One of my favorite parts about reading is the way that readers constantly go back and forth between the micro and the macro. At the micro level, readers think about words and ideas; at the macro level, readers think about the overall structure of the text and the main ideas.
In the past few weeks we have been working on the micro level idea of using different transitions to connect sentences. This is so hard for fourth graders! Over five weeks, however, I have seen progress. Students are using "but" and "so" confidently, and are experimenting with more sophisticated transitions like "although" and "despite". Their experiments are not always successful, but they are becoming more aware of these words and the ideas they convey.
At the macro level, we have been looking at text structure. We started with chronological order, and now we have moved on to cause and effect. But even when looking at the big idea in a text we still have to consider the smaller ideas in the individual sentences, and notice how some individual sentences carry big ideas. With this cause and effect text, students used specialized annotations to look for the sentences that show cause and effect relationships. These annotations brought up some bigger questions about the structure of cause and effect--why is it often in chronological order? How can we tell that something truly causes an event?
This ability to talk about the micro and macro confidently emerges late in the fourth grade year. And so while I enjoy our new conversations and rich discussions, I do feel a twinge of sadness that I will soon be sending these readers on.