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5 Questions With… Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace

by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace
 | Aug 02, 2013
Nicki Clausen-Grace is a teacher, author, consultant and staff developer from Oviedo, Florida, USA. She currently teaches fourth-grade at Carillon Elementary school. She is the coauthor of three books for teachers with Michelle, the author of over fifty articles on families and education, and six nonfiction books for kids. She is the mother of two children (ages 13 and 21), one cat, and one dog. She enjoys biking, boating, spending time outside with family and reading

Michelle Kelley is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida. She is also an author, consultant, staff developer and mother. She lives in Oviedo, Florida with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. She is the coauthor of three books, with Nicki, for teachers.

The second edition of COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT has just been released. What new approaches, ideas, and materials can readers look forward to?

For this edition we addressed issues and concerns facing today’s teachers. We have learned a lot from years of implementing the Metacognitive Teaching Framework and we’ve updated our original text to reflect this as well. Some of the biggest changes include Common Core alignments for all activities and structures, scales and rubrics for many activities and topics, a more complete infusion of available classroom technology, and suggestions for center activities. In addition to many of the activities in the first edition, we have lots of new lessons and thinksheets in each chapter. One of the most exciting changes is that all blackline masters are now available on the CD. Additionally, in each chapter we have included reflective prompts for personal learning and professional development activities.

You stress the importance of teaching students to use metacognitive strategies. What is the connection between these strategies and fostering motivated independent readers?

It makes sense that if you don’t fully comprehend what you are reading, the text won’t hold your attention for long. This leads to disengaged readers who don’t choose to read, even when they have to. On the other hand, if students are able to immerse themselves in a text by seamlessly using metacognitive strategies such as predicting and visualizing, it will be difficult to get them to stop reading.

The second edition is paired with a companion CD. What were you able to include by offering digital resources in addition to what’s in the book?

The CD is one of the things we are most excited about! Imagine being able to print tally sheets, status of the class forms or various thinksheets right from your desktop. The ability to display these items on an interactive whiteboard makes it easier to model and demonstrate.

One of the goals of this book is to help teachers nurture meaningful talk about reading. What barriers keep students on the surface without diving deeper into texts?

A perceived lack of time sometimes causes teachers to race through curriculum rather than slowing down and allowing kids time to process. Sometimes this is due to unrealistic pacing guides or the perception that every class should be reading the same text at the same time. It takes time to dig deeper into texts and to have meaningful discussions about them, but it is time well-spent. Another issue is that some students struggle with appropriate vocabulary for discussing literature and reading strategies. Additionally, kids are not accustomed to academic talk. What our book does well is helps teachers develop both the language and structures that make talking about books a natural and daily occurrence. These conversations permeate the day and become more and more meaningful as the school year progresses.

In the first chapter of COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT you explain that you quickly observed that students were unsuccessful in self-assessing their use of reading strategies. Why is this and how can teachers nurture successful self-assessment?

A lot of basal reading programs focus on students reading a text then answering questions from the Teacher’s Edition. Usually these questions are designed to provide opportunities for students to predict, question, visualize, connect or summarize. Unfortunately, the focus is on having students answer the questions correctly, rather than improving students’ awareness and use of metacognitive strategies. They often come to us with little understanding of the reading processes and skills they should be working to improve. When we ask them what they would like to get better at in reading, they usually reply to read faster, sound out words better, or read with expression. While these can be important skills to work on, they should not be the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the reading curriculum.

It is very difficult to improve at something if you aren’t even aware you should be doing it. Additionally, kids are not used to the self-assessment process. They need to be guided through the process. Our book shows teachers how to implement meaningful goal-setting. Teaching kids to self-assess begins with modeling through think-aloud, practice through guided lessons, peer work and various forms of independent reading, including R5: Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond and Rap.


© 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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