Studying Characters: An Institute on the Intersection of Comprehension and Compassion

Three Saturdays: April 10, April 24, and May 1, 2021
Institute will be offered virtually through Zoom.

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Grade: K-2
Hours: 11am-5pm Eastern Standard Time
Featuring: Sarah Mann
Payment: Purchase orders for this institute can be made out to: Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, 525 W 120th Street, Box 77, New York, NY 10027

Primary teachers approach their work with two gigantic challenges. One is helping kids to be together, to socialize them into becoming citizens in a classroom, learning the skills of patience with each other, problem solving, tenacity, all the life skills and community skills that can’t be assumed and need to be taught. And the second is that we need to teach basic reading and basic writing. We need to get kids to be engaged in their reading and help them to get the practice they need. What we’re suggesting in this institute is that these two things need to come together.

Read aloud has always been viewed as a time of day to come together and feel a sense of connectivity as a community, while learning how to think and talk about books. This institute will teach you how to leverage this precious time of day to teach the skills of empathy that, in turn, garner even deeper comprehension. You’ll learn how to embed your plans with rich, multi-layered prompting that will take students from literal to inferential understanding, engaging students in conversations about friendship, equity, safety, and the like. You’ll explore ways to turn characters into symbols for the kind and compassionate community members you are developing in your classroom. For example, Katie Sue from Mean Jean Recess Queen, might be the friend that reminds the community that we should make sure that everyone has someone to play with.

Across the institute, you’ll also learn how to prompt students to do this thinking in their own books with independence. You’ll get to know how the role of a character grows and changes across bands of text complexity. You’ll study books up the levels, considering the type of teaching the will be necessary as students read texts of growing complexity. Then, you’ll consider the types of questioning that students can take on as they develop their social competency. How did the character act? How did the people around him feel? Would I want to act that way? What can I learn from him? During this investigation of texts, you’ll also learn how to turn a few key books into character toolkits, armed with teaching points and examples to share with students during conferences and small group work.

Talk is central to developing both the understanding of text and social-emotional skills. We’ll show you how to use talk to develop both skills at once. You’ll learn methods for coaching partner and club talk that teach students the important skills they need for collaboration. You’ll learn how to set students up with both social and academic goals for their talk so that students know what they are working on and how they can improve in the process. You’ll also leave with a sense of all of the places in the day that you could be coaching talk around books and collaborative talk.

It is important for humans to feel a sense of connectivity to friends, peers, and family. Book talks around favored characters are one way for us to connect. You’ll leave empowered to take on book talks about characters with even your youngest readers that leave them motivated to read and share more. You’ll also leave this institute with ideas for connecting with families around books, enabling students to bring the characters they love in school, home.


$650/$600 NYC DOE


This institute will be offered online, in real-time via Zoom, and will not be recorded for later distribution. We will accept attendees until the institute has reached capacity.