professornana (professornana) wrote,

the marshmallow dilemma

Last night at the Heinemann Institute opening session, we were given a paper bag with string, spaghetti and some masking tape and asked to construct the tallest structure we were able to do in 20 minutes. I had the chance to work with a remarkable teacher and we ended up winning. You see the catch was that we had to place a marshmallow at the top of our construction. For many teams, it was the marshmallow that proved to be the tipping point, So naturally, today, I am musing about that marshmallow and tipping points.

What are the marshmallows, those tipping poinnts, for me? What makes the building weaken and collapse. I am thinking today about building readers, how we shore them up wit string (books) and tape (time to read) but sometimes expect them to carry the wonky weight of the marshmallkow too when they are still so fragile. That marshmallow could be the inane questions the teacher's guide asks us to use. It could be ay one of a hundred tasks (including the ever-looming diorama).

Last night I spoke after the marshmallow challenge. I ended my talk with my Bill of Rights for Readers, the one I used last year at ALAN. When I mentioned the right to read and do NOTHING, there was a spontaneous response, a sort of YEAH! from those gathered.

I think we found the marshmallow, folks. Asking kids to take a reading that might have touuchd them in some way, made them respond viscerally (because, after all, if reading is not making us respond in some way, we are not reading the right book), that is the marshmallow. It could topple their fragile structures as readers and cause them to quit, to give up, to stop. Be aware of the marshmallow, please.
Tags: books, readers, reading
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