Great reader, but...

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by MissFroggy, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Mar 28, 2008

    I have a student who is a voracious reader. I had her in 2nd grade as well and she could and would read anything. Now she will hunt down the BIGGEST books she can and read them. Her whole goal is to read as many books as she can. She likes to brag that she read everything in the classroom library- and she almost has.

    But, her responses are always lackluster and during conversations about the read aloud, she never adds any insight. I was discussing a sad book with her and asked if it made her cry, and she was like, "huh?" I said, haven't you read a book that just made you cry? She said no. Her text to self connections are always very blah, like, the character and I are a lot a like because we are both girls and have an annoying sibling. It is all very surfacy... and has not improved at all since she was 7. I reported then that she wasn't thinking critically about her books, and find that this has not improved. She is 9 1/2 now.

    How can I get her to connect deeply with what she reads? Can you teach that? I'm worried she will burn out. She reads at a 7th grade level for both accuracy and comprehension, but she doesn't make the stretch to make any sort of emotional ties to a book. She also is very stoic in general and has a hard time making friends. I think she has a rough family life.
     
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  3. Commartsy

    Commartsy Companion

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    Do you think she might connect to a story with a character that is similar to her in more ways than just being a girl with an annoying sibling? Does she remind you of any character in a book you could recommend?
     
  4. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I'd suggest you not ask her such direct questions as "Does it make you cry?" if she has a personal investment in stoicism. You might ask instead about how the characters are feeling, or ask her to predict what the characters might do in other situations. You might ask how realistic the story is, or ask her to compare it to similar situations in other stories or the news.

    I wouldn't worry about her burning out on reading just based on your not seeing an emotional connection.

    I don't think it's a particularly fair criticism to say she's not reading critically simply because you don't see her display the emotions you expect. It's also not very clear -- as an adult if you told me my child wasn't thinking critically about his reading I would be unlikely to guess that what you meant was he wasn't sympathizing with the characters. If you put this on one of her report cards, she may be bewildered trying to understand what you're getting at.

    I think you can teach emotional expression, but you have to do it gently. Asking "Does this make you cry?" even with the softest demeanor, has a harshness akin to teaching someone to swim by throwing them from the pier into the ocean.

    And to be honest, I question the goal a bit anyway. Reading with depth isn't actually about an emotional exercise, it's an intellectual one. I would have thought it slightly odd to cry when Ginny was killed in Harry Potter -- they're fictional characters. You can't really fault her for not having the same emotions you'd expect her to have.

    Sorry about this somewhat self-contradictory comment -- the problem is I half agree with you that she should express her emotions, half disagree that you should be grading her on it, and half tie it to my own experiences when I was a developing reader. And that's too many halves. :) Hope it helps, though.
     
  5. jw13

    jw13 Groupie

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    Have you thought about giving her a project to tie into the books she chooses. Depending on the book, you could ask questions about how the character is feeling, about choices made in a story, circumstances, etc. I agree that that you can't expect her to have an emotional connection to a story. I am a person, who generally speaking, isn't overly moved by books, yet I enjoy reading immensly. But, what I do get out of books is a sense of empathy, adventure, fantasy, etc. Try to give her a purpose to her reading in order to get her to read for quality, not just quantity. Ask her why she chose a particular book. Then you can fine tune questions for her.
     
  6. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    I'm certainly not grading her on it (we don't give grades at all, actually.) It was just something I observed. I know she is gaining greatly from all the reading she does. I am more curious I guess about her emotional life, as she has never showed much emotion in the 2 years I have had her as a student, whether she is very happy, sad, upset, etc. it really doesn't show. It made me think about her connection to literature and how she responds to it. I would like her to expand her ability to think critically and make connections to a work, as this is something I do try to develop in my students.

    I do see how you can read a great book and read it for pleasure, but not necessarily get wrapped up in the characters. I rarely cry in movies, but often cry at the end of a book...

    I also need to find ways for her to find books that truly capture her imagination. The Warriors series did that but she read the books already.
     
  7. 2ndTimeArnd

    2ndTimeArnd Companion

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    I guess I would question if her comprehension is keeping pace with her decoding ... I have a couple of 2nd graders who can read anything you put in front of them, appear to read way above grade level and score off the charts on DIBELS, but once you get into a discussion with them, it's clear they've missed a lot (although they can usually answer basic plot questions). I wonder if maybe this girl has viewed reading as a sort of competition, to see how much and how fast she can read, without stopping to actually attach a lot of meaning.

    What about some kind of project that requires her to explore a character? A few years ago I had a couple of girls who were into Junie B. Jones (admittedly not my favorite), and I had them make a scrapbook, as if they were Junie. That is, they had to actually make inferences from a couple of Junie B books about what kind of person Junie was, what she might do in certain situations, what she liked, who her friends were, etc., instead of just answering 5W questions about the plot. I had some kind of template that I cobbled together from a Scholastic reading response book, but you could do it without that ... and my girls were 2nd graders, and it sounds like yours is 4th.

    I do think you can teach students how to read between the lines and get more meaning from and attachment to what they're reading, but it takes practice. I think sometimes our emphasis on quantity (my school pushes 100 books for home reading during the year, and from what I've seen, Accelerated Reader tends to encourage quantity with rather superficial comprehension) overtakes the importance of deeper connections to literature. I believe there's a place for both in our encouragement of reading.
     
  8. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I remember the first book that ever captured me - and then many more afterward. But, you know, think of all the adults of this world who never moved beyond the surface of things. It's possible that she never will.
     
  9. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Thanks for all your advice. I do wonder if she is just not the deepest kid. Some people are smart but not intellectual. She is actually my best student in term of quality of presentation and output, but I have other kids who have more complex thoughts and questions... people are different.

    I do really like the scrap book idea. What a fun project. I am going to work on a character report at some point this year... just have to get to it. The scrap book may be a great way to do that!
     
  10. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    When I read I do it as an escape for a while. I do it for enjoyment. I don't think too deeply about a book. I even skim read a lot. That doesn't mean I didn't get anything from the book but rather I didn't sit and stew on it. Some people are better at looking deeper in a book. Others just want the basic story plot. It's kinda like a mystery show. Some people look to figure out what the clues are along the way. Others are content with being told what the clues were that arrived at that final decision during the summary at the end. The viewer might enjoy the show but not view it very critically.

    Having said that, its possible she hasn't been taught to think about books while she is reading them. She either may not want to or she may not know how.

    As you've mentioned, there are different types of thinkers too. Ironically I overanalyze all kinds of things but not my reading. That's my escape. I like the above idea of working with something she is good at to draw it out. The scrapbook sounds great.

    Now the book that captured me was one of Mary Higgins Clark's early books. It had a character with multiple personalities. I had never thought of any of this and it was interesting to see it unfold. I still remember bits about it and what was so strange and almost surreal about the whole thing.
     
  11. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I love that you are observant of your students' emotional as well as intellectual needs and abilities. I was a voracious reader (what am I saying, I still am!!) from the age of 3. It was nothing for me to read 100 books over a summer (loved summer reading clubs!). Then again, my home life was, shall we say, not great, I was (and still am) "fluffy," I was excruciatingly shy, and we moved around A LOT, so books were always my friends. I say all of this to make the point that she may use the books as an escape, but doesn't necessarily understand that that is what she is doing. Does she make text to text connections? Or text to world? It is also possible that she hasn't discovered her own "inner self" yet, isn't it? At any rate, I think it is a fascinating discussion, and I am loving the posts!
     
  12. MsMongoose

    MsMongoose Companion

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    I agree with pwhatley--I think she may be using the books as an escape, and she doesn't WANT to be too emotionally involved in them. There can be intellectual satisfaction from twists and turns of plot, etc., without much emotional involvement. From what you say, reading a lot may also be something she can feel she is "good at".

    (Also, is mild Asperger's spectrum a possibility? I'm not clear where that ends and the personality of many engineering students begins)
     
  13. teacherstudent1

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    It's interesting, because I had the same thought. You mentioned that she does not display much emotion and has some difficulty with social skills. It is possible that she has difficulty connecting with emotions at all. She could be hyperlexic (which some also believe to be part of the same spectrum as PDD/Aspergers/Autism).

    Then again, she could just be a very good reader who is very shy and/or reserved and/or uncomfortable discussing emotional issues. Not every student who is stoic has Aspergers.

    I am curious, though.
    Does she display a dependence on routines and procedures?
    Does she get upset/anxious when there is an unexpected change in routine?
    Does she have difficulty with transitions?
    Does she have difficulty connecting with other students?
    Does she have sensory issues (over- or under-responsive to taste, texture, touch, sound)?
    Is she very concrete in her thinking?
    Does she have difficulty with inferred information, abstract reasoning, or reading others emotions by facial expressions, tone of voice?
    Does she have any obsessions (I guess maybe reading)?
    Does she have any rituals (need to do things in a certain order, or do the same thing the same way or at the same time)?
    Does she have any repetitive movements (tapping/rubbing fingers, etc)

    Again, I'm just curious ...
     
  14. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    The only one I would say yes to are:
    difficulty connecting with other students

    Personally, I think her family life is really a mess. My guess is that books are her escape and she doesn't WANT to get emotional when reading.

    I think she has also taken on the role of being very 'good' because her brother has taken on the role of being very 'bad' and takes a lot of energy and time from the parents. Part of being good may be not letting her emotions go.

    As for being friends with the other kids- she is friends with boys but not girls. The one girl she is friends with was totally manufactured because the parents signed them up for ski lessons together so now they see each other each weekend during ski lessons. Before the ski lessons they were not friends at all. The boy she is mostly friends with is the child of the mom that watches them when her mom is in a class twice a week. So it is all a bit manufactured. She is now friends with the other boys because he is really popular in the class. I'm not sure how well she would connect if it weren't for the parents making arrangements.

    FYI- She does test has having incredible reading ability and comprehension. I was just curious how some involvement emotionally wouldn't be connected with that. I think because I am very involved in books that way, but thank you, because now I see that it is not necessary to read books that way.
     
  15. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Home environment could very well have a big role in it. My niece began reading when she was three, and school and learning became her sanctuary when her mother had a serious breakdown and abandoned her. She was intelligent, to be sure, but there is no doubt that her experiences had a large part of shaping her behavior.

    We all have strengths and weaknesses, be they educational, physical, or social. It is only in school when we expect all children to be good at everything. I don't think my students' parents care if I am good at calculus or if I was was a social butterfly, and I certainly don't care if my mechanic knows biology or can play sports.

    All human behavior is on a spectrum. It is only when a behavior interferes with daily living that it is sometimes seen as a syndrome or disorder, such as Anorexia or OCD.
     
  16. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    **BINGO** You just described my childhood to a tee! Is she the oldest? I actually think there is something to the "birth order syndrome". I still have problems showing my emotions. I rarely cry, only hug children or elderly people -- I'm hugely uncomfortable hugging adults my age-ish. Actually, I tend to try to disappear except for a few specific circumstances. For instance: I am in my church choir (alto). I am fine singing with the choir, in the Praise band, in trios or duets, etc. A couple of weeks ago our choir director decided that I would sing a solo during church (and would not back down). I threw up for two days before I had to sing. I did fine, but that wasn't the point. Luckily, our choir is in a loft at the back of the church, so I wasn't facing anyone!

    Anyway, to make a long post short(er), I think you may be on to something about her being the "good" child.
     
  17. KinderMissN

    KinderMissN Companion

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    If she has a crazy home life, she may not know how to be emotionally involved in things. She may be shut down to emotional experiences based on her own life experience.
     

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