Friday, January 25, 2008

What Doesn't Matter

Part of being a successful reader of nonfiction means understanding the important information. This week, we looked at reading from the other side. We looked at the article No Drivers Wanted about robot cars. This is an article about the DARPA Challenge for driverless cars. Students highlighted in pink, all of the information that wasn't important.

Student partners went through the article and looked for trivial details, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and minor facts, opinions, and quotes that didn't help understand the article.

Once the highlighting was completed, student partners were combined to make teams of four. The four students compared each team's work and discussed their decisions.

Scotty D. took over as the teacher next, and students looked at the article with the projector. With Brianne managing the computer, the class as a whole had to agree on what wasn't important. Today, students will use what text that is left as they search for the W's and write a gist statement.

This is how the article looked when they finished. If you look at what is not highlighted, you should be able to see the important details, and get the gist.

Tuesday, October 11—Stanley usually seems to know where he's going. He moves quickly over rocky ground and across puddles. He works hard and he's almost always on the move. Stanley is a robot car.

Last week, 23 teams—including the Stanford University team that built Stanley—gathered in the Mojave Desert in Nevada to compete in a special race known as the Grand Challenge. The race was special because none of the cars had drivers.

Stanley completed the dangerous 150-mile course through the desert in six hours and 53 minutes, earning the Stanford team a $2 million prize from the Department of Defense. Of the 23 teams that competed, only five
actually finished. The others were stumped by mechanical or technological problems.

Sebastian Thrun, the lead robotics engineer for the Stanford team, realizes that driver-free, robot cars like Stanley still seem like something from a science-fiction film. "People by and large don't believe in this stuff," he said. "They've seen too many failures." This year's Grand Challenge was much more successful than last year's, when no vehicle was able to travel more than eight miles.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What Makes Reading Important?

Reading is important for so many reasons. But, what do sixth graders think? And, what do their parents and grandparents think? Although I usually hate homework on the weekend, students have a special assignment for this weekend.

They must answer the following questions:

Why do you believe reading is important?
How do you think reading skills will help you throughout your life?

In addition, they must interview either a parent or grandparent and ask them these questions to find out their opinions about reading.

It will be interesting to hear opinions. I wonder if there will be much difference between students and their parents/grandparents?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Key Words to Reading

Not all words are created equal. Some words carry a heavier weight to the reader who is tuned in to using all possible means for comprehension.

Not to be outdone by 6A, the 6B class came up with the list above and beyond all lists. Partners worked through their Scholastic News for key words that helped the reader know when an important point is about to come. Listed below are words that the discerning reader will use as keys to getting it.

  1. Why- makes you think about a “W” detail; reason

  2. but- opposite; something else is happening

  3. and- tells that there is going to be another example

  4. I think- tells you somebody's opinion; gives an example [I wonder, I thought, I know, I pictured]

  5. because- gives you a reason for something

  6. or- tells something different

  7. said- tells somebody's opinion

  8. who- makes you think about a “W” detail; person

  9. however- something else is happening

  10. about- gives more information

  11. also- tells something is coming

  12. what- makes you think about a “W” detail

  13. show(s)- tells you more detail

  14. when- makes you think about a “W” details; time

  15. If..., then- shows a relationship

  16. Each/ for example- - elaborates or tells more information

  17. where- makes you think about a “W” detail; place

  18. results in- causes, effect, finished product

  19. point is- main idea, gist

  20. difference- something else

GREAT JOB to both classes for their hard work and outstanding effort!

A special shout out to Haley and Baylie for their outstanding finds (they even outdid the combination of Mrs. Bowers and me).

Discussion for tomorrow--check your grammar and spelling before commenting (See yesterday's Blog comments).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Get a Clue Without Words

Nothing replaces reading to get the meaning, but there are a lot of other clues if you know where to search. Using Scholastic News, we focused on some of the ways a reader can figure out the gist of an article.

Here are our NOTES for today.

Clues to Get the Gist

Use everything other than words to get the gist. Look at the title, sub-titles, headings, fonts, pictures, captions, etc.

The 6A Language Arts class worked first as partners, and then as a class and compiled this list of non-word ways to understand as article.

  1. Title—gives an idea of the article’s topic

  2. Font—different font like bold print means word or idea is important

  3. Pictures—visualize the information

  4. Captions—help understand the picture

  5. Colored sections—important information/ makes you want to read them

  6. Subtitles—provide details to go with the title

  7. Headings—tells what the section is about

  8. Timeline—gives dates events happened

  9. Inserts—extra information that is not necessarily part of the story

  10. Graphs—shows data/statistics

  11. Questions—makes you think about main points

List compiled by 6A

Friday, January 11, 2008

Learning to Read, con'd

What is important? What should we highlight? What are the W's? The students worked hard to drag the meaning out of an article, and here is what it looked like when we finished. We used the DLP projector with a student leading the discussion, and a student operator on the computer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reading or You're Not a Little Kid Anymore

Learning to read is the main focus throughout elementary school. However, the style of reading must change as students enter Jr. High School and above. By sixth grade, figuring out all of the words is a small part of the reading process. Students must learn to decipher meaning, especially in difficult text. Reading for the Gist, understanding the W's (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and comprehending important details becomes the focus.

Although comprehension strategies are taught in the primary grades, the techniques should change as students enter the intermediate grades. That is our objective currently in language arts class.

Our notes from yesterday illustrate our focus:

01/07/08 NOTES Reading Nonfiction 1

2.Read & Highlight
3.List W’s
4.List facts
5.Write a topic sentence/Gist Statement

Basically we are breaking down nonfiction articles trying to glean the most important facts and information. One particularly difficult sentence from an article in Science News Online took almost one half hour just to figure out. The sentence is written with a complex style, and uses vocabulary that was unfamiliar to many sixth grade readers. These three copies of the sentence show the process we went through to break it down and make it easier to read.

"The team has withheld from its article critical code-breaking details that could abet would-be hackers."

The team has withheld from its article critical code-breaking details that could help would-be hackers.

The team withheld details that could help hackers.

Our goal is to break down the meaning to the simplest terms, to make reading and understanding easy. This takes an immense amount of hard work and brain power. Students have been giving a great amount of effort as they are learning new reading skills.

Topics of discussion include:

Learning to Read
You Don't Have to Get it All
What Did the Writer Feel/Think as he Wrote
Reading Rate
How the W's Guide Thoughts
Predict and Revise