Sunday, September 29, 2013

Teaching How to Read for Information in Tapestry of Grace

As a seasoned Tapestry of Grace user, I often field questions on how to teach children to answer the Accountability and Thinking questions in the curriculum. This is something I also struggled with when my oldest reached Dialectic level. I think most of us learned to read for information and find the main idea sometime in our school years, but we're really not sure how we learned it and therefore how to teach it to our children.

Tapestry of Grace also expects students to develop advanced skills of analysis in reading. This is not a curriculum where the questions given to you ask "What is A?" then the book tells you "A is this." The questions are worded in such a way as to assess how much the student understood what they read, then to start to analyze what they think about it. That is one of its greatest strengths - and for some of us, one of its greatest stumbling blocks.

As a teacher at Lampstand Learning Center, I also needed a way to show my students how to do this as well. Some students just pick this skill up easily, but many really struggle. I'm not there with them except in their weekly discussions, and I had to come up with a way to show them how to prepare well for the discussions, using their questions. I think these are some good pointers that will get a student well on their way to mastering these skills.

*** NOTE: Book page numbers, weeks used in Tapestry, and the Accountability and Thinking Questions are all copyrighted material. I am using this information from Year 2, Week 20, which is available on the website as part of a free sample that is accessible to anyone. ***

Week 20 is in Unit 3 of Year 2, which covers from the Fall of Rome to Colonial times. Here is the history reading assigned for dialectic students:

And here are the questions that the Dialectic level student should be expected to answer from this assigned reading:

And here are the books:

It seems that most students of Dialectic age are really resistant to the idea of doing prereading work - they tend to want to read first, then try to answer the questions. One of the first skills they need to learn is to prepare themselves for the reading. This is how they will become the most efficient at finding the information.

Their first step should always be to read the questions. I also recommend that they read the General Information for All Students section of the Student Activity Pages. This is a great summary of what will be learned this week and acts as a good introduction to the material.

Next, they should look at the first book assigned, This Country of Ours. In looking over this book, it should be obvious that this book covers the history of America from the time of the English colonies. In looking back over the list of questions, it is easy to see that the first two questions should definitely be answered in this resource, and possibly the next three, and questions 6-8 are NOT likely to be answered here. They can do the same with the Thinking Questions, and see that #5 is not likely to be answered by this resource. Then, they can mark these questions so that they are keeping track of what information they're trying to find in this book.

Next, they need to look over the pages assigned for chapter and section headings. This Country of Ours has short chapters with no subheadings, and the table of contents shows us the topics of the assigned chapters:

Now we can see that the first two chapters we'll be reading are about John Smith. It is probably likely (especially if you read Thinking Question 2) that Smith is the person asked about in question #1. So, before we read chapters 13 and 14, we reread Accountability Questions 1 and 2, and Thinking Questions 1 and 2. We can also look to see if information about King James is in these chapters.

With this prework, we are teaching our students to read with a focus. They now know exactly what they are looking for. This will also help them learn to skim through the paragraphs with an eye towards locating the specific information they will need to fully answer the questions given. If they continually refer back to their questions in this manner as they read, they will be learning how to find the information to answer the questions and be well prepared for their Socratic discussions.

In my next blog post, I'll be covering how to teach students to answer questions fully, using several techniques such as mind mapping, outlining, and referencing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A new season of life in homeschooling has begun. My oldest graduated in June so I'm beginning to lose students. I love homeschooling so much, I wonder where will I be when my youngest graduates. Then, something comes along that reminds me that God knows what I need and already has a plan in mind. I am working with some great people on a new program that is just getting off the ground. If this works out, I will continue to work with homeschoolers for many years.

Thank you, God, for knowing my desires and gently showing me that your plan for me is good.