Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The importance of teaching genre: I don't understand basketball...

I don't know how to watch basketball. I stare at the screen, watching sweaty men run back and forth. They dodge and leap, pass and receive, their shoes squeaking on the floor and the buzzer sounding, "AAAAAAAAAAAA!" 
And I don't get it. 
I mean, I get the basic idea. Two teams in different colored uniforms, ball in hoop = points. But I watch it and my eyes don't move right. They bounce from one player after the other, trying to locate the ball. They skip across half the court searching and once I find the ball, that player passes it to someone else and I've lost it again. 
Someone once told me it's because I don't know what to look for. "Don't follow the ball," he told me. "Notice the movement of the two different teams. Watch the collective team by looking at the movement of the colors in the uniforms. Don't focus on the ball. You can't keep up."
This helped (the one time I practiced it) but I didn't practice it much. 
I didn't practice it because it's hard to watch and I didn't want to. Baseball, however, is comprehensible to me. I'd rather watch baseball.
This understanding helps me when I think about reading instruction. Studies show that kids read everything like fiction unless we provide specific genre-based instruction. They look for a character and a story in all texts, unless we coach them in what to look for. That was the rationale for this anchor chart.

To create the chart, we wanted to pass out a variety of texts that are either fiction, poetry, or expository. We have previously taught the genres of fiction and poetry, but expository text is something new for our kids (as a genre of reading). Students will identify the genre of each text and then use it to review the characteristics of fiction and poetry. The teacher will create a chart from the students' background knowledge.

After the first two columns are complete, the teacher will directly introduce the purpose and characteristics of expository texts.

The idea behind this is the same as helping me learn how to watch basketball - it helps kids know what to look for in a text. If I pick up a text and say, "This is fiction. I'm going to look for a main character who has a problem and solves it," that gives me some mental velcro to stick the important pieces of the story to. 

If I pick up an informational text and say, "This is expository text. I'm going to read to be informed about a topic. I'll look for main ideas of each section to find out what's important," I will be prepared to read that text and pull out what's important.

It's all about making meaning!

And kids who make meaning of text are more likely to read something. Which is why I hate basketball.
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