Word Callers

1001004010639249This week I met an interesting 3rd grader.  In the classroom she is often spotted hunched over a book intensely reading.  She spends her entire independent reading time with her nose in the book and rarely comes up for a breath.  Sounds great, right?

Well, I began to wonder about this reader when I sat in on a partner conference and she was demonstrating the same behaviors as independent reading time — nose in book reading to herself.  When I asked her to share with her partner (who was just sitting next to her unsure of what to do) she looked up at me as if I had asked her to do the unthinkable.  She sharply told me, “I am just reading the book.”  Through further prompting her partner and I found that she was unable to tell us anything about the book she was so intensely reading.

Then yesterday, I sat down with her for her beginning of the year reading assessment and my fears were confirmed — she is a word caller.  She read the entire text with 100% accuracy but couldn’t tell me a thing about what she had read.  Sigh.  Now what?

Today, I dusted off the book Word Callers by Kelly Cartwright to begin forming my plan of attack to get this child to be both a word reader and a thinker.  “Word Callers” is just 127 pages long and is fairly easy to study in a day.  The text includes a literature review, an assessment with materials, and lesson plans.

Here are some important facts I pulled from the book:

  • What word callers have in common is and “inflexible” approach to print. (p. ix)
  • For many word callers, reading is a “case of words or meaning.” (p.1)
  • Inflexible reading is evident when readers do not notice meaning (p. 38)
  • Students who spent one lesson per week on flexible thinking showed significant improvements in reading comprehension over students who just participated in regular small group lessons. (p. 39)

Word Caller Lessons:

  • Make students aware that there are multiple dimensions to print
  • Give students practice in thinking flexible

IMG_8017The book provides teachers with a five lesson intervention plan that helps to foster flexible thinking and improve comprehension.  The lesson directions are very thorough providing record keeping sheets, materials, pacing, and even a script to use if needed.  There are 5 lessons for one-to-one work and directions on how to adapt these for a small group.

The book also identifies word callers meaning-processing problems and provides lesson ideas for:

  • Multiple Meanings
    • homonyms
    • homophones
    • compound words
    • word parts
    • ambiguous sentences
    • jokes and riddles
  • Visualization
    • scaffold imagery
    • storyboards
    • story maps
    • paragraph restatements
  • Inferring
    • connecting lives to stories
    • two-story clue hunt
    • step building inferences
    • Cloze-ing gaps and checking

The book closes by encouraging teachers to not just give worksheets to practice comprehension but to teach students how to comprehend through strategy instruction.

So now that I have read this book what will I do?  I am going to start by giving my 3rd grade friend the 10-15 minute assessment outlined in chapter 3 to see what I can learn about her flexibility of thinking.  I will also be looking for other word callers in her class.  Then I will add a word caller lesson outlined in chapter 4 to her weekly small group plans.

Anyone else have word callers?  What do you do to change their understanding of what it means to read?

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