CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007
Reading Power has been written after years of Gear’s teaching in classrooms and leading workshops for teachers as part of the Early, and Later Literacy Projects initiated by the Vancouver School Board. This reading comprehension program is also now being implemented in many schools in BC's lower mainland. Adrienne Gear presents us with a very practical teacher resource for elementary and middle year grades that shows us step-by-step how to develop the metacognitive thinking power(s) of our students as they read. The focus is "not what to think, but how to think."
Chapter 1, "What is Reading Power?" clearly explains the history and development of Gear's teaching journey as she categorizes common strategies teachers use to teach reading into mostly "pre-reading" and "post-reading" strategies. Identifying a weakness in the "during-reading" stage led her to look for ways to teach students how to think while they are reading. Her development of these strategies was influenced by Harvey and Goudvis (2000), Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding, and by the research of P. David Pearson in the area of reading comprehension. Her only referenced work by Pearson is "A Schema-Theoretic View of Basic Process in Reading," co-authored with Richard Anderson (1984) in Handbook of Reading Research. Gear very briefly discusses the theoretical basis for her metacognitive approach and then turns her focus to the practical implementation of her strategy of teaching students how to think.
Chapter 2, "The Components of the Reading Power Program" outlines the key parts. The five thinking Powers are identified and described as: Connect, Question, Visualize, Infer and Transform. A very useful list of suggested books that are "gems" for teaching these powers is provided and categorized under both the appropriate power and the suitable level ranging from Kindergarten to intermediate grades. Gear discusses helpful ways to collect books and create book bins for the students and to save certain "gem" books for teacher modeling.
She identifies the most essential component of student success with this program as the direct teaching it involves. The model of gradual release of responsibility developed by David Pearson is the basis for her plans and includes teacher modeling, guided practice, independent practice and application. Specific steps are outlined for each of these lesson stages.
Each of the following chapters describes how to teach each power using this model. Chapter 3 outlines the Power to Connect by describing how Gear came to view it as important, how to introduce it to your students, and sequential lessons for connecting: lessons 1 - 3 are teacher directed, introduce the power and model thinking. Lesson 4 is guided group practice to connect; lessons 5 and 6 are guided group practice to expand connections; lessons 7 - 9 are independent practice involving choosing books from the connect bin; lessons 10 - 12 provide independent practice expanding connections through writing; lesson 13 involves independent practice in finding your own connect book, and lastly lesson 14 has students writing a reflective journal entry in regard to what they have learned about connecting. The chapter ends with a booklist classifying books as Primary or Intermediate, as well as addressing social responsibility and/or an aboriginal story.
Chapter 4 follows the same format in describing the power to question; chapter 5 the power to visualize; chapter 6 the power to infer; and chapter 7 the power to transform. Each chapter also includes potential handouts to use with students, examples of student work, and teaching anecdotes.
Chapter 8, Application and Assessment discusses how to combine some of the reading powers once they have been learned, suggests ways to assess the powers, ways to involve parents and how to use the powers in a literature circle format.
Another strength of this program is the gradual implementation Gear suggests and the importance of making it a cohesive school-wide model of teaching so all teachers use the same language to teach and reinforce these reading and thinking strategies. Connect and visualize would be taught in kindergarten; the power to question is added in grade 1; infer in grade 2 and transform in grade 3. Reading Power provides another important piece of a balanced literacy program.
This is a first book for Adrienne Gear, but her honest reflection of her own teaching practice, her realistic and practical approach to teaching these metacognitive reading powers can empower us all to be teachers of reading.
Betty Klassen teaches courses in English Language Arts and Social Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
References used by Gear and referred to in the above review:
Anderson, R.C. & Pearson, P.D. (1984). "A Schema-Theoretic View of Basic Process in Reading," co-authored with Richard Anderson (1984) in Handbook of Reading Research ed. P.D. Pearson. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Harvey, S. & Goudvis, A. (2000). Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.