Sunday, August 25, 2013

Literal Comprehension vs. Interpretation

One of the focuses of our Reader's Workshop this week as been taking our thinking to a higher level in order to deeply understand/interpret the complex texts we are reading. We began our week discussing the differences between literal comprehension (what the text says) and interpretation (what the text means). We then discussed how we make those thoughts visible. Writing about reading has become an integral component of our workshop. We realized that when we are thinking about our books on a literal level, we simply write summaries or retellings of what we read. In order to demonstrate an ability to interpret a text, we write commentary, which consists of our own thoughts as well as evidence from the book.

Levels of Thought Stoplight

When you are having "Green" thoughts, you don't have to slow down or stop and think. You can just keep reading. These kinds of thoughts don't require any thinking. These are the obvious things written right in the text.

I created a Thinking Stoplight to help students think beyond a literal level.

"Yellow" thoughts refer to the supporting details we use to support our thinking. You need to slow down when thinking at this level.

"Red" thoughts represent our commentary on the text. We have to stop and interpret the text. It requires our own thinking. Inferences, big ideas, conclusions, and themes are all examples of "Red" thoughts.

Evaluating Model Responses
We practiced, at first, by looking at a few student samples and highlighting thoughts based on the level of thought demonstrated. Students quickly saw the differences in the two responses and how response #2 showed that the student was better able to interpret what he/she read, thus demonstrating deeper understanding.

Evaluating our Own Responses
Once students had a model for the kind of response that demonstrates 5th grade-level thinking, they were encouraged to seek out the kinds of thoughts they had made visible through their own reading responses. This helps them to see the kinds of thinking they are doing and encourage them to think deeper and work on their ability to interpret a text.

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