Stories, Songs and Poetry to Teach Reading and Writing Literacy through Language

by Robert and Marlene McCracken (Peguis, 1987 ISBN 0-920541-35-6.) Professional Book.
This review by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.



Robert and Marlene McCracken's book is far from new, but it has some wonderful techniques for helping readers interact with text. Many books tell you to use the same chant, rhyme or predictable text over and over. The McCracken's book gives concrete suggestions as to what to do with it so that maximum learning and minimum boredom takes place. Many of their activities concern early readers, but here's one for readers of any age. Pointing out that many poor readers don't know how to bring information to a text in order to get information from it, they dust off the old cloze technique and use it creatively. They select a text such as the following and leave blanks where a variety of words would do. Readers supply alternatives and these are written down in lists for each blank.

"People said that the old woman who lived in the ______________ was strange. She never went into the village, and she kept to herself. She must be very __________, that woman, and she always was different. Some said that she was a ______________, but whether she was or she ___________, she was scary, and nobody would go near her."

These supplied words can become a basis for vocabulary work, or a discussion of parts of speech, or you can go back to the text and say things such as "Suppose this is a spooky story. Will that change your word choice?" "What if I tell you that this is set in medieval times?"

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