Tag Archives: Confusion

Child of Dandelions: Embracing then Fixing Confusion

Child of Dandelions continued:

As I continue with this novel, I continue to hit ‘speed bumps’ where I find myself confused by what I am reading.

So, what would literacy ‘gurus’ suggest a student do when confusion arises while reading?


Kelly Gallagher from Deeper Reading:

Deeper Reading

From Stenhouse Publishers

Are students willing and able to embrace confusion? Do they understand that confusion is natural, even with proficient readers, and, Gallagher would suggest, is even necessary when reading something challenging.  He quotes Sheridan Blau:

“…recognizing when we are confused is actually a sign of increased comprehension and that as readers we should welcome and embrace confusion.  Learning begins when we encounter confusion.” (p.63)

He continues:

“Students do not understand this concept.  They think they are supposed to sit down and read Great Expectations once and understand it.  They are dismayed when they become confused, and they often see their inability to immediately work through the hard parts as a reason to give up.” (63)

I can relate.  As I struggle with the place names and plot points of Child of Dandelions, I am definitely also struggling with thoughts such as ‘I should be getting this’ or ‘a better reader would be getting this, so why aren’t I?‘ or ‘I am not getting this so forget it, I’ll just choose another book.

But Gallagher writes about coaching students to persevere in the face of confusion:

“I am not concerned that they will encounter confusion, however, about what they will do when they encounter the confusion.” (63)

The next question, then, is how do I fix my confusion?


Cris Tovani passes out a sheet of fix-up strategies to her students to help them with the question, “What are we supposed to do when we get stuck reading?“:

  1. Make a connection between the text and your life, your knowledge of the world or another text.
  2. Make a prediction.
  3. Stop and think about what you have already read.
  4. Ask yourself a question and try to answer it.
  5. Reflect in writing on what you have read.
  6. Visualize.
  7. Use print conventions (key words, bold print, italicized words, etc.)
  8. Retell what you’ve read.
  9. **Reread: Rereading is the principal strategy good readers use.” — Kelly Gallagher
  10. Notice patterns in text structure.
  11. Adjust your reading rate: slow down or speed up.

For me with Child of Dandelions, I have definitely been asking a lot of questions in my head which then had led to having to reread.  For example, I arrived on a page referencing a character called Munchkin and I had no idea who he or she was:

“Sabine was about to remind the queen that Hindus are cremated, not buried, when Munchkin pulled at Lalita’s gold earring.” (45)

Thus began an almost forensic back starting at the beginning of the book to find where this Munchkin character was introduced:

“Sabine’s little brother, wearing one one of her old dresses, ran to her and she kissed him.  His name was Minaz, but she called him Munchkin. Born with Down syndrome, he hadn’t learned to say many words, but he responded to some.  He would be nine this year.” (31)

The fact that he is not a major character, however, means that, I am guessing, my reading brain didn’t pay too much attention to Minaz / Munchkin when I first read him and / or I wasn’t tuned to my reading channel.

This forensic search also necessitated a slowing down of my reading rate to find the exact reference to Minaz.

So, I wonder if I adjust my thinking to expect confusion, as every proficient reader encounters it at some point and even embrace confusion as a good thing that is forcing me to think, then maybe I enjoy this book for a different reason than it is an easy read about a topic I know well.

Having said that, part of me hopes there is a tipping point soon, when the gears click together — to mix my metaphors — and I can start getting lost in the story instead of wrestling with it to make sense. Onward…


Child of Dandelions: Am I set to the Reading Channel?

In my last post, I admitted that I am experiencing what Cris Tovani suggests are the indicators for confusion while reading Shenaaz Nanji’s Child of Dandelions.

If I am taking on the role of a learner, then I want to explore what I can do now to improve my engagement with this text.

Deeper Reading

From Stenhouse Publishers

Before I look at fixing my confusion, I recall Kelly Gallagher writing about a reader’s mind being set on the right “reading channel”:

“Coming to text in the right frame of mind is not a reading issue; it’s a concentration issue. Even good readers experience comprehension problems when they are not properly focussed on the reading task at hand.” (52)

Gallagher goes on to say,

“Regardless of reading ability, your understanding of the text is directly affected by your frame of mind when you sit down to read. Even proficient readers will not comprehend their reading if their minds are not tuned to the reading task at hand.” (52)

But, Gallagher continues:

“…being ‘off channel’ is not the problem” — in fact, it would appear to be quite normal — “…the question is what good readers do when their reading minds are ‘off channel’.” (52)

Gallagher presents three questions to help students navigate challenging text (p. 52):

  1. Have I chosen a place to read that will enable me to give my full concentration to the reading task at hand? (Yes: I wait to read at night before bed once my children have gone to bed and all of the house ‘chores’ are finished.
  2. Have I set aside enough time to give this reading the attention it deserves? (For the most part; I need quiet for reading and I typically find the quietest time is at the end of the day when I will have 3o minutes to an hour for reading.)
  3. Have I cleared my mind of other issues and turned to the “reading” channel of my brain? (Not always easy to do. And it probably doesn’t help that I am reading multiple books at the same time.)

For the teacher, Gallagher asks of himself:

“Have I adequately framed the text to help shore up my students lack of prior knowledge and experience?” (p. 53)

So, for myself, have I adequately framed the text for my reading? How might I do that? What are ways to ‘back fill’ my lack of prior knowledge and experience?

Child of Dandelions: Confusion

I confess I have been struggling with reading Shenaaz Nanji’s novel Child of Dandelions.

From Second Story Press.

In I Read It, But I Don’t Get It, Cris Tovani explores the idea of getting students to recognize when they get confused while reading. Indeed,

“there are indicators that help readers know when confusion or mind wandering is setting in.” (p. 37)

Those indicators are:

  1. The voice inside the reader’s head isn’t interacting with the text.
  2. The camera in the reader’s head shuts off.
  3. The reader’s mind begins to wander.
  4. The reader can’t remember what has been read.
  5. Clarifying questions asked by the reader are not answered.
  6. The reader re-encounters a character and has no recollection when that character was introduced. (p. 38)

For whatever reason, I am finding myself ‘bumped’ out of the story and, looking to Tovani’s indicators,

  1. my reading-in-my-head voice is shutting off,
  2. my mind is wandering,
  3. I am not remembering what I have read,
  4. my questions are not being answered
  5. and, admittedly, I am encountering characters I have no recollection meeting in the first place (Minaz/Munchkin and Milo).

I am curious why this book is producing or evoking these reactions in me.  Is it because:

  • the setting is far removed from my own frame of reference (Uganda)?
  • the time period is not the recent past (1972)?
  • the names of the characters (Zena, Sabine) and locations (Kasenda) are names I am unaccustomed to hearing / reading or know little about?
  • is it inclusion of Ugandan / Muslim words (djinn, bwana, Wa-benzi)?

So, putting myself in the shoes of a learner, what do I do next?