Parts of this book you read like you read a story. Other parts you read like you’re reading a non-fiction book on spiders. 4th Grade teacher, Mr. L* and a small group are discussing Spider Boy by Ralph Fletcher.
A student raises his hand. So, like here, when Mr. Fletcher has Spider Boy starting school we know it’s got a beginning, middle, and end? But here, when he’s reading the letter from his old pal and it’s got this list of gross spider facts, that’s like my “Guinness World Book of Records?”
Right, and you use different strategies for the different types of text. You know that the character, setting, events parts will push the story along and the just-the-facts about spiders will pause the action and have explanations like you find in your science book.
All during the day, I hear, Read this like you do a poem; a social studies book; a feature article; a personal essay. The kids know that depending on the kind of text, they’ll use different tactics.
It’s like that basketball story, says Mr. L.
Here’s the basketball story–it came from my family, and I’d told it to Mr. L.
Jack stands under the basketball hoop and rockets the ball back to Doug. They’re warming up for the rec game down the road. He talks as he tosses. So, you’ll need to read this team, Doug. Doug hasn’t played them before and doesn’t know their usual defense.
Read, Dad? asks Doug as he arcs the ball.
Right. The other team’s defense is like a book. You need to read what they’re doing.
Like, maybe they’re playing zone? That’s like a book?
Right. Different books give you different information. Jack dribbles the ball to Doug. So, when you look at the team on the court and you read that they’re playing a zone, what do you need to do?
Pass, penetrate, and, he pauses to jump, shoot from the outside!
Jack continues his book review, so to speak. And what do you do if you read that they’re playing man-to-man?
Pass, screen, Doug dashes and lunges. Cut to the basket! He zigzags in and grabs the ball.
Pressing defense, Doug? What if you read their book and it’s a pressing defense?
Spread the floor. Back cut. Keep your head up. Look ahead for an open man.
Jack nods and stows the ball in the car. Game time, he says, and off they go to read, er, play the game.
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Mr. L tells this story to his students to help them anchor the over-and-over-moves they need to use when they read the page. Moves that help them narrow their focus, anticipate, and deal with new texts. It’s an anchor story that shows them that any «reader» needs to bring background knowledge to any «text» so as to better notice, retrieve, and gather information and help them deal with new situations, be they on the court or on the page.