But I Don’t Get It” follow this format: (Page Number).
1. … kids of any age and background who are treated with respect, trusted to be brilliant and shown how to be more proficient readers and writers, will dramatically surpass our highest expectations. (ix)
Comment: My students prove this statement true to me every year without fail… I need to quit worrying about those “damned” standardized tests so much and just teach them how to become self-directed learners.
All Teachers Are Teachers of Reading
2. I once heard a middle school language arts teacher complain that she was sick and tired of trying to teach kids how to read. She hated the cliché that all teachers are teachers of reading. (7)
Comment: This is the one quote from the book that caused a paradigm shift in the way I view myself as a teacher. As Cris points out numerous times, throughout this book, it is the responsibility of all teachers to teach kids how to read at all grade levels and in all subjects. Teachers frequently make assumptions about what students know or should already know, and more often than not, students don’t know; especially when it comes to reading skill-sets and reading comprehension.
Resistive Readers and Word Callers
3. The two types of struggling readers most often encountered in secondary schools are resistive readers and word callers. Resistive readers can read but choose not to. Word callers can decode the words but don’t understand or remember what they’ve read. Many resistive readers survive by listening to the teacher and copying the work of others. Word callers have mastered decoding and, as a bonus, also choose to read. However, they don’t understand that reading involves thinking. They go through the motions of reading but assume all they have to do is pronounce words. (14, 15)
Comment: I was a little in both camps over the course of my formative school years sorry to now realize.
4. Often parents will say to me, “My child is a good reader. He just has trouble with comprehension.” What do these parents think reading is? It startles me when people define a child’s reading level by his or her ability to decode words. Reading must be about thinking and constructing meaning. It’s much more than pronouncing words. (17)
Comment: Too many people believe that reading involves fluency (how well one reads the words) but, it is the comprehension of those words and their intended meaning by the author that is the key to being a good reader. I am understanding this truism more fully as I practice my reading skills!
5. Seven strategies used by successful readers of all ages are:
- They use existing knowledge to make sense of new information.
- They ask questions about the text before, during, and after reading.
- They draw inferences.
- They monitor their comprehension.
- They use “fix-up” strategies when meaning breaks down.
- They determine what is important.
- They synthesize information to create new thinking. (17)
Comment: I wonder why I was never taught these reading strategies, as a skill-set, by any of my former teachers; all the way through college?
6. Examine your current teaching methods and avoid pressures to cover content. Try to sidestep the temptation to feed your students’ information. Don’t reduce the opportunities your students have to read because they are having difficulty. Teach them the strategies that will help them read the assigned material, and assign interesting, accessible text. Be confident that, yes, you do know something about teaching reading. The very fact that you can read makes you something of an expert. (21)
Comment: That is the balancing act… trying to cover the material the state requires and test students on at the end of the year and trying to teach students skills to assist them in becoming problem solvers, lovers of learning, and self-directed learners.
7. A reader’s purpose affects everything about reading. It determines what’s important in the text, what is remembered, and what comprehension strategy a reader uses to enhance meaning. (24)
Comment: I have always given my students a purpose for reading. However, I now realize that I need to provide more explicit instruction in helping them to apply the strategies and skills to achieve that purpose.
Types of Reading Voices
8. Readers have two types of voices in their head as they read. One is them reciting the text. The other has a conversation with the text, in a sense talking back to the words on the page. (38)
Comment: Even though I find myself asking questions as I read, I have never really thought about it in this light.
9. Comprehension is messy. There is no clear-cut path that the brain takes when making sense. There are many roads the mind can travel as it burrows through layer after layer of meaning. (108)
Comment: Education is a messy business, and real learning takes time, patience, and intense effort from both the learner and the teacher.
10. Debates about literacy instruction rage on. The battles for greater student scholarship must be fought in classrooms and can only be won by teachers, administrators, and parents who understand the complexities of reading. (111)
Comment: The debates about literacy instruction may “rage on”! However, the seven strategies enumerated in the fifth quote above will always be in the repertoire of expert readers.