Slice of Life: Reading Lessons in Unsuspecting Places


There is a printer in the hallway, and two printers in the garage. The ones in the garage are there because  no one has been able to make them work our wifi. Monday our printer in the house stopped working.  I told my husband figuring we’d probably need another printer.

“We’ve got two in the garage,” he says.

“And they don’t work.”

He just looks at me and says, “Yes. They. Do.”

“Okay, where’s the manual?” I say, thinking he doesn’t have it.

Surprisingly he shows up with it.

Even more surprisingly, I figure it out in about 5 minutes. Bam! I’m printing. “Yes! I am awesome!”  Feeling rather full of myself, I tell my husband, “If you could find the manual for that receiver, I bet I could figure that out.”

Minutes later he hands me the manual.

Not sure why I asked for this. About two weeks ago, somehow the audio stopped working on the TV. No idea why, and up to this point I really didn’t care. There are four remotes and many boxes and switches involved. All of this has given me a complete hands-off relationship with the equipment.  Because I rarely watch TV, I forget how to turn the thing on. Consequently, I only watch something if someone else is. And even then, I usually walk away.

What was I thinking. Me fix the receiver?  I’m not completely sure what a receive does. Receive something, but what and how is mystery.

Faced with my self-inflicted challenge, I opened the manual and turned to the diagram of the console. Yep, lots of buttons.  I sink down on the hard wood floor and read the display on the receiver. It says, “SAT.” I think, well the date’s off, it’s Monday. But that  has nothing to do with sound.

I study the page, searching for anything that might have to do with audio. The diagram delineates every knob and its purpose. I read it aloud, because that’s what I do with difficult text. “Number 14 – source.” I trace the line that leads me to the knob. “Number 18 – volume.” Again I locate the dial on the diagram and then find it on the black box. I turn the knob. Nothing. Back to the manual and  I look at the explanation of “source,” I read aloud, “SATELLITE/CABLE.” Oh maybe that’s what SAT means?

I touch the source dial

Flip:  GAME.

Flip:  HTML.

Flip : TV and… sound

Ha! I am a technology rock star.

My husband and daughter are in awe.  Both want to know how I did it.

What did I do? I ventured into foreign territory, but I had a history of a little success so I was ready to try. I had time, no pressure. I stumbled around a bit in the text, but I  took my time and played around. I asked myself, what made sense and tested it. It didn’t work, so I tried something else. Tested it and bam it worked!

This got me thinking about how a struggler faces text and how we teach reading. What did I do?

I had a bit of confidence and time to process. I  read aloud. Questioned.  Tested it. Got feedback. Re read with the feedback in mind, and tried again.

In the end, I got it and felt good about me.

Now if that happened for students as they work through a text; what readers we would have.

Thanks to Tara, Dana, Beth, Stacey, Anna and and Betsy at Two Writing Teachers who provide our Slice of Life sharing space. Find more slices and add your own here.

11 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Reading Lessons in Unsuspecting Places

  1. Awesome way to navigate difficult informational text. This is the work we must teach our kids to do – for themselves, their self worth, and to increase their value to the world we all inhabit. What a perfect reflection on the real work readers do and on the motivation to do it. Additionally, how awesome you were able to fix the printer and the tv! You have to be the family rockstar! Way to go.

  2. You amaze me and especially your reflection of the process you engaged in to become the rockstar! What a wonderful analogy for the readers in our classrooms. “In the end, I got it and felt good about me.” Fantastic outcome after your struggle to understand. Advice to remember: “It didn’t work, so I tried something else.”

  3. We are all afraid to take chances. We rush out to replace the “broken” thing–what a great parallel you made between your experience and those of our students. I often wonder how my students and their parents so readily give up on their students being able to read and navigate even grade-level text and yet they navigate IKEA so well both in form and in fashion. LOL. I can’t navigate IKEA or anything from IKEA. Good work. Gold star for you!!! 🙂

  4. Oh I LOVE this story. What a perfect one to share with students about close reading!!! I need to remember this and find the manual when I need to fix something! WAY TO GO!!!! YAY Julieanne! 🙂

  5. Hooray, Julieanne! Not only am I thoroughly impressed with your technological capabilities, I love how you related your experience to reading. Seeing this kind of learning experience through our students’ eyes helps us empathize with what they are faced with daily, and this helps us te better teachers. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Bravo! And, of course, I love the way your mind circled back to your teacher self, to remind us of what our kids need, too:
    “I had a bit of confidence and time to process. I read aloud. Questioned. Tested it. Got feedback. Re read with the feedback in mind, and tried again.”

  7. Good for you, you techie! I love how you reflected on this experience and thought about what it meant for young readers. You just wrote a perfect mini-lesson on fix-up strategies!

    What will you fix next??

  8. If only we applied what was happening to us in real life to the students’ “real” school life as you’ve done several times, Julieanne. This is a terrific story of persistence, feeling no pressure, taking the time to question, using prior knowledge. It’s great you were successful-Hurrah! But even more that you saw that this would apply to all learning, your students’ learning! Great stuff!

  9. First of all I was shocked that there were manuals (too often companies are putting them on line only). Loved the way you described your process. The key seems to be you wanted to solve this problem and you had the time to explore. Too often we feel the pressure of all that must be taught, so we don’t give kids the chance to experiment.

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