October 2, 2017

'Reading with a Purpose" Helps Students Learn

Rebecca Ophoff’s 25 fourth-graders are following along an article at their desks as she asks them what kind of writing it is.

“What makes it expository? How do you know?” the Stocking School teacher asks. “Kylee?”

Kylee stands and offers, “Because the picture looks like he’s making something?,” referring to a picture of a man holding a plate of spaghetti with a pot boiling nearby.

Rebecca Ophoff’s 25 fourth-graders are following along an article at their desks as she asks them what kind of writing it is.

“What makes it expository? How do you know?” the Stocking School teacher asks. “Kylee?”

Kylee stands and offers, “Because the picture looks like he’s making something?,” referring to a picture of a man holding a plate of spaghetti with a pot boiling nearby.

“I tell you what, I’ve got to disagree,” Ophoff respectfully responds. “By looking at that picture, I would guess that this is a literary piece.”

She prods the class further, asking what other features might suggest expository writing. A girl named Kiarra stands and volunteers, “The reading. It says ‘Physical Changes.’”

She’s referring to a subhead of the story, which is about how matter changes form using boiling spaghetti as an example. The students are learning about science, but also how to differentiate forms of writing by looking for literary clues.

It’s a peek into how teachers at Stocking, a high-poverty neighborhood school, are using a cross-discipline approach to improve reading, while teaching other subject content. That may be one reason it was among a handful in Grand Rapids Public Schools that improved in all four subject areas of the M-STEP statewide assessment given last spring, leaders say.

“We’re really committed in this building to making sure that we’re teaching science and social studies throughout the day, so they have that knowledge base to draw from when they start to read at higher levels,” said Principal Joann Riemersma. “That’s a huge shift we’ve made here.”