Discussion about Predictions and Inferences Builds Students’ Love of Books


Teacher: Margaret Koch


Students: Grade 4, ages 9 – 10


Audio Content: Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie

Location: Woodlynde School, Strafford, PA Introduction

Margaret Koch, a fourth grade teacher at the Woodlynde School, has a class of eleven students who are learners with mild to moderate learning differences, requiring careful and strategic instruction to meet each of their individual needs. Having always advocated technology as a tool for teaching in her classroom, she welcomed the use of audio books in the classroom. Since Koch reads out loud to her students on a daily basis, she also welcomed the break an audio book brings. She chose Kate Dicamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie in hopes that her students would be able to understand, respond and enjoy it as a work of literature.

Use of Technology. Like other Woodlynde teachers, Koch found the downloading aspect frustrating due to the school’s firewall interfering with their access to Audible content.  Koch was able to adapt and burned the audio book onto a CD. But after the first day of listening, Koch discovered that due to the odd track list, it was difficult to stop the story in specific places and resume listening again. She decided to record the CD onto an audio tape, giving her freedom to stop the story and leave a specific place over night, as opposed to keeping the CD player on pause for 24 hours. One issue of concern was the speed of the audio. Since the students were reading along with the text in front of them, many reported that the audio was too fast for them. Koch remarked that if it was possible to change the speed of the audio without affecting its quality, perhaps some students would benefit.
Classroom Lesson. Prior to listening, Koch asked the class about friendship. Students broke into three groups to discuss the characteristics of a friend and write down their findings. The groups brought their lists to the big group and, as a class, created a large master list. Koch then asked, “Based on this evidence, can a pet be a friend?” Then Koch played Because of Winn Dixie, using the audio in place of a daily read aloud activity and featuring more teacher-led discussion. The discussions were designed in respect to comprehension, making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections. She would also call on specific students to make predictions and inferences, and students assumed the point of view of the main characters in order to demonstrate understanding.

Summary/Results. After a few chapters, students didn’t want to stop listening. But even with the excitement, Koch felt that the students missed her reading to them. She felt that there is no emotional connection with audio books and that the students missed the human connection of being read to. The cultural gap between the students and the story also proved to be an obstacle. Koch often had to stop and explain phrases like “Fixin’ to pitch a fit.” As time went on and students became more acclimated to the story, the need for explanations dwindled. Some students were also initially distracted by the narrator’s thick southern drawl. The students found themselves trying to adjust the way they listen in order to understand. Koch reported that some of the students had great difficulty with the voice, but others didn’t miss a word and loved that the accent gave the story an authentic feeling. Overall, Koch found that the understanding and comprehension of the audio increased over time and many students were showing signs of beginning to master the material. A content quiz that she had conducted in class showed a high level of command and—subsequently—high grades.

Teacher Quote.  “My goal was to introduce a wonderful piece of literature in a new and different way to motivate students and increase their enjoyment of literature. That goal has been met.”

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