Of Mongooses And Golden Retrievers (or, Adventures in School Reading Workshop Applications)


So they can read……but can they read….?

By now Rockstar’s wrapping up Y5 at Kennedy, and Queen E will be going through all the freshie briefings for early readers next academic year onwards. I was especially interested in hearing about what reading looks like for kids who supposedly can already read f-airly proficiently.

We are told comprehension is king, and while lotsa kids can read the words, the teachers have to check whether the kids can understand what they’re reading. We’re also reminded that it’s very important the kids, especially the younger ones, see us reading actual physical books (so not many flashy screens here, a lot of it is on good ole’ traditional printed paper).

To illustrate during the talk, teachers walk through reading exercises and assessment questions with parents.

Sound easy? Here’s one:

Here's a reading passage e.g.

Here’s a reading passage

Still easy? Know all the words? Now try the questions.

school slide

Question 1 you can get straight off the text, m-aybe 2 and 3… but what about 5?

Now try this one (mercifully, the teachers read this aloud for us because otherwise there is literally one parent in the audience who can do this) on The Very Hungry Caterpillar….

This is a passage from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.... in Italian

…in Italian. (gelato! I understood gelato!)

(The point being, you can sound fairly convincing reading, without having any idea at all what the text is saying. Realising that comprehension is the goal, not difficult words per se, made me stop worrying over whether Rockstar was reading enough encyclopaedias. Insect Larvae With Eating Disorder still pretty trippy.

Couldn't resist. This is off WTFEvolution.com who is a science writer and who says this thing should run for POTUS

Couldn’t resist. This is another caterpillar off WTFEvolution.com who is a science writer and who says this thing should run for POTUS

I thought reading comprehension made post because there seem to be all these little Learn To Read English tuition places and tutor groups that randomly pop up all over the island just like the proverbial Whack-A-Mole and some of em can boast “results” via being able to read the text of higher reading levels….But yeah it’s hard to not look at an actual reading level number and think How Far Or Close Is This To 30?)

Then I also found this excerpt about Reading With Comprehension from a blog post by Queen American Mummy Blogger Heather Armstrong:

“…Leta bought a few books whose titles only someone with a Ph.D. from Harvard could decipher, and she probably finished them in the span of minutes, maybe seven. Seven minutes tops. … her sixth grade teacher pulled me aside… to tell me that there was no way Leta was comprehending what she was reading at the speed she was reading things. And she urged me to slow her down a little bit. Okay, lemme try that. …In the meantime, you go get a Golden Retriever… to stop freaking out about Squirrels.”

(Her older daughter Leta loves reading and inhales books at the speed of light, and if you think “squirrels” is intimidating, wait’ll you hear urban legend about Tina Fey’s daughter :D) Wonder if Dooce also does Battle of the Books, which Rockstar’s school has participated in for awhile and which I would’ve liked him to look at since he’s quite a voracious reader (except I then got the answer that the “cost” is too high – two lunch play times a week! 😀 So instead he chases down the books in the school library – this week he came back with one of the past B of B books which was being read in class… because he wanted to know the ending. SO I can’t ever underestimate the power of an extensive library collection either.)

Now, the Mongoose and the Cobra of the first slide was one of my favourite childhood stories, and I never figured why mongooses attack King Cobras back then. After reading the link, I still don’t completely understand why anything would go through the relative trouble of eating one (King Cobras apparently eat other snakes and prey on notably larger animals than mongooses). I did however learn that it’s “not that much trouble” for a mongoose, which has some immunity to King Cobra venom, and when consuming the entire thing the mongoose doesn’t even stop at the poison sacs because the venom is only activated by cobra saliva. (“Support your child’s research,” “Read to find out more information about a topic.”)

We get an extensive list of ideas, including having your child read the instructions on electrical appliances, reading community newspapers, biographies (Rockstar briefly checked out Markus “Notch” Persson, the Swedish inventor who created Minecraft, but has most recently been interested in Nick Vujicic who writes how helping others can build your own resilience to various stuff that can get you down, “Attitude is Altitude”), street directory navigation, discussing the differences between movie adaptations and the original novel (still working on Lord of the Rings trilogy, but honestly Rockstar first went to check out the books after Lego Sauron featured in Lego Batman :D)   

This is Notch (pic off Wikipedia.com); I don't consider him a sellout because he famously tweeted he would endorse Windows 8 for $2bio. Microsoft really gave him the $2bio.

This is Notch (pic off Wikipedia.com); I don’t consider him a sellout because he famously tweeted he would endorse Win 8 for $2bio. Microsoft really gave him the $2bio. Well Forbes says $2.5bio.

This is Nick Vujicic (pic from likesharetweet.com); limbless, he swims, surfs, and has been known to have his friends hide him in the overhead compartment of planes as a practical joke (trying doing THAT with limbs y'all)

This is Nick Vujicic (pic from likesharetweet.com); limbless, he swims, surfs, and has been known to have his friends hide him in the overhead compartment of planes as a practical joke (try doing THAT with limbs, y’all)

This is Lego Sauron (pic off Youtube); this thing is sick, when is it hitting toy stores in HK?

This is Lego Sauron (pic off Youtube); this thing is sick, when is it hitting toy stores in HK?

There are at least a few ideas that appear counter-intuitive, like “support spelling inventions,” and “If a child makes a mistake when reading aloud, don’t interrupt the reading, allow time for self-correction. If the mistake doesn’t alter the meaning, let it go.” (Thank you because without this I will likely be doing the opposite)

Therein lies the real lesson (not just to the kids, to me too :P) – kids pick up a lot more as they find their way there, and if it’s via the scenic route, they learn way more about that route, thereby bringing them to countless other destinations as well.

Anyway. Here’s how The Cosby Show’s Theo and his friend Cockroach illustrated their understanding of “Doctor J” (that’s Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, y’all) in Mark Antony’s Friends, Romans, Countrymen ;

This is the text:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

(This is the full one)

This is what Theo and Cockroach did to part of it (note faces of screen parents haha):

“..But the man so chill when they handed him the crown Caesar said ‘No, Baby’ and turned the crown down…”

Well if Mark Antony sidelined in gangsta rap I guess he would say it that way <cough>. But there’s more:

“Brutus is an honourable man,” in slightly differing contexts over the course of the speech gradually comes to mean the opposite. Which other lofty literary figure most recently used the same words to mean the exact opposite?

-pic from comicbook.com

Yeah, it was the Talking Raccoon -pic from comicbook.com

Mark Antony’s, “Brutus is an honourable man,” is Rocket Raccoon’s, “they told me you people were conceited ..but that isn’t true at all.”

Human nature and the stories that revolve around them never changed, just the language with which we tell the same stories. It’s the same insecurities within the same protagonists, except maybe now they wield electronics (thank you, Lego Batman), wands, have mutant superpowers or have blog fights (Gossip Girl is both old and new that way).

What has changed infinitely by leaps and bounds is how the stories are told…. and therefore read. Going to school today, you would probably have very different ways you can answer the same context and comprehension questions. It’s what we rely on the school for pointers for – because they monitor such changes and developments, and they find new ways to nurture that better…

Epilogue:

Then one day, this came back. 

Hello? What's this?

Hello? What’s this?

Through the school, Rockstar has a penpal out of a primary school in China

Through the school, Rockstar has a penpal out of a primary school in China

I can’t read this, but my kid can. Apparently this is a reply letter, Rockstar says they’ve been writing to these kids in class (vetted by the school, I guess). How freaking awesome is that? 

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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