Reading is Communication

By Nancy Roberts, co-author of The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

A “few” years ago, while working as a first grade teacher, it became apparent that students thought reading was something you did… but did not interact with. They had all pretty much cracked the “code” (phonics) and could decode with general success, but that was where it ended. I found I had to go back and reread with them and discuss what they’d read to get the information shared in the reading.

I also at this time realized that most of my students talked at me and expected me to talk at them, and not with them… The conversation, the exchange of thoughts and ideas was missing. The students having real success with early reading were the ones who ASKED and SHARED questions and ideas; they were metacognitive with reading and conversation. It was then I realized “Conversation” needed to be in my lesson plans. And so it was; we would have Conversation Corner everyday on our Invisible Rug. My introduction to this was met with curiosity, excitement and became a springboard into what our day of learning held. It began of course with the wondering… WHY is the Conversation Rug INVISIBLE? WHY did we meet on the rug? WHERE did it start and end? WHO saw it? WHO put it there? WHAT would we talk about? WHEN would we do it? We had fun conversing about these questions and answers… The students became engaged and listened to others, adding, asking, supporting, etc.

From these conversations I took notes on a chart board. We found out we had some great information to share and invited and introduced others to it with the FIVES on our Conversation Corner and Invisible Rug.

  1. Facts: the names, dates, society, locations, etc. that are provided to the listener/reader
  2. Inferences: the suggestions, hints, or ideas that the listener/reader gets from the Facts and the Vocabulary used
  3. Vocabulary: the words used, both academic and descriptive
  4. Experience: the connections made with what is being shared which can come from self, news, other texts…
  5. Summary: the application of tying it all together in sequence, in chunks that are meaningful and memorable


At this point, the Conversation Corner was where I did read alouds with the students. They listened intently for FIVES collection and we charted our findings. I used Mary Pope Osborne’s, Magic Treehouse series. This was the beginning of real reading/listening. The series offered historical fiction full of fun and wonder with bits of history we could then “research” later with the FIVES! They became avid ACTIVE readers. THEY brought conversation to the Conversation Corner. All learned and engaged at their pace and supported each other. I LEARNED so much from that corner and probably most important for me was that as a teacher I had to LISTEN too.

I just recently heard from a past parent who shared that her daughters and others from my early days of first grade conversations have never forgot those early foundations that built the ground for success. This made an “old” teacher smile and reflect on the joy of learning and sharing and conversation.

The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

The FIVES Strategy for Reading Comprehension

By Mary Shea & Nancy Roberts

Available at the Learning Sciences bookstore


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