Tuesday, July 4, 2017

#CyberPD2017 Post Week 1-Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

     This summer I am participating in my second #CyberPD session. This virtual book club is organized and facilitated by educators, Cathy MereLaura Komos and Michelle Nero.  This group started in 2011 and has grown every year. This summer, we are reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by the incomparable Vicki Vinton. 

This week we read chapters 1-4 and boy were they chocked FULL of ideas! My head is swimming! 

As I thumb through my book, now covered in highlights and sticky notes, I will attempt to reflect on my reading. Rather than summarize or reflect on each chapter, I will reflect on a few quotes that really spoke to me.  

"Too often though, what passes as productive struggle in reading is asking students to persevere through an exceedingly hard text to find a particular answer or to give the teacher what she-or the program she is using-is looking for, which only captures on piece, not the more complex whole, of what's meant by productive struggle." (13)

"It [Common Core] does not suggest that teachers should choose a different text, only that they should continue to scaffold until a students get it. This means that too often teachers are doing the heavy lifting, nudging and prodding students toward whatever it is that they are supposed to get-and if that fails, simply telling them." (19)

Both of these quotes are centered around using too much scaffolding. Vinton discusses how Common Core and commercial programs are pressuring us to scaffold like crazy to "get through" a text, even though it may be far too difficult. She suggests, rather than slogging through a text that is too difficult, finding a more accessible text to help the student apply problem-solving skills to be able to read more independently. Seems like a no-brainer, but I think teachers often feel tied to the texts in a program and feel that they are helping students by nudging (or dragging) them through a tough text in the name of "rigor". 

Questions I am Pondering:
How much (if any) scaffolding is beneficial?
How can I make sure my students are exposed to the right types of texts to help them problem solve and become more independent?
Am I doing all the heavy lifting?

"...in our rush to get answers or have students make claims, we rarely give them enough time to truly engage in critical thinking." (32)

"What's important is how deeply they come to understand and consider what the author might be trying to show them-in other words, what they think the text means at the literal, figurative and thematic levels. Of course the question then becomes how to achieve this outcome without all those prescribed steps and scaffolding. I believe the answer is to bring that complex mix of creative and critical thinking into classrooms by setting students up to wonder, generate questions and form hypotheses, then to test out these hypotheses using reasoning and logic, to arrive at a final judgement or claim." (37) 

"Close reading is a noun, while reading closely is a verb; one's a thing and the other's and action." (39)

This set of quotes involve critical thinking and reading closely. Vinton points out that "close reading" is one of those educational terms that can mean different things to different people. To many, close reading is a scaffolded procedure meant to guide students in digging deeper into the reading with multiple readings for different purposes. I really like Vinton's suggestion that close reading should be an outcome, not a procedure. She, and Harvard's, "How to Do a Close Reading" suggest having students read the text first for, "anything that strikes you as surprising, or significant, or that raises questions". Then they reflect and interpret which will likely lead to them back to the text. This seems a more natural way to look at reading closely where the student decides what work is required as the transact with the text. 

Questions I am Pondering:
What might critical thinking and reading closely look like at different grade levels? 
How can we ensure that students get ample time to think critically about texts?

I am eager to read the next section where Vinton shows us what her approach might look like in the classroom. 

As a last thought, I'll just leave these little nuggets of wisdom.

"The thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher."
(Dylan Williams, 2014) pg. 52

"...rigor doesn't have to be the opposite of pleasure." (pg. 51)

"..there is, in fact, no teaching without learning". 
(44, quote from Paulo Freire, 1998) pg. 44


  1. Gigi, I love your question "how much (if any) scaffolding is beneficial?" I have always been an advocate of scaffolding, particularly as a writing teacher because when I look at a piece of student writing and I see a long list of skills still to help that student build, I feel it is best to start with small steps until a process becomes a habit. Yet I see how "scaffolding" has become overused and possibly as a crutch. It makes me think very carefully about the type of support I give my students. I believe they need some, but am much more mindful about what that would look like.

    1. Hi Heidi, I think the term "mindful" is really appropriate here. I think the more we keep ourselves in check and ask who is doing the heavy lifting, we will be able to make sure that we are not doing too much. I agree, that some scaffolding is necessary, especially with younger grades and striving learners. Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. I had similar questions about scaffolding too- especially since most of my students speak English as an additional language. I look forward to reading more to see how it all falls into place.

    1. That is a very good point. I wonder if ELL students are addressed? I do believe that some scaffolding needs to be in place for the success and confidence of some students.

  3. This quote resonated with me too, especially as we are researching new reading programs/approaches, "Too often though, what passes as productive struggle in reading is asking students to persevere through an exceedingly hard text to find a particular answer or to give the teacher what she-or the program she is using-is looking for, which only captures on piece, not the more complex whole, of what's meant by productive struggle." I am going to keep this in mind as we not only choose an approach/program, but also as we implement it with critical thinking as a goal.
    Thanks, Gigi.

  4. Hi Gigi,

    I also highlighted the quote about close reading being a noun, and reading closely being a verb. For some reason this quote really spoke to me. I was agreeing with everything Vinton was saying about close reading, but this was the quote that made it seem to click for me. In the past I have taught my students how to close read, using the "read it three times" approach, and I admit, they didn't get much out of it. They definitely didn't learn how to read closely! Now, thinking about it as closely reading, I wonder what type of "lessons" I would put together. I am sure they would look much different then the "read it three times" approach.
    I too am looking forward to reading section 2 and seeing what some of this looks like in the classroom!

  5. Gigi,
    I've enjoyed reading through your reflections. I have to say that I, too, am pondering this scaffolding piece. I'm thinking the question isn't yes or no...but maybe when and how??? It's times like these, I wish we were all sitting at a table. I'd love to have this conversation.

    Like you, I am wondering what this problem-based approach might look like at different developmental levels of reading. Much to consider....


  6. Scaffolding is the hot topic of conversations and I like Cathy's take on it: It's not a whether or not we should or shouldn't do it, but rather when and how. It's such a fine line of balancing, which makes teaching of reading difficult! I often wonder if I scaffold or rescue too much as well because of the developing readers I work with or sometimes because of time! I think your question will stick with me: Who is doing all the heavy lifting? That's what we have to keep in mind as we move forward. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and jumping into the conversation!