Monday, June 22, 2015

Building Content Area Reading Skills: Nominalizations

This summer, I'm reading The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons at the recommendation of my 16-year-old. While I would never use this with elementary students, reading this book helps me to think about content area reading and the challenges that our students face as they read in the content areas. As I look toward a switch to sixth grade, I'm looking at more sophisticated content area reading selections, and so I want to be ready! 

Content area reading brings some big challenges for readers. Readers have to learn new vocabulary, figure out the style of the writer, and understand new concepts. One aspect of content area reading that I find especially intriguing for readers is the idea of nominalizations. 

Here is an easy example of a nominalization:
Northern water snakes can be brown, gray, or reddish. These differences in coloration can cause confusion among wildlife viewers.

In this sentence, the word coloration refers to the different colors that are possible for the northern water snake. Nominalizations are great for writers. Writers can change a verb into a noun and flexibly refer to a whole range of concepts. This is why we see nominalizations so often in formal, content area text--they are efficient, they are precise, they carry loads of meaning in a little space.

However, nominalizations can be tough for readers, especially when they refer to an abstract concept. Consider this example:

The word "restoration" is important to the text. However, readers may have trouble making the connection between the previous sentence and the meaning of restoration. Instead, they may think that the paragraph beginning with restoration is introducing a new topic. An entire section of the text will be fuzzy for them, which will cause problems for making inferences later in the text! 

Clearly, teaching content area text means that we need to find and teach these tricky words. Here are some ideas to remember.

For further reading:

Bergen, Benjamin, Shane Lindsay, Teenie Matlock, and Srini Narayanan. 2007. “Spatial and Linguistic Aspects of Visual Imagery in Sentence Comprehension.” Cognitive Science  31: 733-764.

Fang, Zhihui, Mary Shleppegrell, and Beverly Cox. 2006. “Understanding the Language Demands of Schooling: Nouns in the Academic Registers.” Journal of Literacy Research  38:3, 247-273.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Close Reading and Textual Analysis

    This week I had the pleasure of talking about close reading and textual analysis with some of my colleagues. It's been a topic that I've been working with all year, as I have helped my fourth graders to analyze texts and create passage-based essays. Here is the presentation if you would like to check it out. 

Close Reading and Textual Analysis

 I've also been working with using short videos in class. I love short videos because they are so engaging for students, and they really help students to sharpen their analysis skills. For this workshop, I created a playlist of some videos that are short, yet offer a great deal of depth and complexity.

Creating the playlist took some time. My family is used to me spending hours watching the best and worst of YouTube's educational offerings as I work on Frolyc activities...and I often call them over to see my favorites! Many of these come from Ads Worth Spreading. It's interesting that these advertisements operate on multiple levels--they are ads, so they are selling something, but they are also well-produced and thoughtful.

Close Watching of a Video

Because I'm moving to sixth grade next year, I decided to take the time to create a start of year activity. I made this textual analysis activity to go along with the video Saroo Brierley: Homeward Bound ad.

Textual analysis gives us so much to talk about! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Making Inferences: Resources for Teaching

"What do you have for making inferences?"

When I read this question, coming just at the end of school, I knew that I needed to create a post to gather together all of the resources that I've made for teaching inferences. And there are quite a few! Over the years, I've found that teaching students how to make inferences is essential for building reading skills. It's fun, too!

I have another reason for wanting to look over my inference resources--I'm moving to sixth grade next year! I'm excited to move down the hallway and see some of my former students again. I'm also excited to look at the resources that I have and think about what I'd like to use with older students.

Making Inferences, Making Meaning Presentation (free)
This presentation is a great place to start. In the slides, I explain different kinds of inferences with examples and teaching tips.

Building Mental Models (free)
This printable is a great tool to use to see how students in grades 2-4 are doing with making inferences. Should Zomack put liquid on the box with the moving pictures? Watch kids carefully as they work on this with a partner--kids who laugh and say "No way!" are visualizing, while kids who struggle may need some more work on this skill.

Visualizing PowerPoint and Activities ($)
With students, I love to start teaching about inferring with visualizing. Think about it--writers never tell every single detail needed to imagine a place. Instead, they rely on the background knowledge of the reader to fill in some of the necessary information to make a visual image.

This resource pack includes teaching tools for teaching about visualizing, as well as stories and activities for independent practice.

Making Inferences with Transitional Readers ($)
This unit includes texts for readers in grades 2 and 3. The texts are easy to decode, but require some level of inferring to figure out what is going on. I've had really great experiences with teaching "The Magic School", a story with embedded questions. These questions help students to see where they should be making inferences.

Making Inferences: Antarctic History (free)
I created this resource to help my students as we learned about Antarctica. This text includes both text-based inferences (like pronoun/antecedent) and more complex reader-based inferences that depend on a reader's background knowledge.

Character Traits and Emotions: Making Inferences ($)
I've loved putting this resource together, and I love teaching it. Making inferences about character traits and emotions is an important skill, made even more so by the current emphasis on complex text and more sophisticated literature. In this resource, you'll find lots of teaching materials that you can use to help students realize that they can make these inferences "online"--while they're reading--and that their understanding of the text will be enriched by these inferences.

Figurative Language PowerPoint and Activities ($)
Interpreting figurative language requires some strong inference skills! This resource includes lots of practice to help readers understand how to interpret figurative language.

Text-Based Inferences and More ($)
This resource pack includes a set of texts which require readers to make specific text-based inferences, as well as some assessments and PowerPoints. Kids have really enjoyed the "Max Mission" spy texts. Similar formatting and storylines across four short texts help students to quickly transfer skills from one text to another.

Blog Posts

Here are some blog posts that I've written over the years.

Making Inferences in Nonfiction
Questions Lead to Inferences: I firmly believe this. If kids aren't making inferences, guiding them to asking questions of text is a great place to start.
Visualizing and the Common Core
Scaffolding the Inference Process: Lots of suggestions for picture books
Inferences with the Inference Chart
Suffixes and Inferences: Surprisingly, they can go together!