This summer I am participating in my second #CyberPD session. This virtual book club is organized and facilitated by educators, Cathy Mere, Laura 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