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20 December 2012 @ 02:27 pm
As I visit the blogs being posted in support of CCSS, I am getting a lot of mixed messages. However, it seems that there is at least agreement on this: students MUST analyze what they read.

Well, yeah, I know that an unexamined life is not worth living (hope I came close to the quote), but there is examination (what I would call REFLECTION) and then there is ANALysis (what I would call dissection). I think there need to be some texts where dissection is not the approach, where maybe we invite readers to sit back and reflect on what they have read. I say this as someone who has penned more than a few guides to YA books and to genres, forms, and formats as well. It is my fervent hope that educators use these as just that, GUIDES, and select questions and activities that make sense for their students. I fear, though, that some simply download it and pass it out as the required assignment. So, I try to have all kinds of questions present.

See, here is the crux: keep asking kids to deconstruct (and how do I hate that word. How can it be possible to de-construct what an author has written when part of the construction is our response to the text?) text and even the most engaging text will turn dull. I once saw a 42 page activity guide to MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS and recoiled in horror. Ditto the requirement one of my undergrads told me about once for OUT OF THE DUST where the students ad to pause after each entry and make a journal entry. Given the form and format of this Newbery winning novel, the assignment so chopped up the reading as to make it unintelligble let alone the work of art that it is if read the way the author intended.

I worry that ANALysis and CLOSE(d) reading will replace any type of reading for pleasure, reading for vicarious experience, reading autobiographically, and reading for philosophical speculation (in case you do not recognize these, they are the stages in the development of a lifelong reader). This is happening in some classrooms, I know. What will those kids think reading is? For them, reading is taking something apart and then spitting it back on a test. Reading is taking a multiple choice test over details from the book (AR) or writing a short answer over some readings they have never seen before (our state test) or worse (have you SEEN the stuff being generated for CCSS tests yet? Scary stuff!).

In the 1970s, author Richard Peck decried the idiotic questions being asked of readers. He suggested his own set of questions, questions I continue to use with my graduate students. They include: WHY is the story set where it is (not where is the story set?)? What does the title tell you about the book? These questions ask readers to reflect. There are no parroted answers available.

And sometimes, I want kids to be able to read without having to answer questions, take a test, or build that dreaded diorama. I want them to read, maybe talk to me or a peer about the book, make a short entry into their OWN reading log, or simply post a quote or two on the reading wall.

Hey, it's almost Christmas, right? How about instead of "All I Want for Christmas Is YOU, " we sing, "All I Want for Christmas Is a Book (and the freedom to read it as I see fit?"
Current Location: home
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Dave Stuart Jr.: pic#119651161davestuartjr on December 21st, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Rock on
Hi Goddess,

I completely agree with you about the dangers of over-teaching a text. This error (committed plenty of times in my career, I'm able to admit!) does the dirty deed of readicide, every time. And, frankly, I think it can be committed in the name of reflection, examination, analysis, ANALysis, deconstruction, construction, or any other word.

Yet there's also the other error--under-teaching a text--which can be just as deleterious. After all, if we're giving kids a chance to read texts that are appropriately complex for their grade level--and surely, just as each kid has a right to choose what he/she wants to read, he/she also has a right to be taught how to read a text at his/her grade level--we can't just throw them into it with inadequate scaffolding.

It's tricky.

I'm 7 years into my career, and I still find that I'm often in search of that sweet spot between over- and under-teaching. Let me know if you figure out how to find it every time!

On another note, this is my first time to your blog, and I appreciate your lively voice! Also, my friend Erica Beaton (@b10lovesbooks) has shared your reading ladder idea with me and I love it.

If you'd ever like to rant directly at a CCSS-contemplating writer, feel free to leave a rant any time -- http://www.teachingthecore.com . Much to your horror, perhaps, that's a place where folks discuss (in a mostly positive manner) implementing the CCSS.