Over the summer of 2018, I took the first step to a great journey...I made the decision to transfer to Concord High School (CHS) after working six years at Irvin Elementary school. The decision was based on a burning desired within me to support students who are facing the same struggles I faced as a high school newcomer student and language learner. Read more about my personal experience as a newcomer here!
I got our classroom ready with so much excitement! However, I was more excited to meet my new students. I had already met a few of them during our ESL summer enrichment program, so I was thrilled to meet the rest of my students.
During the summer of 2017, Refugee book by Alan Gratz was released. There was a huge buzz about this awesome book that I decided to get it. I even ordered several copies and shared with colleagues so we could all read it together. However, I had to stop reading it and put it away. I didn't stop reading it because I didn't like it; I stopped reading it because I found myself disoriented while reading it.
You see, I am an English Learner (EL). English is my second language. As matter of fact, I've only had 3 years of high school and my college education here in the USA. Read here if you want to learn more.
Even though I was compelled and excited to read this story, I found myself struggling to make sense of what was happening. I was getting frustrated. I was getting caught in small details, I couldn't remember the most important events, I was forgetting what I had just read and was unable to make connections between events. I TRIED! I KEPT READING! But I felt like I was wasting my time. So I gave up and put the book away.
All year went by and I kept seeing posts about how awesome this book was and how everyone should be reading it. I felt bad and kind of embarrassed that I had not been able to read this wonderful book. However, reading 'Más Allá del Invierno' by Isabel Allende, entirely en Español, was super easy and refreshing to my mind.
So, why did I have trouble reading Refugee, you might ask? Well, allow me to shed some light on the book's NARRATIVE STRUCTURE (text structure is the overall organization of the text).
The novel alternates among three narratives that explore the lives of refugees in different decades and parts of the world.
The book is beautifully written, and its narrative structure is brilliantly constructed...but, it threw me off and confused me as an English language learner.
Isn't comprehension the purpose of reading? If so, if you can't read it, you can't comprehend it! Comprehension is the process of extracting or constructing MEANING!!
Giving Refugee Book a Second Chance
The #ELLchat_BkClub voted on reading Refugee over the summer of 2018. As matter of fact, I also voted on this book because I was still intrigued by everything I've heard about the story and I really wanted to read it.
Guess what?!? I read it ALL in just 4 weeks!
However, the only reason I was successful in completing the book was that I had support.
You see, participating in a book club not only provided the accountability for my reading but also facilitated weekly discussions with other participants reading the same story.
Dr. Katie Toppel, the book club moderator, provided weekly questions based on a given number of pages read, and that in itself, gave me the purpose for reading I needed to pause and reflect on what I had read.
I was not just reading the words! I was making sense of the information and ideas. I was constructing meaning, and also retaining information. So this experience led me thinking about my ELs and thought about gathering some resources about this topic.
Why Teach Fiction/Narrative Text Structures?
The question should be, 'why wouldn't you teach narrative structures?'. If you want students to make sense of the text and build on ideas to construct meaning and to retain the information they're reading, then you MUST intentionally teach its structure.
Students NEED a purpose for reading! The purpose of reading is COMPREHENSION.
Again, if students are finding themselves disoriented while reading a narrative, they WILL NOT comprehend, construct meaning, and/or retain information.
How to Teach Text Structures
ELs, and all students in general, NEED explicit text structure lessons; they need tools to support them as they move throughout their reading whether is non-fiction or narrative text.
I find this blog post on Cultofpedagogy.com by Jennifer Gonzalez loaded with resources on ways to teach text structures for non-fiction text.
This "20 Strategies to Teach Text" is fabulous. It actually gives a great perspective as to why and how to teach text structures.
Some key elements our students need to focus on while reading narratives are:
Here's an excellent list of printable graphic organizers provided by Fountas and Pinnell.
The most important strategy we can teach our students is to PAUSE AND DISCUSS the text!
MODEL, MODEL, MODEL how to think aloud while reading! Here's a great video that teaches how to model thinking aloud to increase comprehension.
This "Think Aloud Checklist" is a great resource our students can have with them as they read and think about their reading.
Introducing Fiction Text Structure with STORY looks like a fun way to teach this topic! Click here for more.
S – SETTING
T – TALKING CHARACTERS
O – OOPS! A PROBLEM!
R – ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM
Y – YES, THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED!
In conclusion, the method you choose to teach your students 'Narrative Text Structure' doesn't really matter. What matters is to make sure students know how to navigate through challenging text formats to comprehend stories. Having the tools described above will increase reading speed, help retain content, and support with connections with incoming new information.
I would love to know if you use any of these resources or if you have any others I need to learn about. Please share comments below!
Happy reading and thanks for reading my post!
Do you know the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme? I'm sure you do! But, just in case you don't, this is how it goes:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.
Interestingly, 2,500 people were asked to name their favorite nursery rhyme, and at no surprise, Humpty Dumpty is among the top 10 all-time nursery rhymes.
However, this nursery rhyme only highlights Humpty's great fall and creates a sense of pettiness toward him because no one was able to fix him.
My perspective on Humpty changed forever after reading After The Fall by Dan Santat. If you haven't read this book, go get it right now! This fantastic picture book is Humpty's story AFTER the fall...because he GOT UP again. His story is by far the most inspirational story I've ever read in children's fictional books. I was very emotional after reading it and I learned so much from it.
Six Lessons I Learned from Humpty Dumpty...After the Fall
1. Embrace Failure
The first lesson we can learn from Humpty is to embrace failure. He understands that everyone knows about him because of his "great fall". However, he doesn't define himself based on our perspective of him, but on what he believes of himself. He sees "the great fall" as an accident...and as an opportunity that changed his life. Can you say growth mindset?!?
"There were some parts that couldn't be healed with bandages and glue."
FEAR - the feeling Humpty had to embrace after the fall - and he embraced it like a hero. He began taking small steps in order to face his biggest obstacle...heights!
2. Know Your Purpose
Humpty had a very clear picture of what his purpose was and who he was meant to be. He made sure he was always surrounded by what he was passionate about. His room décor shows what was in his heart and mind. And even though he knew that height was his weakness, he also understood that it was the very thing that was keeping him away from what he loved most - being where he belonged!
Humpty walked by the wall every day! It was a daily reminder of his failure. But he wanted to be as close as possible to where he knew he was supposed to be. And every day he would think about climbing...perhaps planning his next steps...perhaps, thinking about what he would do once he gets back up where he belongs.
3. Enjoy the Moment
He never gave up. Not even while all he had was walking by the wall and watching the birds fly up high.
He settled on what he was able to do at the moment. He enjoyed the moment and made the best out of it. He actually thought, "it was better than nothing." As a matter fact, thinking about his future ignited in him an idea to get closer to his goal.
You see, Humpty had his eyes fixed on his passion and goal. For him, it was fine to just do what he was capable of doing based on his abilities. Meanwhile, he was learning. Meanwhile, he was active. So this got me thinking, are my eyes fixed on my goals? Am I being active developing my skills to be who I am meant to be? Am I enjoying the moment and am I being faithful in the little bit I am asked to do right now?
4. Set Small Goals
Humpty thought of a way of getting just a little closer to his goal. He started making paper airplanes so at least that part of him would make it to the top of the wall. As small as this small step might seem, he had to work day after day - try after try - until he was happy with this project.
You see, having the motivation isn't enough to reach our goals. If we learn anything from Humpty, is the determination to complete small goals. He knew that what he was working on will one day pay off in his favor.
Humpty didn't let cuts and scratches impede with daily work. He was determined to take it one step at a time.
Applying this to our lives...what are we allowing to discourage us from achieving our small goals? What excuses do we have to stop developing the skills needed to function where we belong?
Don't forget that goals without actions become just a wish!
5. Celebrate Small Accomplishments
Accomplishing a small goal made Humpty happy. In fact, it gave him back the happiness he hadn't felt for a long time. Why? Simply because he understood the power of small goals. He celebrated the fact that he believed in himself. He knew what he was capable of. He knew it was close enough to his ultimate goal.
It is so important for us to realize that it is OK to feel scared when drafting small goals. In fact, this is a good kind of fear! A fear of the unknown. However, it is exciting to know that reaching our goals will without a doubt give us a sense of accomplishment and a level of self-confidence that only we can give ourselves!
Make sure to share your accomplishments with your loved ones. Use social media to share your accomplishments. Let your friends and family celebrate with you when you reach a goal. It's not about bragging...it's about the opportunity to inspire those who might need a little encouragement.
All progress is found outside your comfort zone. If you aren't uncomfortable, you are not growing. - Dave Burgess
Once again - Humpty is face-to-face with FEAR! The opportunity came for him to finally climb the wall and be where he belonged. He knew he had to climb that wall but he wasn't just afraid, he was TERRIFIED! At this very moment he has two choices: Walk away or step into an uncomfortable situation to finally be who he was meant to be.
Humpty stepped forward!
What made him stay and encouraged him, you might ask? Well, he started thinking about how hard he had worked to accomplish his small goals. He made a choice because he was empowered by his small goals and the sense of accomplishment he celebrated before.
"I didn't look up.
He didn't have to see the whole staircase - All he had to do was to take the first step! Halfway up he realized he was no longer afraid!
What a powerful lesson we learn from Humpty; Progress is found outside our comfort zone, and it is through our uncomfortableness that we grow and develop the skills we need to be efficient where we belong.
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. - Henry David Thoreau
Making it to the top - where he always belonged, is where he became what he was meant to be!
He made it so you and I can have a different perspective on him. He made it so that he can inspire us to reach our goals and celebrate where we belong. He made it so we can change our expectations of failures and those who fail.
Humpty's grit and determinations are admirable! Let him be a hero to you and your students.
Here is a great article I highly recommend:
The Fear of Taking Risks Never Goes Away (Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway)
For teaching lessons and ideas click here
Thank you for reading!