COPL 2012


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Presentation: Challenge Advanced Readers in the Elementary Classroom, Celebration of Professional Learning, City Schools of Decatur, GA on January 3, 2012

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  • Only child for early childhood and surrounded by readersWeekly trips to the library, bedtime stories, books on recordStarted kindergarten reading close to a fifth grade level and didn’t realize that was unusual until I got there First grade was a little different – found three other kids similar to me and grouped us together in a pulloutThe Lion, The Witch, and The WardrobeAssignment structure read the chapter the night before independently then round robin reread and discuss in class the following day.Hated the book, didn’t see the point in reading it at home if going to read it again at school so I didn’t do it.Teacher asked me each day if I’d read it, didn’t want to lie and say I’d done it, so said “I forgot”After several days, got a phone call home and got in trouble.Hated school reading from that point on.
  • Gifted students often learn strategies at least one-third faster than average students, but they may not spontaneously create effective learning strategies of their own. Instead, they apply and adapt the skills that they’ve already practiced. Over time, as the demands of reading increase, many gifted readers begin to stagnate in their reading ability because they’ve received too little instruction. As a result, many gifted readers don’t reach their potential because they lack opportunities to advance their skills at a pace appropriate for their ability.Students may develop poor study habits, disengage from class activities, and become satisfied performing at lower levels. The gifted readers may be able to perform well on classroom tasks and grade-level assessments, but the impacts of lower motivation and disengagement eventually catch up with them. A longitudinal study of underachieving high school students found that the lack of rigorous reading instruction in elementary school left many academically talented students unprepared for high achievement later in education.
  • Recent fourth grade reading data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) suggests that this translates into substantial gains for low-achieving students while the scores of high-achieving students have flat-lined (Loveless, 2008). In a world of ffinite resources, accountability measures, and limited instructional time, it is easy to understand the focus on struggling readers.
  • Inadequate instruction for gifted readers can squelch the motivation to read and erode long-term progress. Students may develop poor study habits, disengage from class activities, and become satisfied performing at lower levels. The gifted readers may be able to perform well on classroom tasks and grade-level assessments, but the impacts of lower motivation and disengagement eventually catch up with them. A longitudinal study of underachieving high school students found that the lack of rigorous reading instruction in elementary school left many academically talented students unprepared for high achievement later in education. Those once high-achieving students dipped to the middle and were no longer able to compete in the most rigorous academic courses.
  • While gifted readers may be using these strategies more frequently, we should remember that their skills are advanced only in relation to grade-level peers. Additional instruction in some key strategies may greatly benefit gifted readers as they work to improve their skills.
  • Gifted readers may not be conscious of the strategies they are using, especially when operating at higher levels of comprehension. Because they have practiced many strategies independently and modified them to meet specific contexts, gifted readers are not always able to identify what is working for them strategically, and what is not.Reading logs, reflections, and open-ended writing tasks can offer these students metacognitive prompting to help them identify the best reading strategies for different situations
  • Whereas many young readers lack the linguistic capabilities to recognize and understand complex analogies and metaphors, gifted readers exhibit more flexibility in interpreting languageStudies of figurative language and connotation may be especially engaging for gifted readers because they allow students to experiment with language in a non-restrictive way. In addition, exploring word etymologies allows gifted readers to expand their understanding of word development and to build connections between words. Such activities require the higher-level thinking skills that gifted readers should be cultivating. Teachers should look for texts with complex vocabulary and syntactical patterns that can be analyzed by these students.
  • Although all students need experience with higher-level questions that go beyond the recall of facts, gifted readers are likely to be more comfortable with these types of questions.Students should be encouraged to ask and answer questions that look at the text from different perspectives or alternative interpretations. Gifted readers may benefit from lessons on recognizing themes, looking for hidden meanings, and detecting author bias. They should also be encouraged to evaluate the worth, utility, and credibility of texts. A student learning about a particular era in history, for example, could evaluate the historical accuracy of fiction set in that era or compare primary documents with secondary accounts. As gifted readers demonstrate faculty with these tasks, they may need additional instruction on how to use the text and outside resources as evidence to justify their responses. Students should be encouraged to pull examples from the text in support of an interpretation or argument and organize that thinking in both verbal and written forms. Rather than feeling isolated over their different interpretations, gifted readers will be able to cite evidence from the text to suggest that the author supports the interpretation.
  • explore the climax of a narrative by writing an alternate ending or retell the story from another character's perspective (Boothby, 1980);examine the role of setting by placing the narrative in another era and considering what changes the author would need to make to the plot; or adapt the story into a screenplay or reader's theater format.
  • Both individual titles, series, and authors
  • For informational genres, students could inject or remove bias from an informational text and describe how such changes affect the meaning of the piece;restructure the text to organize information in a different way; or e.g., chronological order to Q & A
  • Write a book review similar in style, format, and tone to one you might find in a resources such as Publisher's Weekly ( or the New York Times Sunday Book Review ( some song lyrics from a favorite musical performer and write a new song that fits the musical style and subject matter of the singer or group. Write an accompanying letter and consider sending it to the musician.Research an important local issue and write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper discussing the findings.
  • Purpose and audience
  • Informational texts – higher reading leveldark or controversial topics –orhpansintertextual network based on movies, TV shows, or a series of booksGifted students tend to latch onto an issue, topic, or genre and focus on that at the exclusion of other materials.
  • collateral readingidentifies a central topic or theme that can be explored from many angles using different genres of literature. For example, students could learn about animal testing by reading expository texts about how and why such tests are used and persuasive texts arguing for or against animal testing. These readings could be paired with a fiction selection such as Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH . By engaging the topic from multiple angles, students will develop a more nuanced and complete perspective of the issue. Furthermore, as teachers encourage students to read diverse materials, they will need to make sure the student has the genre-specific skills needed to read a variety of texts. Teachers can help students develop expectations for texts, utilize text structures, and recognize genre-specific text features such as graphic information, captions, or footnotes. Such topics may be the source of additional instruction in both reading and writing.
  • Just because a child has the ability to decode a text does not guarantee the emotional maturity or background knowledge necessary for comprehension. Advanced texts may address themes and concepts inappropriate to young readers. This may be especially problematic at the ends of the elementary spectrum – kindergarteners reading at a fifth-grade level or fifth-graders reading at a high school level. Further complicating matters, teachers may be less familiar with the substance of more advanced texts and therefore feel less qualified to make appropriate book recommendations.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT a safe rule is to guide students toward fiction closely linked to their grade level and nonfiction texts closer to their reading level
  • eBooks – Frank L. Baum and Wizard of OzIf students are given opportunities to explore interesting topics through advanced picture books, poetry, or informational texts, then gifted readers can advance their literacy development without reaching beyond their emotional development.
  • Many advanced readers quickly discover after entering school that they are different from other students. They recognize that other students may not master material as quickly or share similar interests, and they may struggle to relate to their grade-level peers or develop social relationships (Halsted, 2009). Other students develop natural leadership skills and enjoy opportunities to interact with and lead a group of students. Ultimately, we should try to balance these social tendencies. Teachers must therefore look for creative opportunities to build social networks for gifted students to facilitate reading instruction.
  • Not only do online book clubs and discussion groups allow students to share their love of literature with one another, but they also provide forums for gifted readers to write about reading.The Stacks at Scholastic. This site has moderated message boards devoted to several popular children's book authors and series. Requires a login/password to post or comment, but it goes to great lengths to protect kids’ identityPlanet Book Club ( Here, students can read book reviews or write and publish a guest review of their own.
  • Because older students are likely to have more experience with advanced reading strategies, they can serve as mentors to gifted readers (Moore, 2005). Gifted readers may enjoy working with older students who are exercising many of the same strategies that gifted readers tend to employ. Similarly, older students may appreciate the opportunity to mentor a younger student. Numerous peer tutoring models have been found to support literacy development in students (see Maheady, Mallette, & Harper, 2006), and studies suggest that some peer tutoring models benefit both the tutor and the tutee (Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Simmons, 1997). Unlike literature circles where all students are discussing the same text, idea circles center on a concept that can be approached through many different texts. Students can read and discuss books at the reading level most appropriate for their abilities and share their findings with others.
  • Curriculum Compacting – preassessment: when student needs more instruction, participates in whole or small group instruction, otherwise works independently on a different project. Not just faster -- more individually challenging version that accounts for the existing skill level of the student.Speed up or slow down
  • COPL 2012

    1. 1. Challenging Advanced Readers in theElementary Classroom Alison Eber 4th Grade Teacher at F.AVE
    2. 2. Where to find this info Website (includes presentation): OR Email me:
    3. 3. Background Photo by brungrrl on flickr, cc license
    4. 4. CharacteristicsTASK: What are some characteristics you’ve observed of the advanced readers in your classrooms?Go to and share your ideas in the document.
    5. 5. Advanced Readers Reading at least 2 years above grade level expectations More stamina Pick up strategies quickly Seem to have a deep repertoire of strategies May or may not be classified as gifted
    6. 6. What’s Happening
    7. 7. The ImpactUnderachievementDecreased motivationDisengagementProblems later in school
    8. 8. SAVANT Strategic Authentic Varied Age Appropriate Networked Time Sensitive
    9. 9. Strategic
    10. 10. Strategies of ALL Good ReadersPoster available at
    11. 11. Metacognitive Skills Students need tounderstand the strategiesthey’re using to know how and when to apply them.
    12. 12. Available at website for download
    13. 13. Vocabulary & Word Play Analogies and metaphors Connotation vs. denotation Word etymologies Word ladders Other word games
    14. 14. Word Games Discovery Education Brain Boosters a few minutes to explore and see if you can find any boosters that might be interesting to your students.
    15. 15. Critical Reading Higher level thinking questions Different perspectives and alternative interpretations Themes, hidden meanings, and author bias Worth, utility, and credibility of texts Justify divergent thinking
    16. 16. Creative Reading Go beyond the text to fill a gap of missing information or background knowledge Understand author’s choices Additional chapters, scripted adaptations, interpretive poems, or other derivative works
    17. 17. For Fiction Write an alternate ending Retell the story from another character’s perspective Change the setting and explore how that impacts the story Adapt the story into a screenplay or alternate format (Script Frenzy)
    18. 18. Fan Fiction Derivative works based on TV shows, movies, books, cartoons, comics, games, etc. Complex study of characters and writing style – mimic the original author Canon, alternate universe, and crossover See for samples (likely blocked at school)
    19. 19. Weeding through it
    20. 20. For Nonfiction Inject or remove bias from an informational text Change the text structure and organize differently Create additional diagrams, illustrations, or figures that could be helpful to readers of the text
    21. 21. AuthenticCombining Purpose and Text
    22. 22. Examples Inquiry projects Book reviews Song lyrics Letters to the editor
    23. 23. Blogging
    24. 24. Blogging Resources
    25. 25. Book Trailers
    26. 26. Varied
    27. 27. Reading Preferences Informational texts Fantasy Historical fiction Dark or controversial topics Larger inter-textual networks
    28. 28. Stuck on a genre? Evaluate writing quality Aesthetic values Informational texts  Word choice, organization, outside research, bias, graphic materials, and authority Narrative texts  Realism, character development, pacing, dialogue, and use of setting
    29. 29. Push toward breadth Reading logs Collateral reading Genre-specific skills Develop expectations for texts
    30. 30. Age Appropriate
    31. 31. Scholastic Book Wizard
    32. 32. Your Turn
    33. 33. Other tips Fiction at age level; nonfiction at reading level Turn to the classics – eBooks How vs. What  Interesting language  Ambiguous ending  Character role models
    34. 34. NetworkedReading is social. Kids should connect.
    35. 35. Online social networksSpaces created for kids to connect over books. Teach responsible online use.
    36. 36. Grouping Between classrooms Between grade levels Mentoring Idea Circles
    37. 37. Time Sensitive
    38. 38. Pacing Curriculum Compacting Digging into topics  Set clear expectations  Decide on timeline  Co-develop rubric with a goal in mind
    39. 39. Questions or Comments Picture by HoriaVarlanon flickr, cc license
    40. 40. Where to find this info Website (includes presentation): OR Email me: