professornana (professornana) wrote,

I don't get it

I have been following a discussion about reading and the CCSS sent to me by my friend July Wallis. Some of the finest minds in the profession are teasing out the effects of CCSS on reading, and there is still a lot of question. The CCSS calls for what is being labeled CLOSE READING. I am already catching a whiff of formaldehyde. Let me explain.

My kindred spirit (well, one of them), Bob Seney, once told me that he would smell formaldehyde when a teacher would begin to dissect a text: it reminded him of the fetal pig dissection in biology class. Students would cut and cut and cut until all that was left was a smelly mess. I get that. Much as I love digging into a text, doing some deeper reading (thanks Kelly G), I am also aware of the need to avoid overanalysis (what Kelly G would call readicide, I suspect). Karen Kutiper, my former ELA coordinator in Alief replicated a study involving extensive versus intensive reading. Her replication confirmed earlier results that demonstrated that if one class spent 6 weeks reading ONE text and another class read that same text plus more (poems, stories, another novel perhaps related by theme), the two classes' scores on the test at the end of the study were not significantly different. So, I wonder, how much close reading do we need?

But then the other question I have is this: if CCSS is about college and career readiness, how does close reading fit in? What jobs require repeated, scrutinized readings of a text? And, other than English professor, what college paths require this as well? I am not being disingenuous here. I really am asking. Since I work with preservice and inservice librarians, I want to demonstrate to them how to collaborate with teachers. I want to be able to explain why there is this document of standards and strategies and activities to achieve the goal of meeting these same standards.

I posted earlier this month about re-reading. However, I do not think re-engaging with a text is the same as close reading. Re-reading a text I love and want to come back to is not the same as answering question after question after question with repeated readings, IMHO. Maybe I am missing something.

One thing I do know: I already see some of the experts lining up with their canned PD and their freshly written professional books, all ready to explain to the rest of us what we need to do. It is lockstep. It is prescribed. It has nothing to do with true engagement in text, something that seems to be missing entirely from what I am reading.

And as for texts they suggest...don't get me started. Today my #bookaday was THE GIANT AND HOW HE HUMBUGGED AMERICA by Jim Murphy. This piece of narrative nonfiction is EXACTLY the type of text with which I could engage readers. In part, that is because all good narrative nonfiction employs the techniques of fiction writing: interesting characters, "plot" twists, accessible emotional connections, and so much more. I cannot tell you the RL or lexile because this is an ARC, but my suspicion is that it will not find its way into the right age range because of those arbitrary designations (and do not get me started on that science either).

I am disappointed to see that, instead of having these lovely esoteric discussions online, the leaders in literacy are not all out playing an important role: pointing out that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes. And now, back to reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS for the umpteenth time. The layers are peeling back for me with each reading, and I am getting down to its bones. And to think I am doing that without someone else asking me questions that are text-dependent. I can show kids how to do this, too. Isn't that reading in the wild, Donalyn?
Tags: ccss
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