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Be a Model: Show Students New Ways of Reading

By Gravity Goldberg
 | Dec 15, 2015

shutterstock_183791180_x300I love a good cooking show. The host finds ways to bring me into the kitchen and make something that seemed so daunting when reading the recipe now seem within reach. When I teach my students a new or complicated way of reading, I think of myself like the host of my own show—only I am not taking them into my kitchen, I am taking them into my reading mind and into my book. When I show students what I am reading and how I go about reading, I am acting as a model.

Think about your favorite cooking show or take a few minutes to watch a clip online. You will notice the steps the host is taking when modeling how to make a dish. These steps are like what effective reading teachers take when teaching students—they don’t just give the “recipe,” they show the process. The three steps I notice are actions we can all take on no matter what grade or skill we are teaching.

The first action is to set the context for students by explaining what you are about to model. When I begin modeling before telling students what I hope they will see and notice, they tend to focus on aspects of the modeling that are not always important. For example, if I don’t say, “I am going to show you how I…” before modeling, some students explain they paid attention to the color of the character’s shirt or the small fact at the bottom of the page. By my setting up the modeling, they know what is worth paying attention to.

The second action is to show the steps by demonstrating each one and thinking aloud as I perform them. Showing the steps seems obvious, but just telling the steps is much easier and we forget to show them. I often see teachers begin by showing the first part of a strategy, and by the midway point they are no longer showing and just telling instead. I think many of us do this because it can sound awkward to think aloud in front of students; it sounds like we are talking to ourselves. I keep my cooking show analogy in mind when demonstrating the steps and remind myself that students need to see my steps just like I need to see the cooking show host cook in front of me.

The third action is for students to summarize what was modeled by naming what I just showed. I know I told students what they would be seeing and then I showed them. Telling them again what they just saw can feel redundant, but many students benefit from the repetition. I think of it like this: The setup is the future tense (“I will show you how I...”), the demonstration is the present tense (“Hm. I wonder why the…”) and the summary is the past tense (“You noticed that I just did…”). By modeling and explaining as you demonstrate, students experience the learning in a few ways by listening, observing, and noticing.

Want to refine your ability to be a model? Go watch a cooking show and notice these same three actions. In the final post of this series, I will explain how to coach readers as a mentor when they are trying new strategies in their own books.

Gravity Goldberg headshot-2Gravity Goldberg is a literacy consultant and author of Mindsets and Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge(Corwin, 2015) and coauthor of Conferring With Readers: Supporting Each Student’s Growth and Independence(Heinemann, 2007) in addition to managing her blog. This post is one in a series on how teachers can create more independence in the classroom by embracing new roles. She also can be reached via Twitter

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