Monday, January 13, 2014

The Secret Garden: A Window into First Grade Literacy - guest blogger Stephanie Kuecken

Welcome to Stephanie’s first blog post!  As I make my first attempts at blogging, I personally have begun an adventure - exploring writing in a new landscape.  Like our first grade readers and writers, I am navigating and growing as I explore the steps in the reading and writing process.  I feel a strong connection to the children as we experience the challenges and joys of writing together and feel thankful to be traveling on this literacy journey with first grade.

This post and several more to come will be dedicated to the work of our different reading and writing groups.  Our intermediate group of readers and writers took on the challenges of a Reader’s Theatre, an experience rich in literacy value.  It was thrilling to watch the students try on their different roles and demonstrate their understanding through performance.  In addition, this group created beautiful written and artistic responses to a book called Horrible Harry and the Purple People.  My next blog post will explore my work with this group. 

This post documents a group of readers and writers who, after two months of hard work, completed reading The Secret Garden.  Reflections, written responses, and artistic representations of comprehension are some of the many ways in which this group worked through their exploration of reading and writing. With each experience the children not only developed their abilities as readers and writers, but also their sense of self-awareness through social interactions with their peers.
The Secret Garden – Reflection & Comprehension via Written & Artistic Response

Students regularly discuss and reflect on the material we have read.  We may conference as a group before we read a new chapter or discuss the plot, events, characters, imagery and new vocabulary from a passage we’ve just read. 

The group recently read aloud a chapter where two characters got into an argument.  We paused often to discuss the characters and the emotions they were experiencing in the book.  The children practiced fluency while re-reading select paragraphs where strong emotions were evident in the dialogue.  Afterwards, the children were asked what advice they would give to these characters.

Written Response & Comprehension
“Writing might be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a 
process." - Donald Murray on the craft of writing. 

The first grade reading groups have been actively involved in the writing process as they draft ideas, making revisions to their original work, conferencing with their teachers and peers, editing their work, and presenting their finished pieces.  The students explored what it means to refine their work and discover their own personal style as writers.

One chapter in The Secret Garden paints a picture that captures the smells, sounds and feel of springtime as well as the excitement of time being spent outdoors in the garden.  A writing activity prompted the children to make connections from this passage to their own experiences in nature.
M's response
Written by J
A writing piece by W
Artistic Response & Comprehension
Generating visual images can be a valuable strategic process for reading comprehension. Text evokes images and emotions with an aesthetic primary purpose.  Readers actively create meaning for themselves, which is not always the same for all readers.  The meaning one finds is shaped by the reading experience and is a fusion of intellect and emotion.  No two readings are exactly the same because no two people have exactly the same experiences.

Collage Work - The children constructed collages based on their personal interpretation of setting, place, mood, and imagery from a passage describing the garden. 

The children in this reading group were invited to study a character in the book and draw their interpretation of this character’s transformation throughout the course of the story.

Before: When he (Colin) was sick he felt really sloppy.  He was really strict and mean to people.  He thought he was going to die and that he was a hunchback.  And also he would really never eat anything.

After:  He was very nice to everybody.  He could go outside.  He was really happy.  He learned to stand up and walk.  He had a growth spurt.  He was really really happy.
M:  (on her drawing) I wanted it to look like it was in the olden days.

Before: Colin was in bed.  He felt really sick.  He thought he was going to die.  He is rude to Dr. Craven and everyone actually.

After:  He went into the fresh air.  He felt better.  He said he could stand.  He asked what the broken branch was.  Mary said, “ You won’t see that broken branch anymore when the flowers bloom.”  He doesn’t have to go in the wheelchair.  He’s eating a lot.  He doesn’t feel sick anymore.  He’s being nice to people.

Before:  At first he was lying in his bed.  He was crying.  He thought he had a lump on his back and that he might die.

After:  Mary met him when he was sick.  She felt hot so she opened and window and Colin said, “What is that beautiful smell?”  Mary said, “That is the air.”  Then he got out of his wheelchair and started walking for the first time.

Before:  Colin is sick in bed and crying because he thinks he’s a hunchback.  His bedroom has a purple ceiling.  He felt trashy.  He was mean to people. 

After:  He’s in the garden and he’s yelling, “I’m walking!”  Because he learned he could stand.  There’s his wheelchair.  He’s feeling really happy.  He’s with Mary.

Before:  Colin felt sick before and he didn’t want to get out of bed.  He thought he was going to die.   He treats people like he’s a king.

After:  He is happy now.  He is not sick anymore.  He learned how to walk.  He was eating more than ever.

Finishing a challenging text can be a powerful experience.  This group demonstrated the “stick-to-it-ness” required to commit to a book, practiced patience, and were supportive as they read aloud to one another, actively participating in rich group discussions.  They celebrated with exuberance and delight upon completing the text.  It was a lovely moment to behold.

We finished reading The Secret Garden! 

In all of our reading groups, the goal is the same –
to make reading an enjoyable, engaging, and rewarding
personal experience. 

1 comment:

  1. It is great that the children were able to do so much thinking and talking about the book without compromising their engagement with the story. They seem to have felt strongly connected to the characters and the setting. They also seemed to feel the power of a collective experience of reading.