Teaching Reading Strategies with by pengxiuhui


									           Teaching Reading Strategies with “The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty

        I use the short story “The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty to teach reading strategies at
the beginning of the semester because it is high interest and relatively short. The focus of
this activity is to model good reading. The steps I use are as follows:

   1. Discuss the difference between active and passive reading mentioning the types of
      behaviors that result from passive reading (skimming without processing,
      distraction, skipping unknown vocabulary at the expense of narrative
      comprehension, etc.). Introduce the students to the active reading strategies in the
      form of a bookmark that they can use to remind them as they read.
   2. I like to use Jim Burke’s Interactive Notes which can be reproduced from
      http://www.englishcompanion.com/pdfDocs/interactivenotes.pdf. This method is
      less intensive and threatening than annotating. If you don’t like the notes or are
      short on paper,  you can have the students draw three columns on a sheet of
      notebook paper and label them: Before, During, and After.
   3. BEFORE: In the first column, have students set a purpose, preview, establish prior
      knowledge, and make predictions by prompting them with questions. (See
      completed sample activity below.) For example:
           a. What is our purpose for encountering this text? What do we want to gain
              from it? Based on our purpose for reading, what is important?
           b. Just by looking at the pictures, title, and author’s name what predictions can
              you make about the text?
           c. What do you already know about the text, the author, or the subject?
   4. DURING: Before starting ask the students to write down any connections and
      questions that come to mind as you read the story aloud in the second column. Stop
      at different points in the story, and model your own questions, connections, and
      inferences, encouraging them to write them down. Encourage them to draw the
      setting in the column if they need to see the building in order to understand where
      the characters are in relationship to each other. Stop again at especially descriptive
      sections (like the gun shot wound description), and ask if they can see it. If they
      agree, ask why. (See completed sample activity below) For example:
           a. When I read the words “civil war”, I don’t make the connection to a war in
              Ireland. What does it remind you of?
           b. How would you describe the sniper? Why do you think he is the way he is?
           c. Every time I read this story, I still wonder why he would choose to light the
              cigarette, knowing it might mean giving up his location. Did you wonder this
              too or do you know what he might have been thinking?
   5. AFTER: Once you have finished reading, ask the students for their initial
      responses. As you address them, categorize the type of response. I do this part of
      the lesson with less prompting because I want to see, and want them to see, what
      types of responses they have naturally without influencing them. If the discussion
      never gets off the ground, then I ask questions. For example:
              Student                          Teacher
           I thought the story was boring.     Good, you are making a judgment about
                                               the story. Can you be more specific about
                                               why you feel that way? Did anymore
                                               make any contradictory judgments? How
                                               do you feel about the way the story ends?
           I still don’t understand this…      Great, asking questions is important in
                                               every stage of active reading. Why do
                                               you think you are confused? Does anyone
                                               else feel this way? Can anyone clear up
                                               the confusion for us? Maybe we should
                                               summarize the plot quickly by
                                               determining the key events.
           The story reminds me of this movie… Great! Anytime you can connect the text
                                               to something else you are familiar with
                                               can help you understand the text better.
                                               Does anyone else have any other
                                               connections to this text?
           (Silence)…                          Okay, so what? Meaning, why is this
                                               story important? Why do you think the
                                               author felt it was worth writing?

        Remind the students throughout the activity that some strategies can be used before,
during, and after reading such as predicting and questioning. Depending on the length of
the text, this process can become more fluid. This activity is only effective if the concepts
are reinforced and referred to by the same words. Following this activity I use more
specific activities, and have the students focus on one or two skills at a time. For additional
information and some great activities to encourage active reading, check out the following

Website that provides several different activities teachers can do to encourage good reading

Thorough website about reading and different strategies including vocabulary decoding

Jim Burkes’ list of things to do before/during/after reading
                           Sample Active Reading Chart for “The Sniper”
           Before                            During                                            After

(Purpose) I am reading this        I didn’t realize other countries have had       Shocking ending!
story to practice reading          civil wars. I think civil war must mean a
strategies, so I must try to pay   war within a country.                           Sometimes I feel cheated
closer attention to the story                                                      when stories end this way. I
and my thoughts when I am          Ascetic? Fanatic?                               feel like the author has
reading.                                                                           tricked me and in some ways
                                   “…the eyes of a man who is used to looking      left me hanging.
(Prior Knowledge)                  at death.”
Snipers – sharp shooters and       This sounds important because it tells me       I wonder what would come
soldiers                           so much about who the sniper is and what        next now that he knows what
                                   his life has been like.                         he did. How does he feel?
Movies and TV shows about                                                          What would his family think?
war                                Why is he on the roof?
                                                                                   The thing that interested me
WWII, WWI, Civil War in            I wonder why he chose to smoke the              the most is the mental and
America                            cigarette.                                      emotional stages the sniper
                                                                                   goes through and how that is
(Predictions)                      Who is shooting at him?                         related to anyone who lives
O’Flaherty sounds Irish                                                            with war.
                                   Armored car = Saving Private Ryan
The story will probably be                                                         I think my reactions and my
about a sniper during a war.       “Gray monster” helps me visualize the car       quick sympathy for the sniper
                                                                                   are very surprising. Why do I
The picture makes me think it      How does the woman know he is up there?         care about him and hope he
will take place in a city.                                                         doesn’t get shot even though
                                   When he shoots the woman, it disturbs me;       he shoots the woman? I don’t
                                   yet, I feel sympathetic towards him. I am       even know what he is fighting
                                   rooting for him. Why?                           for.

                                   I was afraid he was going to try to dig out     I think O’Flaherty is making
                                   the bullet with his knife.                      a statement about war and
                                                                                   the effects it has on people.
                                   How is he going to get off of the roof?

                                   I find his escape plan confusing and have
                                   trouble visualizing it. Maybe I’m reading it
                                   too quickly because I’m in a hurry to see if
                                   he lives.

                                   I think his joy at shooting the other soldier
                                   goes back to his fanaticism.

                                   I notice that the story slows down when he
                                   shoots the other sniper because it starts to
                                   feel like the slow motion part of a movie.

                                   I am surprised that he feels remorse.

                                   Him almost shooting himself is strangely
                                   funny to me and to him.

                                   Why does he want to see the body?

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