asking the heart questions
This morning at breakfast, before we even had a chance to check out Maddy’s kindergarten calendar or talk about the weather, an article in The Kids Post had us practicing another super-easy (but incredibly important) reading comprehension strategy before we even knew it.
We practiced questioning.
The article lent itself to questioning, and my three little questioners were asking me questions before I even realized it was a perfect time to talk about questions. By the time I read the short, kid-friendly, question-provoking article, we were question-queens (and a king!).
- Questioning: I think it was the picture of a young boy sitting on a hospital bed while giving a nurse a ‘high-five’ that caught Maddy’s attention.
Mommy, why is that boy giving that lady a ‘high-five’? What’d he do? Why is he on that table?
I really don’t know, I said. The title of the article is, ‘For Teenager, A Lifesaving Machine.’ When I hear that title, it makes me wonder what kind of machine could save someone’s life. What do you wonder?
Maddy said, I wonder, does that mean something is wrong with him? And where is he?
Owen asked, Is that a machine on his arm?
And Cora said, He is a happy boy. And his face is happy.
I said, Yes, he does look happy, Cora. I wonder why. Owen, I’m really not sure what’s on his arm, but right here it says, ‘Small artificial heart pumps boy’s blood’.
The caption (I pointed to the caption) under the picture says, ‘Savoy Bradford, who has an artificial heart, high-fives nurse Carolyn Hanney Gilbert at the Washington Hospital Center’. So what do we know now?
Maddy said, He’s in a hospital. On the bed, and that lady’s a nurse. And something about his heart.
We talked a little about the word, ‘artificial’, and what things we knew that were artificial–like some flowers in the house (gulp–hope Nate Berkus isn’t reading this…) and what an ‘artificial heart’ might be.
I said, Let me read the article and we’ll see if we can figure out if something is wrong with him, where he is, and why he looks so happy.
So that’s what we did. I “checked in” at natural breaks in the article, after I read something that clarified one of our questions, and I’d say something like,
-Hey! Did you hear that? Now we know what happened to his heart. . .
-Hmmmm, doctors saved Savoy’s life by putting a machine near his heart. Cora said he looks happy. Why might Savoy be happy?
Sure, don’t think I didn’t remember my audience; I skipped over some of the detailed medical information and got right to the parts I thought Maddy, Owen, and Cora would understand. They were really interested in Savoy and his heart story. Who wouldn’t be? It’s completely amazing, and their questions kept them engaged.
The article’s photo gallery is incredible, and although I just discovered it tonight, I’ll definitely share it with Maddy, Owen, and Cora tomorrow, and looking at the pictures together might be a pretty cool way of having them work on a little re-telling; they can use the pictures to talk me through what they remember about Savoy’s heart.
Harvey and Goudvis (2000, Strategies That Work) say that “questions propel us forward and take us deeper into reading,” which is exactly what happened today at breakfast, even though I was the one doing the reading. Maddy, Owen, and Cora were interacting with the text, listening for the answers to their questions and interested in the article because they had invested something–their questions–before reading.
There are tons of ways of using questioning to improve children’s reading comprehension. This is just one sneaky way to use it, on the fly, with cereal bowls on the table and a long day ahead.