Today's focus: HOW CAN I REPLICATE THE WAY I UNDERSTAND BOOKS?
I do not know if I can completely convey the way I come to understand books. The first way I understand books is through my personal response to what I am reading. In part, that is because I think response should be idiosyncratic, individual. My response to a book might not be how someone else responds. However, I can demonstrate and model to readers the things I think about as I read. And I can also see how others respond. Last year my colleague Karin Perry and I along with a handful of our former grad students read a book together using Subtext, an iPad app. It was enlightening to see what other readers found interesting, where they paused to ask questions and go in search of answers, where they ended a reading session, etc. We could all see one another's annotations and questions and links. It was like looking inside the brain of other readers. And it was illuminating.
After serving on many book award selection committees I have also become more adept at vocalizing my understanding especially when it comes to the discussion of the literary merits of a text. Listening to the discussion of my fellow committee members has reinforced that we often see books differently. However, once someone has pointed out to me something I might have completely missed, I can go back and re-read, see again through a slightly different lens. I have learned how to talk critically about books, keeping criteria in mind as I discuss strengths and weaknesses.
Many years ago, I passed on a copy of I FEEL A LITTLE JUMPY AROUND YOU, a collection of poems, to some students in my YA lit class. I did not remove my sticky notes that marked some of my favorite poems. When the book finally made its way through the class, the book was a colorful riot of stickies. Some pages had a rainbow of notes, some had one or perhaps two. The discussion in class that evening was one of the most exhilarating ones of my teaching. We could se similarities and differences clearly. We shared our favorites. The reading of this text as a common one was rewarding for us all.
I can demonstrate this to kids. I think doing think alouds, metacognitive readings, annotated readings is a good place to begin. I will model with short texts (I generally use picture books) and then put kids in groups with other short texts to see what they do. However, I want most of this to be more individualized, to approximate what Donalyn Miller calls "reading in the wild."
This is definitely still something that is a work in progress for me. I teach grad classes in an online format. Sharing my understanding with this class format will be different from what I might do in a FTF classroom situation.
I hope that as you read these posts that you take some time to post to Facebook, Twitter, or even the comments section of the blog to extend the discussion.