Slice of Life: A Cat Tale

sols_6This slice is about my cat. Thanks to the Slice of Life community for putting up with slices such as these, because they are a part of life. New rules about slices may have to be made.

I love my cat. Never thought I would be a self-proclaimed cat lover. This was an unexpected conversion. We are not cat people. We are dog people. But the busy nature of our lives and a dog’s needs just don’t mix. The self-reliant cat really seemed to fit our life style, so when a litter of kittens was abandoned near our home, we kept one.

In many ways I admire my cat. He is beautiful. He moves with power and grace. Sleep never evades him.  He oozes confidence.  He really doesn’t care what others think of him. And, he always gets his way. No one can say no to a cat. They torture you until they get what they want. You got to hand it to cats.

I spent the weekend with my cat, but not in the typical non obtrusive, just lie around and add to the furniture kind of way.

I got home on Saturday morning after a swim, just a quick stop before I go shopping, and hmm. There’s a smell. Must be the trash, I think. I grab some bags and off to the store.

About a half hour later. I walk in, bags full of groceries. Still the smell. Hmm. Check the trash, nothing there, empty.

I start unloading.

My daughter walks in and screams, “Oh my God Mom look what Chubby did!”

Yes, his name is Chubby.

I come running. What is left of a bird, is scattered down my hallway. The heat is on; the fan is blowing; feathers are floating, clinging to the walls. Yuck.

“Get a plastic bag,” I tell my daughter.

“I’m not touching that,” she replies.

“Just get it,” me disgusted with everything.

I know this is the way they say I love you (not the daughter, the cat). Great. Love me less.

After the mess is cleaned up, I go looking for him.

Vicious, evil, carnivore. Where’s that demon.

Yep, usual spot. Basket of clean clothes.

I pick him up. “Oh… Claire, come here.” I yell.

Daughter comes running.

The tip of his ear has a piece taken out of it.

I’m thinking was this after or before the bird.

He regularly comes home with scratches and I hope he’s learning not to pick fights. This is a little more that a scratch.

I call the vet.

Get him into the carrier and obtain a few scratches in the process.

I sit at the vet’s.

The gentle female vet walks in, full of love for all creatures great and small. She examines my cat.

“Hmm. Well, we’ll have to clean this,” she says. “Looks a little too late to sew it up.” She whisks him off.

In about 10 minutes and $295 dollars later, I’m in the car with cat and liquid antibiotics. Is she kidding? Me get this liquid down my cat’s throat. I have a hard enough time getting him in the cat carrier. There is no way.

That night, I dutifully try to get those antibiotics down. Not. Cats don’t do what they don’t want to do. I can’t fathom how the vet can do anything with him. (This might be how some parents view my ability to deal with a classroom full of students.)   He will just have to be ok with the antibiotic she gave him. Ugh.

Next day. He sleeps peacefully on my desk, beside my books. As if he has done no wrong to nature or my pocketbook.  2013-10-25 21.55.40

Inquiry Work: Read Aloud vs. Independent Reading

My students came in today so excited you’d think it was the day before Winter Break. I couldn’t figure out why they were so amped. So I asked.

“What is our new read aloud?!” they shouted.

We have read two wonderful books this year: Wonder and Out of My Mind. With the end of one, they can’t wait for the next one. I love this, but they don’t come in that way after they finish their own books. This behavior coupled with some seeds planted in my head by Steve Peterson, pushed me to do a little inquiry.

Exactly how different is the read aloud experience compared to the experience students have when they read independently? How far a part are they? How different? Is it like apples and oranges or more like tangerines and oranges?

There is a difference, even for me. When I prepare for a read aloud, I have probably read the text at least five times, with many lenses. The multiple reads help as does the multiple ideas I get from student input during read aloud. In the end, my understanding is far deeper than what it was the first time I read the text.

I know students are not doing the deep processing in their independent reading like they do during read aloud — there is no way they could. My wondering is: How can the gap between the two become smaller?

I wondered what students thought the difference was and how they thought they could make their independent reading experience more like read aloud. So in small groups, I asked:  How is read aloud different than reading independently?

Each student identified about two issues. Top mentions included…

  • I jot more.
  • I know when to jot.
  • Hearing and seeing the words help me.
  • I have someone near me to ask when I don’t understand.
  • Group discussions help me understand.
  • You are reading, so it’s easier to think.

Then I asked a follow up …

  • How could you know when to jot?
  • How could you hear the story?
  • How could you get group input about your book?
  • How could you make the reading easier?

Here are some of their responses…

  • I could put post its on pages I’m have problems/wonderings about and bring it to my group for discussion.
  • I could use a whisperphone to hear my story.
  • I could use the signposts (Notice and Note) to tell me when to jot.
  • I could jot when I have a wondering.
  • I could jot when I notice a pattern.

Mind you these are all suggestions and teaching points I have given them in the past, but I acted like it was a huge aha for me.

The most interesting and most difficult comment to address was this:You are reading, so it’s easier to think.

Ideally reading is thinking, but for a struggling reader or the reader who is trying to dig deeper, the thinking work is a second step (or maybe even a third step). So we talked about how we could make the reading work easier so it would be easier to think.

Our discussion went like this:

Me: How could you make the reading easier, so you could think?
Student: Read an easier book.
Me: Yes, that’s an option. What else could you do?
Student: Read a book I read before.
Me: Ok. What else could you do?
Student: I could reread.
Me: Do you have to reread everything?
Student: No, only the important parts and when I’m confused.
Me: So how do you know when it’s important?
Student: (He pointed to the charts with Notice and Note signposts), or when I see a pattern.
Me: Ok. So what could be your goal? How are you gonna make your independent reading more like read aloud?
Student: Re read important parts so I can think about it.

Cool I think. Organic close reading.

I know that they won’t necessarily do this every time they pick up a book, but the goals are written. That’s step one.

It is up to both of us now.

They try. I check. We adjust and try again.

It’s not perfect, but perhaps the gap got a little smaller today and the expectation a little clearer.