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Reading is Thinking!

Reading Aloud at the Jackson-Mann ES

eaching comprehension is a critical component of all literacy instruction. Strategies such as teaching students to relate what they read to their own lives or to ask questions about the text, however, arent easily learned by teaching as telling. Students in all grades and content areas benefit greatly when the teacher not only introduces these strategies but also models their use through practices such as reading aloud. We chose to videotape teacher Fran Ahearn at the Jackson-Mann Elementary School because she demonstrates that comprehension strategies can begin to be taught early on. Her second graders show that, with the pairing of direct instruction and modeling within a workshop classroom, they can meet high cognitive challenges and begin to master the use of such strategies. The core teaching practices she uses can be replicated by any teacher.

A Guide to the Video

Whats in the video?

Reading is Thinking!
44 minutes total running time Introduction to learning objectives and lesson planning decisions (0:00 - 3:15) Modeling Thinking through Reading Aloud (3:15 - 21:05) Getting Kids Thinking through Independent Reading and Conferring (21:05 - 35:05)

The purpose of Reading is Thinking! is to illustrate what effective Sharing Thinking (35:05 - 44:00) instruction looks like in a Boston classroom and to stimulate discussion among viewers. In Boston, teams of teachers often watch and discuss these videos with their coach as part of Collaborative Coaching & Learning (CCL), the districts school-based professional Workshop is the instructional approach adopted by the Boston Public Schools for all grades and content areas development model whose goal is collaborative analysis of classroom practice.

Workshop: The Basics


[For more information on CCL, go to] The Boston Plan has also produced a companion video, Interactive Read Aloud, with footage from Ms. Ahearns class. The seven-part training video is designed to be used as professional development for afterschool program staff.

MINI-LESSON (direct teaching): The teacher presents and/or models the days learning objective a fact, concept, strategy, or skill INDEPENDENT WORK: Individually or in small groups, students apply the learning objective to their reading, writing, or other work while the teacher confers with some students about the learning objective SHARE/SUM UP: The teacher sums up the learning objective, and students discuss how they used it in their work

Students have TIME in class to read, write, talk, and think, and teachers have time to observe and confer with students When the independent work, teacher-student conferences, and share are linked to the learning objective, students know what to expect, become more confident of their learning, and develop OWNERSHIP of it

Reading is Thinking! Reading Aloud at the Jackson-Mann ES was produced by the Boston Plan for Excellence in collaboration with the Boston Public Schools. To order videos ($30):

By participating in discussions, students understand that their RESPONSE is valued and that feedback from others is important Time, ownership, and response help create a sense of COMMUNITY: Students feel safe enough to offer an opinion, ask questions, and take risks in their thinking

Instructional Context

s. Ahearn organizes her classroom as a workshop to teach reading, writing, and math, and this lesson was part of an introductory unit, Reading is Thinking, designed and used by the second grade team. The team drew the title from Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6) by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, which they read and studied as part of a CCL cycle the previous year. During this unit, Ms. Ahearn did a series of read alouds to model comprehension strategies readers use. When we videotaped the class in September, students had just begun to take part in conversations about their own thinking.

Tips for Leading a Discussion about the Video

1. Introduce the video and explain whether the group will watch the entire video or parts of it 2. Ask the group to take a few minutes to look over the video guide 3. Suggest they make quick notes as they watch: what they see, what they dont understand, what they want to discuss further 4. Watch the video together 5. Discuss it as a whole group (or ask viewers to talk first in pairs, then as a group) and plan next steps in grade-level or content-area teams

For this lesson, she chose Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola. At the start of the school year, she often selects books that enable students to make connections between their lives and the story. Oliver Button is teased because of his interest in dancing; most students can relate to being teased, she says, so they are more likely to experience the thinking that she will model during the read aloud. The book also features a basic story line, which helps students practice making predictions.

Be aware that:
1. Although not shown, students worked on assignments individually and in small groups during independent work time. 2. The read aloud is in real time. Other components are edited. 3. The lesson was videotaped in September 2003; additional footage is from June 2003.

Background Information
School background
In June 2003, the Jackson-Mann Elementary School enrolled 626 students in kindergarten-grade 5. Enrollment by program

Teacher background
When we videotaped her class in September 2003, Fran Ahearn was beginning her tenth year of teaching, her sixth in Boston. This was her third year using workshop instruction. In school year 2002-2003, she had been part of a grade two teacher team that worked with the schools literacy coach, Clare Hanagan, in several Collaborative Coaching and Learning (CCL) cycles. The team focused on Readers Workshop, including reading aloud to teach comprehension strategies. CCL is the districts site-based professional development in which teachers work in grade-level or content-area teams, with coach guidance, to analyze and practice specific classroom strategies over an intensive eight-week cycle. CCL is designed to promote higher-level, more complex interactions between the teacher and each student. [For more information on CCL, go to]

Regular education, 63% Bilingual education, 11% Special education (mild to moderate), 19% Special education (severe), 8%
Enrollment by race

Asian, 11% Black, 46% Hispanic, 25% White, 18%

Free/reduced-price lunch

Percentage of students who report as qualified, 78%

MCAS performance (Spring 2003) MCAS is the annual state assessment for Massachusetts, administered at selected grades

Class background
This was a second grade, full-inclusion class, with a total of 20 students. Five students had Individualized Education Plans (IEPs); five others came from a first grade Portuguese bilingual class, all of them reading below the grade-level benchmark on the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA). By June, only one student in the class was still below the second grade DRA benchmark; 12 had met it; and seven had surpassed it.

English Language Arts (ELA) Grade 4 passing rate, 82% Mathematics Grade 4 passing rate, 67%
Source: Boston Public Schools

Reading is Thinking! Reading Aloud at Jackson-Mann ES Boston Plan for Excellence

Things to Watch For

Modeling Thinking
Preparing students to be able to use the modeled strategies independently Introducing new vocabulary Deciding where to stop reading (and why) Using the turn and talk technique Choosing specific language that promotes community Strengthening the lesson with charts and visuals Communicating expectations that students can do it

Ms. Ahearns Reflections

It is important for the viewer to understand, Ms. Ahearn emphasizes, that she participated in several CCL cycles to enhance her own understanding of how and why to conduct read alouds. Without the structured inquiry, demonstrations/observations, debriefs, and discussions with colleagues that are part of CCL, she doubts she would have had as much success with this particular strategy. This lesson is part of an early unit in which students are introduced to a range of comprehension strategies, including connecting their own lives to other books theyve read and making predictions. Introducing a new strategy works best if students can gradually take ownership and increase their ability to apply the strategy independently to a variety of texts. Ms. Ahearn adds that the best way to develop methods for helping students take ownership is for teachers to collaborate in grade-level teams.

Independent Reading & Conferring

Facilitating a smooth transition for students from the mini-lesson to independent reading Phrasing questions to elicit student thinking Conferring with students and preparing them to talk about their thinking during share/summing up time

Sharing Thinking
During share/summing up time, linking discussion to the mini-lesson, independent reading, and conference Making decisions about which students will present Concluding the lesson to reinforce learning objectives Creating an atmosphere of serious academic intent

Discussion Questions

Which metacognitive strategies looked most promising to you? Why? Whats the difference between a planned read aloud, as shown here, and a spontaneous, unplanned read aloud? What are the purposes/decisions behind each? Ms. Ahearn says, Meaning is made, not caught, from books. What does this mean to you and for your practice? In what ways are the principles of workshop in evidence here? What evidence and examples do you see and hear of students thinking more deeply? What are the challenges of assessing student thinking through classroom talk? How does Readers Workshop support English language learners? and special needs students? What accommodations need to be made? What should we concentrate on in our own classrooms?

Resources suggested by teachers and coaches

Focus newsletter on workshop instruction for teachers in the Boston Public Schools ( Guided Reading: Good First Teaching for All Children by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension Strategies in a Readers Workshop by Ellin Oliver Keene & Susan Zimmerman On Solid Ground: Strategies for Teaching Reading K-3 by Sharon Taberski Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension Strategies in the Primary Grades by Debbie Miller Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding by Stephanie Harvey & Anne Goudvis

Reading is Thinking! Reading Aloud at Jackson-Mann ES Boston Plan for Excellence

Floor Plan: Fran Ahearns Grade 2 Classroom

Classrooms organized for workshop instruction feature the following: a large common area for students to gather for whole-class instruction (mini-lesson, summing up, share) a means for students to manage their work independently (accessing their writing folders, for example) and get materials they need desks and tables arranged so students can work together comfortable places with chairs and pillows where students can read during independent work time a classroom library with books arrayed appealingly so that students want to leaf through and read them places to display exemplary student work as well as charts that the teacher and students have created together, such as a chart of the characteristics of poetry they have identified in their readings

















Special thanks to BPS coaches Gemina Gianino, Jean Lifford, and Maryann Ouellette for their great advice and many insights. Boston Plan for Excellence 6 Beacon Street, #615 Boston MA 02108 Ph: 617. 227.8055 Fax: 617. 227.8446 E-mail: