Here’s a brand new reading video we love… and that tells us a lot about the challenges of reading comprehension.
It’s from a lesson on The Giver. Eric Snider of Achievement First Bushwick Middle School is the teacher.
Before he taught the lesson Eric read through the text and ‘anticipated error,’ asking himself what students might misunderstand. He looked for little things that might lead to big things and locked in on a passage that includes a strange but critical moment when the Giver describes how in the past, the Community eliminated snow because it was inconvenient. That the society they live in has the capacity to change the natural world is revealed indirectly–a hard-to-conceive-of idea buried in a piece of dialogue within a syntactically complex passage. And if you don’t get it, none of the passage makes sense. It’s a case for some Close Reading. As you can see from the video, meaning hinges on a single pronoun reference: what is “it” in this sentence.
We see this time and again. Teachers ask students ‘big idea’ questions that they cannot answer not because they don’t understand the big idea but because they didn’t understand the small moments that built up to it.
[Also probably because there are background knowledge gaps, specifically in terms of vocabulary; and because decoding and fluency are weak, as they are here. That’s one more reason for lots of Control the Game].
There’s a bunch of other neat stuff in the video–would you expect anything else from Eric Snider? So I’ll point out a few highlights
Wait Time. Wow. Look at Eric give his students time to think about what it means. It is not a race to raise your hands in his classroom. The incentive is to think it through. This builds Ratio
And Eric is thinking about “hands as data”: the paucity of them tells him something is amiss so he gives students an observable task that allows him to assess quickly via observation.
Eric builds a culture of error. “We don’t have it so you know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna read and figure it out,” he says calmly. As a student struggles to decode obsolete he says: “Way to stay with it big guy.” Reading aloud is also data and it helps him when they do it without fear or defensiveness.
After Eric ‘establishes meaning,’ he zooms out to the big picture so as not to get bogged down too much in the mundane. He asks, “Is that all it got rid of?” and then, after the video ends, “What does that tell us about the society?”