Category Archives: WITS Talks

Engaging Readers in Questioning and Discussion

By Nick Colbert, Program Coordinator

WITS held another installment of our series known as WITS Talks. WITS Talks provide volunteers with information on working with students during programs. The subject of our January WITS Talks was “Engaging Readers in Questioning and Discussion”, facilitated by Chicago educator and Learning & Behavior Specialist, Jessica Uzoh. The best way to engage readers is to help cultivate their reading identity. Watch the video or read on to learn how to support an emerging reader in cultivating their reading identity while learning different types of texts for students, reading skills, and depths of thinking students need.

Cultivating Reading Identity

How can we inspire children to identify as readers? It is a task of many teachers and literacy mentors. It takes the ability to translate what’s being read into something that is relevant or tangible for young students. Teaching and learning both work best when they go two ways; as in students should be co-creators of knowledge. Through this approach a student can truly feel their contribution is valid.

Types of Texts for Readers
  • Emergent Story Books (Brown Bear, Brown Bear)
    • Stories that have characters, a problem and solution
    • Have pictures that closely match text
    • Highly engaging and memorable stories
    • Rich and beautiful literary language, ex: fairy tales & folktales
  • Early Readers (Elephant & Piggie)
    • Short sentences and larger font
    • Pictures support text and aid reading in figuring out unknown words
    • Repetitive sentences, sometimes rhyming words to help early readers predict and decode unknown words
  • Easy Chapter Books (Mercy Watson)
    • Larger font and shorter sentences
    • Conventional plot with a problem and solution
  • Graphic Novels & Comic Books
    • Graphic Novel (Amulet)
      • Follow tradition plot structure and will conclude in one book
      • Longer and more complex than comic books
    • Comic Books (Black Panther)
      • Shorter texts and less complex than graphic novels
      • Story and plot takes place across several issues/books
    • Longer Chapter Books (Rules)
      • May have illustrations
      • Traditional plot structure and asks reader to infer
Proficient readers can do the following eight actions:
  • Activate prior knowledge – and make connections before, during and after reading
  • Determine importance – understand the most significant events in fiction and main idea in nonfiction
  • Visualize – able to hear, see, smell, and feel what’s described in the text
  • Infer – form judgments and make predictions
  • Question – read with curiosity
  • Retell & Synthesize – figure out how parts of a text fit together
  • Monitor for meaning – monitor their own understanding, fix confusion and understand new vocabulary
Depth of Thinking
  • Level 1 – Recall
    • Recall elements and details of story structure such as sequence of character, plot and setting
  • Level 2 – Skill/Concept
    • Identify and summarize the major events in narrative
    • Describe the cause & effect of an event
  • Level 3 – Strategic Thinking
    • Apply a concept in other contexts
    • Determine the author’s purpose and describe how it affects the interpretation of a reading selection
  • Level 4 – Extended Thinking
    • Synthesize information from multiple sources
    • Describe and illustrate how common themes are found across texts

Check out other great volunteer training and learn more about WITS.

WITS Talks: Building Positive Relationships with Students presented by Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW

By Eric Coleman Development & Communications Manager

On November 9, 2018, Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW of the Juvenile Protective Association (JPA) presented the first WITS Talk of the 2018-19 school year on building positive relationships with students.  Michele provides insights on working with students that are especially relevant to new or returning mentors working with new students. Read on for an interview with Michele and view the accompanying slideshow for the above video.

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WITS Talks: Saying Goodbye: Creating Healthy Transitions with Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW

By Ellen Werner, Program Director

When it comes time to saying goodbye, we can often be at a loss for words. Creating a healthy and supportive transition can feel difficult, but with the right information and time for reflection, we can feel more comfortable navigating these key moments. In her WITS Talk, “Saying Goodbye: Creating Successful Transitions,” Michele Lansing, MA, MS Ed., LCSW examines the complex factors that contribute to an individual’s reactions to endings.

The full video of the WITS Talk above. Read on for an interview with Michele and additional resources for saying goodbye to students.

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WITS Talks: Engaging Young Readers with Graphic Novels with Amy Duffy

Interview by: Eleanor Dollear, Program Coordinator

Amy Duffy is the Content Curator of Youth Materials for Chicago Public Libraries. She recently led a WITS Talk for a group of volunteers, staff, and community members on the value of graphic novels and how we can support students in getting as much as possible out of them. 

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WITS Talks: Understanding Humane Literature with Mickey Kudia

Interview By: Tra’Lisha Renteria, WITS Program Coordinator

Mickey Kudia leads a WITS Talk on understanding humane literature at BP.

Mickey Kudia, Chicago Program Manager at HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), led a WITS Talks on understanding humane books. Mickey holds a Master of Education in Humane Education from Valparaiso University and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Communication and Education from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As a humane educator, Mickey travels to schools throughout Chicago educating young people about animal protection, human rights, and environmental ethics. He has presented workshops on humane education and service learning at conferences across the United States. Below, Mickey explains the concept of humane literature and shares some best practices on how to have these impactful conversations with students.

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WITS Talks: On Being Trauma-Informed with Jacob Dancer III

Jacob Dancer III delivers a WITS Talks training at Exelon

Jacob Dancer III is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Manager at UCAN. Jacob led a WITS Talks on being trauma- informed for WITS volunteers and community members on November 14, 2017. A full video of the training, hosted by Exelon, is included below. Please read on for a complementary interview with Jacob on identifying trauma and its effects on young people.

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