I had a bag full of professional development books that somehow got left behind when we loaded up our van and headed off for our holiday…but that actually worked out very well for me, since it gave me more time to focus on the one book I did have in my workbag, and the one book (as it turned out) I really needed to read before beginning another school year:
I knew this the moment I read the following, beginning on page 2:
“Our concern is was that we still saw too many readers who plow through a book giving it little thought, too many readers who finish the page or the chapter and then, rather than express a thought, ask question, or leap into conversation, look up at the teacher and wait…What we want are kids who are curious, who dive into a text and can’t begin to think of coming up for air until they know what happens to Brian and his hatchet or Kenny and the people who thought bombing a church filled with little girls would be a good idea; until they figure out what’s happened to Sal’s mom; until they understand why it is both the best of times and the worst of times; until they feel as Anne felt hidden in an attic or get angry like Atticus or know regret and redemption like a boy who grew up among kite runners. We want them inside a text, noticing everything, questioning everything, weighing everything they are reading against their lives, the lives of others, and the world around them.”
By the time I’d read this, I was sitting up straighter and paying close attention. Kylene and Bob were describing some of the kids in my classroom – kids I feel are doing just as they suggest: appearing to read…but not really. The days of text-to _____ connections seems to be over for my sixth graders, that seems not to be as much a part of their reading processes in the elementary grades as it once was. But now, some of my kids, particularly those “reluctant readers” seem to be floundering. Although we spend the year reading together and learning how to respond deeply to our books, I think that it takes longer to get those reading responses and discussions going. I was searching for a way to jump start the process in an authentic way, and as I continued to read, the the ideas in Notice and Note resonated and just made sense.
It was interesting, too, to learn a bit about the history of the thinking behind the science of reading – and Louise Rosenblatt in particular, who wrote so much about the way readers make sense of literature. Here they are, discussing the impact of Rosenblatt’s ideas upon their work:
Kylene and Bob began with this idea:
We believe it is the interaction, the transaction, between the reader and the text that not only creates meaning but creates the reason to read. Eventually, all our questioning and thinking led us to wondering if we could identify something in the text that we could teach students to notice so that their responses might become more nuanced and more reasoned.
The first part of Notice and Note is devoted to the process that the authors used to weigh their questions, concerns, and the issues that surround education (especially with regards to reading) today. Each chapter in this section concludes with a list of thoughtful questions teachers can discuss with their colleagues – what an excellent way to build community and promote professional development!
The second part of the book focuses on features they believe appear in every young adult book – “signposts” that required readers to stop, take note, reflect, and delve for deeper meaning:
- Contrasts and Contradictions
- Ah-ha Moment
- Tough Questions
- Words of the Wiser
- Again and Again
- Memory Moment
The purpose of each of these signposts is “to teach our students to be alert for certain features as they read, to take responsibility themselves for pausing and reflecting when they spot them, to own and ask a few potentially powerful questions at those moments, and to be willing to share and revise their thoughts in responsible conversation with others” – everything we want our students to be able to do in Reading Workshop.
I loved the way each signpost was first fully explained so that I understood the framework and the reasoning, and then described in action – the way the lesson was presented to a class, down to the student responses and the text used. I was able to envision the lesson, but (more importantly) I was able to see how each of the signposts would allow my students the chance to pause, reflect, make meaning. I also appreciated the focus on generalizable language which our students can apply from text to text – this will allow them to develop reading habits and methods of thinking about their books.
The appendix is filled with handouts and charts, reading lists and text suggestions. The authors also included amazing anchor charts created by Jenny Ochoa for her own classroom use – these are wonderful visualizations of the concepts embedded in each signpost.
I wish I had had a bag of YA books to read on my holiday,so that I could put these ideas into practice and see how the signposts might work for my sixth graders. But all I had on hand was a 800 page book about the American Revolution, and another about farming in Washington County, NY. So…my practice will really begin this week, now that I am back within reach of books my kids read. But, I did use my time to try to figure out how I could use the signposts in my reading workshop in a way that fits into what I already do, and enhances it greatly. Our year will still begin with the readaloud, but I will introduce the signposts along with the “parts of the novel” study that we begin with. I can’t wait to begin!