Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Literacy Lesson: Chato y su cena (Visualization & Metacognition)

Gary Soto is one of my favorite authors of children's books and short stories for grown-ups.  His writing is funny and relevant and beautiful...even when writing about cats! 
Chato y Su Cena (Spanish Edition)

If you are a second, third, fourth grade teacher, you really must share a read-aloud of Chato y su cena with your students.  It is a perfect book for practicing the strategy of visualization.  As I mentioned last week, visualization is so crucial to developing strategic AND avid readers. 

I love Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis's book Strategies That Work and I have found so effective their method of zooming in on text and modeling a think aloud with a specific strategy and then allowing the students to practice the method on a structured handout or with sticky notes. 

I did this lesson as a demonstration for a third grade bilingual classroom.  It was my first time working with these students and, according to their teacher, the first time for them to do an activity like this.  As I read the book aloud, I stopped at the really juicy (perfect moments for visualization) parts and did a think-aloud about what I was visualizing.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic but we discussed how they are still just one person's interpretation of the text.  We compared and contrasted our own visualization with the book's illustrations just like you might compare and contrast a book with its movie version (I just did this last Saturday night at my book club with The Hunger Games!). 

I used the handout below to gradually release responsibility for visualization over to the students.  They pretty much copied my illustration with the first text example.  With the second one, they discussed and drew with a partner while I walked around.  The final example was on their own and I was totally hands-off to see what they could truly do by themselves.     

Before seeing Harvey and Goudvis demonstrate some of their strategies, I would have just ended my lesson there.  However, several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear them in person and see one of their videos.  I realized that I had only been doing part of the lesson.  The crux of the lesson comes when you ask the students how this strategy will help them to be better readers. 

I admit that I was skeptical about trying this with students that I didn't know and because I was modeling it in front of a group of teachers sitting at the back of the room.  But, I forged ahead and, after the students had shared their final mental images, I asked them to flip their papers over and write about how they thought this strategy could help them be better readers.

I was AMAZED by how well these third graders were able to articulate their own metacognition.  A few of them wrote and wrote like they had just been waiting for me to ask. 

Ever since, I try to leave 2-3 minutes at the end of any lesson (reading, math, science, etc.) to allow for that thinking about WHY and HOW.  Sometimes I forget and sometimes we're already late for P.E.  But, when I do take the time to allow for that processing, I always see a return on the investment later in the day or week as the students show evidence of having really internalized the learning.

If you would like to try out a visualization mini-lesson with Chato y su cena, you can download this handout for free here.  I would love to hear how it goes so please come back and share!  Just don't forget to use the backside of the paper for some reflection!

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