Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Role of Knowledge in Comprehension in Grade 2

  Books read in 2nd Grade

Books that students have heard and read. Tenzin's Deer, Himalaya, The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest, and The Chiru of High Tibet are all par of unit focusing on the Himalayan Mountains and people.  Joseph Bruchac's Turtle's Race with Beaver and Pat Mora's The Race of Toad and Deer are two of many books in a  unit about fables.

Student's thinking abut the text,  The Top of
the World: Climbing Mount Everest

2nd grader's thinking about the text Himalaya.
The importance of world knowledge and experience are underscored in the excerpts below written by Susan Neuman. This is one of the reasons when I designed the read aloud units of study for K-4 (e-book collection I am working on), I packed them with diverse texts that would provide learners with the occasion to learn about the world--some of it they might well know and other bits they might not have heard about before. In some second grade classrooms who have been using the full set of units (9), the teachers tell me that the children cheer when each day they participate in read aloud. Above all else I wanted the learning to be joyful, playful and oddly intellectual. The learning is in the play.

Watching these children learning and teaching some of them has altered how I see this work being accomplished in classrooms.  I have begun to rethink the read aloud as a stand alone form and now see it as part of a continuum where students choose to assume greater responsibility based on their interests.

2nd graders pose after readers theater (based on an Arnold Lobel fable.  So pleased to hear a recording of their voices.

from Susan B. Neuman from here  ("Lessons from My Mother: Reflections on the National Early Literacy Panel Report," Educational Researcher.).

For example, in one study (Recht & Leslie, 1988) we look at children's recall and comprehension of baseball. In this case, the researchers asked 7th grade students to read a grade-level passage that described a half inning of a baseball game. Half of these students are good readers, the other half poor
readers according to a standardized reading test. Using a task somewhat similar to a
think-aloud protocol, the researchers divide the passage into five parts, and after each part
students are asked to use a replica of a baseball field and players and to react and describe
what they read. It turns out that background knowledge of baseball trumps all the skills

measured on the standardized achievement test: Poor readers with high knowledge of baseball display better comprehension than good readers with low knowledge of baseball. (my emphasis) 
What is going on here? It must be the test. Or could knowledge actually aide working memory? And might memory aide comprehension of text? We continue our  search and come upon studies by Wolfgang Schneider (Schneider & Korkel, 1989), and Michelle Chi (Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981) and others (Ceci, 1990) who study expert performers--racetrack handicappers; baseball statisticians, bowling league scorers, you name it. They go one step further, looking at high and low aptitude children, some of whom have prior knowledge of the subject domain and some of whom do For example, here‟s what Schneider and his colleagues (Schneider, Korkel, & Weinert, 1990) decide to do. In one of their first experiments, they compare 576 young soccer experts and novices on their ability to memorize details, inferences, and to detect basic contradictions in a story that was contrived to include lots of misinformation. Not surprisingly, the experts wildly outperform the novices: experts remember more details, better apply what they read to new situations, and detect more contradictions than their better apply what they read to new situations, and detect more contradictions than their aptitude experts do not differ from one another. In other words, there is virtually no distinction between their performance on these tasks, and both are clearly superior to high-aptitude and low-aptitude novices. The high-aptitude, low-knowledge students do no better than their low-aptitude peers. 
So if we would have examined comprehension in other content domains, then the major headline in “Developing Early Literacy” might look like this: All students will learn more and comprehend better if they have greater background knowledge.

Worth reading the whole text.

Here is a bibliography of the books currently I am using in 2nd grade as read aloud/assisted reading/paired reading. You can see a sample of the e-book for grade 2 here. It contains two units. I am just editing the final version and will post it to iTunes when I am done. This completed e-book will contain all nine units.

Unit 1: Himalayan Mountains
Jenkins, Steve. (2002). The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest. New York: Sandpiper.
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2010). The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story. Illustrated by Linda Wingerter. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books.
Reynolds, Jan. (2007). Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Soros, Barbara. (2007). Tenzin’s Deer. Illustrated by Danuta Mayer. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.

Unit 2: Fables
Bruchac, Joseph (Abenaki). (2003). Turtle’s Race with Beaver. Illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. New York: Dial.
Lobel, Arnold. (1983). Fables. New York: HarperCollins.
Mora, Pat.  (2001). The Race of Toad and Deer. Illustrated by Domi. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.
Mora, Pat.  (2001). La Carrera del Sapo y el Venado. Illustrated by Domi. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books
Pinkney, Jerry. (2000). Aesop’s Fables. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Pinkney, Jerry. (2000). Fabulas de Esopo. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Unit 3: Inspiring People
 Bruchac, Joseph. (2009). Rachel Carson: Preserving a Sense of Wonder. Illustrated by Thomas Locker. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
Lawlor, Laurie. (2012). Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World. Illustrated by Laura Beingessner. New York: Holiday House.
McGinty, Alice B. (2013). Gandhi: A March to the Sea. Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Las Vegas, NV: Amazon Children’s Publishing.
Nivola, Claire. (2012). Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Roth, Susan & Cindy Trumbore. (2011). The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families. Collages by Susan Roth. New York: Lee and Low Books.
Tonatiuh, Duncan. (2014). Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation.  New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Winter, Jeanette. (2011). The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps. New York: Schwartz & Wade/Random House.
Winter, Jonah. (2009). Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx: La juez que crecio en el Bronx. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. New York: Atheneum.

Unit 4: Soil Habitats
 Aston, Dianna Hutts. (2012). A Rock is Lively. Illustrated by Sylvia Long. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Bial, Raymond. (2000). A Handful of Dirt. New York: Walker Childrens.
BodhaGuru Videos. (2012). Science - Soil Formation and soil layers. Retrieved 5.12.13 from
Tomacek, Steve. (2007). Jump into Science: Dirt. Illustrated by Nancy Woodman. Washington DC: National Geographic.

from  If You Find a Rock.
Unit 5: Noticing an Author’s Language
 Christian, Peggy. (2008). If You Find a Rock.  Photos by Barbara Hirsch Lember. New York: Sandpiper.
Collins, Pat Lowery. (1994). I Am an Artist. Illustrated by Robin Brickman. Millbrook Press.
Davies, Nicola. (2004). Bat Loves the Night. Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Hesse, Karen. (1999). Come On, Rain. Illustrated by Jon Muth. New York: Scholastic.
Lyon, George Ella. (2011). Who Came Down that Road? Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto. La Jolla, CA: Kane Miller.
from John Henry. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
Unit 6: American Tall Tales
Kellogg, Steve. (2004). Paul Bunyan.  New York: HarperCollins.
Lester, Julius. (1999). John Henry. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Puffin.
Mora, Pat. (2005). Dona Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Nolen, Jerdine. (2003). Thunder Rose. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. San Diego, CA: Silver Whistle/Harcourt.
John Henry Video. Retrieved 7.11.13 from
S.E. Schlosser, S.E. Casey Jones: A Tennessee Legend.

from  Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt.
Unit 7: The Power of Community
Bouler, Olivia. (2011). Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf. New York: Sterling Children’s Books.
Cohn, Diana. (2002). ¡Si, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A. Illustrated by Francisco
Delgado. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins.
McKissack, Patricia. (2008). Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt. Illustrated by Cozbi A, Cabrera. New York: Random House.
Tate, Don. (2012). It Jes Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Lee and Low Books.
from The Bee Tree
Unit 8: All  About Trees
 Buchmann, Steven and Diana Cohn. (2012). The Bee Tree. Illustrated by Paul Mirocha. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
Chin, Jason. (2009). Redwoods. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Guiberson, Brenda. (2009). Life in a Boreal Forest. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
Patton, Christopher. (2007). Jack Pine. Illustrations by  Cybèle Young. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

Unit 9: Wants and Needs
Elya, Susan Middleton. (2006). Home at Last. Illustrated by Felipe Davalos. New York: Lee & Low Books.
English, Karen. (2004). Hot Day on Abbott Avenue. Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. New York: Clarion Books.
Johnson, Angela. (2003). I Dream of Trains. Illustrated by Loren Long.  New York: Simon & Schuster.
Larson, Jennifer S. (2012). Do I Need It? Or Do I Want It? Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications.

Park, Linda Sue. (2004). The Firekeeper’s Son. Illustrated by Julie Downing. New York: Sandpiper.