Monday, July 1, 2013

Reflecting on Writing about Reading with Kathy Collins

What's A Post-It Got To Do With It?
As teachers we have all asked that question as we tour our students bookshelves - What in the world do I do with all of those post-it notes? What am I looking for? What makes a "good" Post-It? 
                                             
What a beautiful fortune teller (sarcasm), so that's what was going on during independent reading . . . 

In our small group morning section with Kathy Collins, we are tackling this topic together.  We started out thinking about our questions and beliefs - What are our core beliefs about writing about reading?

As I consider this question, I think about the following excerpt from Janet Angelillo's classic book Writing About Reading: From Book Talk to Literary Essays: Grades 3-8, "Learning to respond powerfully to books is one of the great truths [we] will learn in school. It reflects [our] thinking and their learning lives. It takes many forms because it is so complex, as [our] learning lives should be. And it cannot be taught in one unit of three or four weeks, because it is too vital to [our] learning."

So here's what I'm thinking are some essential beliefs at the core as I reflect on writing about reading . .  . 

1. We need to provide students with multiple options for writing about reading.  Students responses to texts are so varied based on their personalities, experiences, intentions and learning styles.  

Question: How do we manage this as teachers? As teachers we depend on structures and routines that help us to look across the work of our students and hold against shared expectations, when responses are so varied, how do we provide students with flexible options and still 'manage it'? 

2. We need to practice what we preach.  If we want our students to write about their reading, we need to do it ourselves.  

3. This leads me to a third core belief, that our writing about reading needs to be purposeful and public. I think writers need an audience, and I think this is true for writing about reading, too. I know I write eager to see what others think about a book, article, poem etc. when I jot down thinking.  Students need to write to prepare for talk, 'think on paper', have others respond to their thinking. 

4. We are not satisfied with 10, which is the reason there is an eleventh CCSS in Reading for Literature K-5.  Students need to have a medium for responding to literature that supports deep interpretation ergo . . . . writing about reading.  

A fourth core belief is that in order for students to meet the ambitious expectations outlined in the CCSS, it important for us to create multiple opportunities for students to respond to texts - writing about reading is one possible path toward this goal.

CCLS RL 11. Respond to literature by employing knowledge of literary language, textual features, and forms to read and comprehend, reflect upon, and interpret literary texts from a variety of genres and a wide spectrum of American and world cultures.

Question: The standards seem to honor readers making connections to texts in the eleventh standard as we look across the progression at K-2, and then move toward interpretation and critique in 4,5: Do we agree with how the CCSS defines the eleventh standard in the progression?

5.  Writing about reading supports rehearsal for talk and if talk is so critical to learning, thinking and reading, then it is a non-negotiable for reading workshop teachers to provide students with explicit instruction in reading response so that the readers in our classrooms can prepare for grand conversations about literature.

Question: I am afraid that writing about reading can make reading feel cumbersome or rob students of  'reading for its own sake'. How do we ensure that writing about reading doesn't steal time from students just reading? I think this is a huge argument for teaching students to write-on-the-run, but at the same time I think meaningful reflection takes time - how do we strike a balance?

I hope to answer some of these questions this week and revisit these beliefs at the end of the week. How would you answer this question? What are beliefs at your teaching core for writing about reading?

Reflecting on the Principal Gala at the Botanical Gardens (2015)

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