professornana (professornana) wrote,

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I do not think that word means what you think it does...

I love THE PRINCESS BRIDE. At one point, after Vizzini has labeled various events and situation as "inconceivable," Inigo tells him, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." I am beginning to feel that way about how the word RESPONSE is being bandied about in CCSS and in the books and articles being written about CCSS. At lunch yesterday, Dick Abrahamson and I were talking about the last time we saw Louise Rosenblatt talk to an audience. She was nearing 100 years old and stood in front of a room at the NCTE conference and held us spellbound. I am fairly certain that most in the audience were thinking something along the same lines as my own thoughts (which were pretty fangirl truth be told). I was thinking how fortunate I was to see the person I most associate with RESPONSE talk about transaction with text.

Recently, however, I have seen this same RESPONSE used to describe activity that is not the result of transaction. The biggest offender seems to be the discussion about background knowledge. One of the blog posts I read last week indicated that much of the background knowledge teachers brought to text was inaccurate and that, if not addressed, caused them to miss the "real" meaning of a text. Aside from this making my blood boil (are there really teachers out there who do not know how to make meaning from text?), it seems to me that this dismissal of background knowledge could be deleterious to the true purpose of reading: building and supporting lifelong readers. Instead, here is what the author of the blog post did to ensure teachers followed CCSS guru Coleman's demand to use text to build background knowledge (HUH?):

•Demonstrating their abilities to consume the text and respond to a standards-based prompts independently, for formative assessment purposes.
•Surfacing the strategies that they employ to make meaning from complex text when challenged to do so independently.
•Building background knowledge by reading the text and using differentiated strategies like these (choice provided): identifying words or phrases that are most meaningful or confusing, underlining the most important phrase in the passage, summarizing the passage.

Note the use of the verb consume here. Also note that the strategies are the same old, same old: underline, highlight, summarize. What I see here is the same old pair of jeans from the past 10 years now "bedazzled" so as to appear new. And that is what I am seeing in some of the new professional texts, a re-labeling of strategies and activities. And a mis-application of some of the theories that have guided us in the past including response.

Yes, I know that we can have efferent response in addition to aesthetic (see previous post about the need for beauty) and that this is actually a continuum. We read with different stances for different purposes. I read a blog post by Paul Hankins with a totally different stance than I read the one referred to in this post. I read my Twitter feed with a different stance and purpose than I read my Facebook feed or my email, etc. Just this morning I finished reading Shaun Tan's THE BIRD KING: AN ARTIST'S NOTEBOOK. While I was reading for pleasure (I adore his artwork and use several of his books in my classes including TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA and THE ARRIVAL), I could not help making connections between his narrative about drawing and how we approach writing (the subject for a future blog post, I assure you, but goo get the book NOW).

The person behind the blog post that is the basis for this rant would have me read something about art or the artist or notebooks, something suitably complex using lexiles and other measures, before I approached this book. I think that if I followed this advice, I might have missed what I carried away using my own background knowledge. You see, I do not think we can dismiss background knowledge easily. I do NOT think it is inaccurate all that often. I think it enriches the reading in ways "surfacing" (see second bullet point above) cannot. What seems to be missing from CCSS is anything that moves too far from the efferent (from the Latin effere meaning to carry away) stance/transaction. I wonder what Louise Rosenblatt would think about all of this?
Tags: ccss, response
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