—Stephanie Harvey, Coauthor of The Comprehension Toolkit
After I finished my earlier (January 4th) blog entry, I began googling "comprehension" as I so often do to see where it would lead me. Well...it led me to Tanny McGregor's Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading and a reminder that although I own Tanny's book I had never read it.
So that's how I spent the rest of the afternoon...reading through this compelling book about the importance of making our comprehension strategy instruction concrete, with the help of onions, lint brushes, salad bowls, etc. (I know it sounds crazy but the ideas are actually quite clever, and I can see how they would be helpful to students).
So, in light of my concern expressed in my earlier blog that we're making kids work too hard by keeping ideas and information abstract, is this find serendipitous or what?
Tanny writes: "...I'm using concrete objects to craft 'launching lessons'; lessons that unleash new paths of thinking, lessons that support lots of student-to-student talk, lessons that can be referred to again and again, lessons that kids will remember and think about long after the school day is through." And she does just that.
I recommend you give this book and its ideas a try.
Comprehension Connections has a constellation of qualities that makes it a perfect choice for a professional book club book, especially a first book club of the year. It is:
- Short - only 107 pages. There is lots of white space, and there are plenty of photographs. A teacher flipping through the book won't be frightened off.
- Written in teacher-friendly language - no dictionaries required.
- Full of ready-to-use instructional activities. These include new classroom-tested activities for teaching inferring, visualizing, synthesizing, questioning, and accessing schema.
“Comprehension Connections is one of those books brimming with original ideas that are not only fun to teach, but also highly effective.”
—Kim Yaris, reviewed at literacy-builders.com
This book is so amazing. I have a large plastic container filled with every idea from the book.
—Nancy Ehrlich, Third Grade Teacher, Ambler, PA
Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor was a turning point in my strategy teaching. Today we looked at paintings by Vermeer to practice our questioning skills, amazing questions from kids who a few days ago were asking the most literal questions. It has made the lessons in the other great books mentioned so much easier because the preteaching of the strategy in concrete ways made the more abstract lessons possible. As you can tell I love this book and tell the teachers I work with I would replace this book if someone "borrowed" it from me. Okay I'll stop gushing now.
—Kathy Mills, Seattle, WA
I love that Tanny uses wordless picture books to begin the process for strategy work. This makes it all about the strategy and NOT reading at the moment, which levels the playing field = very accessible to all readers!
—luvin1st, member, ProTeacher.com
One of the books that I’ve enjoyed the most was Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor. Here’s why: it’s quick, it’s friendly, and it’s got some great suggestions for introducing those very “abstract” comprehension strategies in a more concrete and visible way.
—Brenda Mazza, Warner Elementary School, Springfield, MA
A reading coach told us Comprehension Connections in her top five of must have books; me too! The anchor or wall charts are included as pictures, most of the high-interest lesson activities have multiple options for a lesson and analogy. For example, you can teach determining importance by straining noodles from a pan, showing what's in your purse or using a flashlight in a dark room and link the concrete experience to an analogy. Chants or songs are also a part of learning the strategies.
—crazycatgirl at eledblog.com
Last year as a literacy coach I began using Tanny McGregor's book Comprehension Connections, which teaches students about metacognition. I used all of her suggestions, which I felt were wonderful! As I presented those lessons, I began using Level E, F, and G books so that students would be able to focus on the process. It was unbelievable how well students were able to understand and apply their new learning to such easy levels of reading. It was such an easy way to introduce those processing skills, that by the time it came for students to transfer what they had learned to their on-grade-level reading, it was a successful process for a lot of the students.
In Comprehension Connections, McGregor has produced an applied text that provides educators with plausible examples and motivation for developing reading curriculum plans that may help students along the pathway to becoming strategic thinkers.
—Philip E. Strong, Assistant Dean, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University
I borrowed this book a year ago from a friend and never returned it. I guess that’s the sign of a good book (or a good friend). This book breaks down each comprehension strategy and includes practical and easy ways to explain them to children. I also found it helpful when explaining the strategies to parents via my classroom newsletter. Check it out!
—Asha Ruiz, first grade teacher