Friday, July 6, 2007

Mosaic of Thought

I have just finished Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmerman’s 2nd Edition of Mosaic of Thought (70% new material including many stories about Ellin’s work with the Cornerstone Project – some of the poorest schools in the country). Either I’ve gotten a lot smarter since I first read the first edition eight years ago or the text has gotten easier in this second edition!  Mosaic begins each chapter with a challenging adult passage so that you, the learner, can practice the strategy that will be introduced with a text at an adult’s instructional level. Problem was that the text seemed way above my instructional level - usually so challenging that I just shut down – much like my struggling readers do. I had very little schema for the type of comprehension work that Keene and Zimmerman were describing, and I struggled through most of the chapters. The only chapter I fully understood was activating schema and making connections… so that is where I started.

The second time I read Mosaic of Thought was two years later in a book study with a group of teachers. By now I had received Professional Development that scaffolded my understanding of the seven comprehension strategies. I had also read Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis’ Strategies that Work which put the principles of Mosaic into lessons that I could understand. Finally Debbie Miller wrote my book, Reading With Meaning. Debbie is a first grade teacher and she took the Mosaic strategies and put them in the context of a first grade classroom! Now this was a book that my little kindergarten brain could wrap itself around! It became the Bible for our kindergarten and first grade work in reading comprehension.

Now comes the second edition of Mosiac and this time around Keene and Zimmerman spend the second chapter answering all the questions that I have spent hours discussing with my peers. Should comprehension strategies be taught one at a time when we know comprehension is about integrating strategies? Should children study different strategies based on their reading level? Don’t think-alouds rob children of the joy of hearing the poetic language and beauty in a new story? Do comprehension strategies slow down thoughtful, able readers? Is there an order to teaching the strategies that is better than another? Each of these questions has monopolized hours of thought and discussion, and thankfully, Mosaic answers each of these questions.

Better yet, the passages this time around that introduce each chapter are text that I understand! They engage me. I am able to use the comprehension strategies that I have learned to read the introductions at a deeper level. So I ask you, have I gotten smarter or did the authors do a better job? Probably some of both. As a learner I have deepened my knowledge with each year, but the teachers, Ellin and Susan, have also become pros at presenting this material. Isn’t that the way teaching is if you are a lifelong learner? Each year you get a little better so that you know how to scaffold and stretch instruction. Isn’t that what we love most about this profession?

Mosaic gets my 5 star rating!


Melanie Holtsman said...

OK, so I was putting off my professional reading this summer and this book is sitting on my nightstand. Now I have to start it today!!! Thanks for the motivation!

Mrs. McLeod said...

I planned to attack a professional book this summer, and I think I just found the must-read. Thank you for your insight!

Debbie Harbour said...

I have been so interested in this book after listening to others talk about it during the Mosaic discussions. Now as I read your post, I feel like we all could have many of the same questions answered. I can't wait! Thanks for the insight.

Skipper said...

aolineLove the blog! Now I get to keep up with what you are doing. What other books should I be reading to keep my brain from turning into mommy mush? Lauren Skipper