Saturday, February 11, 2006

Amelia's Road - Questioning/Self-Monitoring

One thing I stress in talking with teachers about reading is that reading skills and strategies can be taught with just about any quality children's book as the base for the lesson. However, some stories DO lend themselves particularly well to specific lessons.

An excellent book to use in teaching questioning or self-monitoring is Amelia's Road by Linda Jacobs Altman. When children ask questions about the text, they are monitoring their understanding of it. This is crucial to comprehension. I've had children read a passage, make such significant miscues that the text makes no sense whatsoever, and yet they keep right on going. They aren't reading - they are simply calling words. That can be deceptive because they "sound" like they're reading. It is vital that children learn how to monitor their understanding of text.

So it is important to teach children to ask questions as they read. Questions such as "What does the author mean here?" "What might happen next?" "Did that make sense to me?" "What does that word mean?" and any question related to the meaning of the text are all important in comprehending.

Amelia's Road is the story of a migrant worker family. Amelia is the daughter, and the theme is roads. Roads take Amelia and her family from place to place. They take her where she doesn't want to go. She imagines a road that takes her to her dream - her own house with blue shutters and a shade tree in the yard. One day she finds an "accidental" road - one that doesn't look like it had been built on purpose. It leads to the place where she wants to be. "More than anywhere in the world, she wants to belong to this place and know that it belongs to her." She goes there each day after school and pretends she is home. In the end, the family must follow another road to go to another farm where there are crops to be picked. But this time Amelia leaves something behind and knows that someday she'll be back. It's a tender story that tugs at your heartstrings as this young girl yearns for a place to call her own.

The story is rich with possible connections that children can make, with questions about the theme of the book, about a school where the teachers might not even learn the migrant children's names because they know they'll only be there a few weeks.

A companion text could be Who Came Down That Road by George Ella Lyon - a wonderful book that also deals with roads and history.

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