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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Check for Understanding-10 Reasons Why Kids Don't Do It!

'reading response prompts minioffice right side' photo (c) 2009, Jimmie - license:
According to the National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC), "Reading is an activity with a purpose."  Understanding the author's purpose for writing a selection helps the reader adjust his reading rate to focus on comprehension. To discuss  author's purpose for writing we use PIE (persuade, inform, entertain).  Understanding the purpose seems easy, but when it comes to understanding the main idea it's often a different story.

Last year I polled my students to see exactly WHY they read WITHOUT summarizing, which we call, Checking for are the results (in no particular order)

1.   To be the first one done 
2.   Forget to do it
3.   It's too much work
4.   Takes too long
5.   Don't feel like it
6.   Don't think it's important
7.   Just want to get the reading done
8.   Story is boring
9.   Don't like to read
10. Just to get it done

What to do about it?  Since I compiled that data I felt I needed to do something with it.   Ultimately, I needed to figure out a way that was sure to help my students understand the importance of reading for meaning,  right? So this past summer I did some reading. which led me to the discovery of the Daily5 and CAFE.

This year I decided to try the Daily5 and CAFE are during our literacy block.  The Daily5 is the structure (Read to Self, Writing, Word Work, Listen to Reading & Read to Someone) that students follow during our literacy time, while CAFE is our focus (Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency, Extend Vocabulary).  "Check for Understanding" is the first strategy (& most important in my opinion) that is introduced.  Students are taught to frequently 'Check for Understanding' by asking Who it's about, What's Happening & to predict what will happen next.  Through modeling & practice, more modeling and practice students learn how to 'check for understanding'. To ensure students make connections which will aid their comprehension, we start by activating Prior Knowledge. Pair these with reading books that are appropriate for the student and true meaning is sure to transpire.

I decided to poll my students this year to see why they are not checking for understanding and the results are as follows:

1.  Takes too long
2.  Story is exciting I don't want to stop
3.  Don't understand it
4.  Can't find a connection
5.  Takes away from my reading time

It's rather interesting that there were only 5 reasons from this group. I wondered if it had something to do with the Daily5 and CAFE.  Is it just possible that more students are 'Checking for Understanding' on a regular basis?

I noticed a difference in the types of answers given by both groups of students.  Do you see how the second group looks at reading differently than the first?   Would love to hear what you think - please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. Hi Nancy-I love your post. It's clear that your second group of students really enjoy reading. Their reasons for not using this strategy, 'Story is exciting and I don't want to stop' and 'It takes away from my reading time', demonstrates that they get lost in their books. I would venture to say, they are in fact checking for understanding but they just don't realize it. Were you able to confer with any to find out? Keep us posted.

  2. Excellent post, Nancy! I've read the Daily 5/CAFE books and one thing I really appreciate is the emphasis on developing "stamina" as readers. It sounds like this is what your students are doing. I'll bet the ones who say they don't want to stop reading are actually summarizing internally as they read. That's exciting! It makes me want to take the plunge and try Daily 5 in my own classroom.

  3. @Valerie - I agree with you that the kids are probably checking for understanding without realizing they are doing it. When I looked at these two groups I was amazed to see that the second group was more invested in their reading. I think using the Daily5 has helped.

    @Shauna - It takes a while to build stamina but the wait is worth it. I can truly say that the kids in my class this year have done more reading than other classes I've had in the past. They are reading stories of their own choosing and have a handle in their own learning. I say "Jump in with both feet" and try the Daily5 and CAFE and you won't be disappointed. Keep in touch!

  4. Hi Mrs. Carroll,
    Being a parent of a child in your classroom this year, I must agree that Daily5/Cafe is encouraging more independent reading. Max has always loved being read to, but this year, I find him reading to himself much more often. I love to compare the results of your looks like you are fostering a love of reading! Thank you!

  5. @Mrs. T,
    I think the Daily5/Cafe has taken off in our room. I have heard from several parents that their child is reading more or reading for the first time. It makes me feel good to know that the kids are enjoying being able to read a 'good fit' book of their choice. In my heart I think this truly makes a difference. Time will tell.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  6. Thanks for sharing that. It's interesting. My mind is working on how to integrate tech into the solution.


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