Sunday, October 21, 2012

Guiding Readers Through Text

Karen D. Wood, Diane Lapp, James Flood, and D. Bruce Taylor's book, Guiding Readers Through Text: Strategy Guides for New Times, Second Edition, recasts the study guide for modern times. They embrace the broadening of the definition of literacy to include all forms: from textbooks to Internet and podcast to environmental print. Using this broad idea of literacy, they have sought out ways to expand study guides from use purely with textbooks to use with information gathering. In our information age, we obtain information from many sources and our students need to be prepared to efficiently and effectively do so as well. In addition they need to integrate it with their prior knowledge and evaluate it. The Common Core ELA curriculum writers would concur.

The book is divided into three main sections: an introduction of what strategy guides are, a large section describing different strategy guides in about 6 pages each, and an appendix with sample reproducibles. Each type of strategy guide is presented with 1-3 examples, tips for diverse learners and references. The tips for diverse learners are fairly repetitive and non-specific; after reading the first few, there is not much call to read others. The examples cross many curriculum strands with the fewest in math and the most in humanities. Although many of these strategies would be appropriate in grades K-12, there is significant over-representation in the intermediate and middle school examples.

The authors admit that this book is more valuable as a resource than a cover to cover read, and I agree. Reading the introduction, first two chapters and the final chapter would be useful for all. After that, teachers should probably read the first page of each strategy for the authors' summary of appropriate grade levels, subjects and classroom contexts to identify strategies that could be useful.

This book would be quite useful for PLC use. A small group of professionals could identify a strategy they would like to learn or refine, read the description, do additional research for implementation information, design and carry out lessons, and report back to the group on how it worked. Then they could trouble shoot together and practice again. If a lone teacher was unfamiliar with the strategy he wanted to utilize, either additional research or a mentor could be very important.

Although the language, font size and sentence structure lend the book to be characterized as an easy read and the short chapters make breaking it up simple, reading the book cover to cover was slow because I just wanted to try something before I read the next section. Many of the strategies I was familiar with. Often in presentations of things I am comfortable with, my attention starts to wander. This book did not allow for much disengagement because a) it contained 21 different strategies of which I did not know them all, b) each strategy was covered briefly (if I knew it I could read quickly, if not I could read more carefully or reread), and c) the examples were well done (I am a sucker for reading vignettes of well taught lessons).

As a result of this text, I will definitely try some new things and haul out of the dark recesses of my mind some old ideas. The authors achieved their objective.

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