Start reading a novel. Then ask:
- What has happened so far?
- What details help you understand the characters?
- What is this story beginning to be about?
- What in the story makes you think that?
These are a few of the questions associated with practice of close reading, a practice advocated by the common core in the English/Language Arts Literacy Standards. Good readers internalize these questions. Newly developing readers use them to scaffold understanding.
However, I have growing concerns that some efforts to adhere to CCSS close reading questions may directly interfere with an author’s narrative. The use of a steady stream of questions to assess a reader’s understanding in a work of fiction is little insulting to an author as the practice infers a reader cannot understand a narrative without repeated questioning. Hearing these questions, I imagine an author responding, “Why didn’t you think I was clear enough?” or “Have faith. (read more…)
After finishing the last set, I slowly packed up as two people sitting at an adjacent table commented on the number of papers I was putting away. They asked if I was an English teacher, and after I nodded “yes,” they dove into a diatribe about how hard it must be to teach youth of today, how incorrigible and lazy teenagers are now versus how compliant they had been in these individuals’ high-school years.
“Unlike these young people, we respected our teachers and the education process; these youth of today expect to be entertained, and when the task isn’t easy or quick enough to finish, they just give up.” Well, that might be true for some teachers and some classrooms, but they had tapped into the wrong resource this particular evening. (read more…)
A number of weeks ago, my friend Tom Whitby asked me to write an article for SmartBlogs about literacy. Tom Whitby also inspires me. Among his various activities is facilitating an online community of more than 15,000 educators devoted to the topic of personal learning networks. PLNs describe a range of skills and techniques, practiced by many educators, to fashion personal information networks of people and knowledge sources, from which they can learn.
These educators are publicly practicing contemporary literacy in order to achieve what has become the primary purpose of literacy –– to continually learn. Literacy is a foundation of democracy. This is why we teach it. But, as a reader, were you taught to read as well as you do? Certainly, you would not be reading now, unless someone taught you to. But, as you read this article, are you calling to mind your teachers’ discreet lessons? Do you consciously know when you are scanning or reading for detail? (read more…)
When I think of analog learning, I think of something static. I think of content that doesn’t change and is quickly outdated. I think of a textbook that I can’t interact with. Would you agree? If so, what do you think our students think? Is this normal to them? Do we want it to be normal to them? Do they have a say?
Learning opportunities that exist today are far from analog. The evidence of content is in abundance. That doesn’t mean we just send our students freely to the Web without important conversations about things like proper digital behavior and critical consumption. This cannot be treated as a skill that we have students pick up in eighth grade from a particular course. How to deal with the flood of information and tools available to our students must become a literacy. We have a responsibility to our students. (read more…)
Digital literacy is swiftly becoming a catchall term whose meaning is applied to the thinnest veneer of a continuum of modern behaviors. Those behaviors could include using a computer, a laptop or tablet, an array of popular websites or even using a smartphone. The definition does not include how well someone can use these technologies and may even represent knowledge of them without knowing how to apply them or evaluate their usefulness and relevance to a task.
My good friend and colleague, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, likens digital literacy to learning a language. She has described in presentations how being “literate” is about knowing and perhaps being somewhat competent with a new language. Think of how language acquisition works in middle and high schools. We teach aspects of the language, what some may call the “foods and festivals” modes of learning a new language, which gives students recognition of sight words and a low-level understanding. (read more…)