Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Read It, But I Don't Get It - Cris Tovani

Summary: I Read It, but I Don't Get It is a practical, engaging account of how teachers can help adolescents develop new reading comprehension skills. Cris Tovani is an accomplished teacher and staff developer who writes with verve and humor about the challenges of working with students at all levels of achievement--from those who have mastered the art of fake reading to college-bound juniors and seniors who struggle with the different demands of content-area textbooks and novels.

Enter Cris' classroom, a place where students are continually learning new strategies for tackling difficult text. You will be taken step-by-step through practical, theory-based reading instruction that can be adapted for use in any subject area. The book features:

  • anecdotes in each chapter about real kids with real universal problems. You will identify with these adolescents and will see how these problems can be solved;
  • a thoughtful explanation of current theories of comprehension instruction and how they might be adapted for use with adolescents;
  • a What Works section in each of the last seven chapters that offers simple ideas you can immediately employ in your classroom. The suggestions can be used in a variety of content areas and grade levels(6-12);
  • teaching tips and ideas that benefit struggling readers as well as proficient and advanced readers;
  • appendixes with reproducible materials that you can use in your classroom, including coding sheets, double entry diaries, and comprehension constructors.

In a time when students need increasingly sophisticated reading skills, this book will provide support for teachers who want to incorporate comprehension instruction into their daily lesson plans without sacrificing content knowledge.

My Review: Are students that make it to middle and high school as struggling readers beyond hope? Tovani says no. As a teacher of middle school Language Arts, I see and deal with the issue of comprehension everyday. Across the spectrum of students, a large number struggle with inferring main ideas not explicitly stated. Even more struggle discerning meanings of words in context, especially if the student has never heard or seen the word before. Thankfully, unlike many educational books, this text gives strategies and not just theories.

Teaching students to connect to what they're reading and just how to infer information based on what they read can be difficult to say the least. Many just jump to conclusions not at all related to what they read, or base their entire conclusion on personal opinion. This book gives actual tools and prompts for the teacher to use in facilitating this type of higher level thinking all connected to reading comprehension strategies. From my personal experience I caution the important to teach these strategies in connection with content that's relevant and interesting.

Good readers do many of the strategies she speaks of instinctively. Teachers, as good readers, often forget how reading text that is just above their comfort level can be very demanding and at times seem beyond what the reader can handle. Tovani reminds her reader that for many middle and high school students their experience reading your subject matter would be like reading a legal document for the adult--difficult, frustrating, but necessary because it's expected of her. We as teachers, parents and mentor adults also are included in this statement, need to show students how to make meaning of difficult text. What are those strategies you use to get un-stuck? Tovani makes teaching those strategies realistic and gives real life examples of how she has done it.

If you teach reading to middle or high school students, regardless of their ability and skill level, this book is very helpful. If you are a parent who has a struggling reader, don't know how to teach what came so naturally to you with comprehension, this book could also be for you.

By the way, this book is reader friendly. I read it in two days.

Rating: 5 stars

In a phrase: A resource for any teacher or adult teaching students with comprehension difficulties, regardless of subject matter.

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