Yesterday I noticed that one of my Seniors was not involved in the non-fiction reading that I assigned. One of the reasons that I took notice of her was a pattern of frustration with reading that was developing for the last three weeks ago. She is a very bright and capable young learner who shuts down when given a non-fiction reading that requires any level of advanced reader organization strategies for comprehension.
Although I had already taught the students the “ODD” reading strategy, she was still not engaged in the process of reading. The “ODD” strategy is a composite of many other reading strategies that I have encountered over my fifteen- year-career. The students have to read and mark a minimum of five textual connections, three highlighted ‘bright spots,’ and one question.
Non-fiction literacy skills are the backbone of my Gold Seal Lessons. These lessons were designed with the Rigor/Relevance framework that is espoused by the Successful Practices Network. I quietly sat down with her, and we discussed her level of frustration. I could sense in her tone and body language that she was not just choosing to distance herself from reading but was being mentally blocked from comprehension by some unknown force.
It was then that I noticed the corner of her paper. She was drawing a very intricate pattern and design. Most of her papers had senseless doodles all over them. It was then that I had an idea to turn her into a reading illustrator. If her brain thinks in pictures, then it was time to let her turn her readings into “SenseFull” doodles that carry sequence and meaning. She attacked the article and began illustrating the main idea of each paragraph. My only rule was attaching a number for sequencing purposes.
The type of differentiation explained in most professional development seminars appears to be so complex that it paralyzes the teacher from actual implementation. In the case of this hopeless Senior reader, it was just a matter of determining how her brain organizes the patterns of the world.
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Gregory M. McGough M.Ed. is a Secondary Language Arts Teacher and Successful Practices Network Blogger. He moderates #SPNChat on Twitter every Tuesday night at 6 PM PST.