Does that Make Sense? No, Really, Does It?
How many of you have asked a student this question and they either look at you with a blank stare, or they shake their heads or say ‘Yes’ and your spidey senses go off telling you they do not have a clue. Some of our readers see the text as an activity where the objective is to decode and to do so accurately. They may not come to the text with the idea that this print has meaning. They may not think of the author as a person that is conveying a message to them. Moreover, they may not see themselves as the reader that needs to integrate their experiences and background knowledge to support their understandings and interpretation of the text.
Text Is Meaningful
We have to explicitly teach them to come to print with the position that this text is meaningful and I, as the reader, need to interact with the text. David E. Rumelhart, a psychologist, developed the Interactive Reading model, which highlights the importance of readers integrating meaning, semantics, syntax (structure), and the visual information as they process text.
One of our goals as a teacher of reading is to build readers that are flexible with their problem-solving when reading the text. We aim for our readers to be flexible and integrate multiple sources of information when reading and writing. We need to create opportunities for our readers to learn how to self-monitor, self-correct and cross-check themselves. We want our readers to be active when they come to a point of difficulty and not look up at us with their beautiful brown and blue eyes appealing for help. We want them to know they can use all that they know about the world, what they know about how natural language and ‘book language’ and what they know about letters and sounds and how words work grounded in meaning to become fluent processors of text.
How to Support Students Who Struggle With Reading
You will notice with the Flying Start to Literacy™ materials, they are purposely written around content that is meaningful to support readers in becoming stronger readers and writers. You will also notice how close the early texts are to a readers’ oral language so that they can learn how to integrate syntax and structure as a resource for problem-solving. Additionally, they can integrate their phonics and word study skills as they process text. This is why you have to provide your readers with different types of text and not only decodable text. There is not much meaning in Flub Glub sat on the lub right? To get our readers flexible in their word attack skills they have to go beyond the visual (phonics) and integrate meaning and structure. In our shared reading, small group instruction and even through our interactive read alouds, we can explicitly model what we mean by “Does that make sense?”
Readers Have to Come to the Text With the Understanding that the Print Has Meaning. Explicitly model in your whole-group and small group lessons how a reader comes to a text with the understanding that this text has meaning. With your colleagues, grab some of your Flying Start texts and have a conversation about what is the meaning of the text. Did you all have the same interpretations? Did someone say something so deep that you felt you were in all black in a smokey café with a beret ongoing “That was deep. I never saw it like that!”?
How does your background knowledge and experiences contribute to your understanding?