Saturday, April 30, 2016

Close Questioning

I recently finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It had been in my next-read stack for some time, and I have no idea why it took me so long to pick it up. As I read, I made friends with the characters in the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and will hold them close to my heart for some time. 

About midway through the book I came across this line.

     "So many questions arise when you are spending your days with a child."

It was a lighthearted reference to the central character spending time with a young child.

As I continued to read, the line kept jumping to the front of my thinking. I grabbed my notebook and wrote the line down so I wouldn't forget it. Somehow, I knew that the words would cause me to think more about the questions we have when we spend time in our classrooms with children.

When I talk with teachers, I want to know what questions they have about their students. I want to know that they regularly set aside time for considering each student as a learner. I want to know that teachers think about their students and reflect on their teaching ... and ask questions.

     What is happening in this child's life outside of school? What is helping? What is not?
     Why does it seem that .... is stalled in her growth as a reader?
     What prevents .... from writing about his reading?
     Why is it difficult for ... to pause to think about the story as she reads?
     What tools could help.... comprehend the deeper meaning of the story?
     How can I help ... develop his identity as a reader? What does he know about himself already?
     What strategies does .... use in her reading? What new strategies can I show her?
     What scaffolds does .... need to become more independent?

So much emphasis has been placed on close reading for students. Mountains have been written on how to promote close reading in our classrooms. Students are becoming more independent because we are focusing on improving our instruction. 

Today, I am wondering how we can promote "close questioning" in our teaching. Are we looking closely at what our students are doing as they read? Are we thinking hard about what we see and hear in the classroom? Are we asking the right questions that will uncover the most about our students as learners? My hopes are that "close questioning" will lead us to more questions, and that we will get better at understanding our readers and supporting them on their journey toward independence.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


I decided to try out some poetry today. Feeling sadness at the loss of someone in our family.
I have tried to express the emptiness I feel. It's so hard to craft the words. But the act of writing is consoling....

The emptiness whispers
Of your presence
And for a moment I wonder
Where have you gone?

The emptiness shouts
Your name.
And I expect to see you
Step softly around the corner.

The emptiness roars
Of sadness.
And I realize the emptiness
Will not bring you back to me.

The emptiness 
Isn't speaking to me.
It's the break in my heart
That cries for you.