Dynamic Teaching For Deeper Reading Reflection 1

For the next few weeks I will be participating in #cyberPD.  This online community will be reading and reflecting on Vicki Vinton's book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading.  This first post will focus on the introduction and chapters 1-4.  If you'd like to learn more about #cyber PD you can go to Cathy Mere's blog or Michelle Nero's blog.  Thanks to both of them for hosting.


Vinton did a great job setting up the argument that we need to adapt our teaching to prepare students for a world that we don't yet know.  Teachers are no longer the holders of knowledge; we have to create thinkers who can parse fact from fake and think deeply about a variety of texts.  I loved that she referred to Terry Thompson and his scaffolding work.  I heard him give a presentation on this and he talked a lot about the amount of work that teachers do vs the work students are doing.

Chapter 1 The Necessity of a Problem-Based Approach to Teaching Reading

This is where we start getting to the nitty gritty of Vinton's thinking.  She's says that the problem with a lot of reading instruction is that we are too focused on the pieces of reading and not the whole.  She says that teachers are so focused on specific strategies in specific books that it becomes very difficult for students to create the transfer into other books.  I've been thinking a lot about comprehension in 1st grade.  I usually have a mix of students who are just beginning to read, students who are reading at grade level and students who are reading above grade level.  In first grade these differences in readers are enormous.  Even though these differences exist I've been thinking a lot about how get my students to think deeper about texts both in read aloud and independently.  My struggle here is finding a balance between teaching my students how to think while they are reading and giving them the freedom to come up with the critical thinking on their own.

Chapter 2 Shifting Focus from Complex Texts to Complex Thinking

This chapter was a great lesson on how to look at text complexity.  Are the students reading to learn vocabulary and solve unknown words or are they reading to thinking creatively and critically about a text.  You can't have both at the same time.  If students are expected to think critically then most of the words should be easy to read or figure out.  Vinton talks a lot about Lexile levels in this chapter.  She also mentions a classroom library she was working with being leveled.  I wonder what she thinks about leveled libraries.  She does go on to say that an official level is just a small part of deciding text complexity and appropriateness for a student.

Above all reading is about meaning.  Vinton drives home this point in chapter 2 but I think it's necessary.  Too often students are "reading" and not comprehending or thinking about what's happening in the story.  If they don't do this they will never find a love of reading. As a Reading Recovery teacher we were always thrilled when students shifted from only seeing the visual aspects of the text to finally understanding there was meaning to the story.  This was when they would take off and really start to enjoy reading.

"Planning for readers not texts" (pg. 23)  When we look at books we need to have the reader as the main focus not the strategy, the lesson or the standard.  What does the reader need next and will this book help them on their reading journey.  This is something that is a central part of Reading Recovery but doing this in the classroom has been a little more difficult.  I'm excited to read the second part of the book to get specific examples on how this looks for whole class read aloud.

Chapter 3 Toward More Complex Views of Thinking, Close Reading and the Reading Process

Vinton talks about the difference between critical thinking and creative thinking.  I had never thought of it like this before.  You can be a creative thinker without being a critical thinker but you can't be critical without being creative.  We need to teach students to have an open mind, refrain from judgement and consider all possibilities and then go back and analyze these ideas and possibilities to come to conclusions.

Chapter 4 Strengthening the Connection Between Teaching and Learning

This was my favorite chapter so far.  We can not become better teachers until we understand how students learn.  I had to hold myself back from underlining most of the chapter.  I love that Vinton talks about how learning is a deep understanding that can be transferred and applied in many situations and across many texts (pg 45).  So often we get our list of standards, check them off as we teach them and don't take the time to facilitate the transfer of knowledge across reading and writing or across texts, days, weeks and months.

Vinton also talks about the impact of stress on learners and the need for time and repetition.  I felt like she was saying slow down, take your time and then the impact will be great.  She also mentions reading for pleasure.  Why do we take the pleasure out of reading in classrooms?  Every summer I look forward to reading books that are easy and fun, why are so many kids deprived of that?  A few years ago I started "Student Book Pick", every day 1 student gets to pick a book I read to the whole class.  We do this just for pleasure.  It can be any book out of the classroom library.

I was glad that Vinton mentioned Peter Johnston's book Choice Words at the end of this chapter.  I kept thinking about this book and some presentations he's given about book conversations.  He, like Vinton, says that teachers should read a good quality text and then allow the conversation to flow between the students.

Major takeaways:

Above all meaning.  Students should be getting the meaning of the book and thinking creatively and critically about what is happening along the way.

Slow down, repeat and give the students space to absorb the new learning.

Create a bridge to help them transfer their knowledge to many different situations.


  1. I'm wondering about her take on levelled book libraries too. Maybe we'll read about that later. I get annoyed when other adults try to tell my students a book is the wrong level for them. I think learning to choose books for themselves is so important. And choosing a book that's a bit too hard can really stretch a reader!

  2. LOVE this: "give the students space to absorb the new learning"! I think often my colleagues overscaffold for students because they are afraid to release control or feel they just don't have time to let students grapple with ideas. When we give students time and permission to explore, they usually surpass our expectations! Such power when we let students take initiative and lead their own learning.


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