Saturday, May 23, 2015

#youredustory, Week 20: Engagement in Reading Tasks

Prompt: Student Engagement in Reading Class
Sweet annotations by Ryan M, photo by me

So I don't teach a reading class, but info teach a literacy-rich history class. And yes, kids need to encounter text in every class. Every teacher is a reading teacher.

A second preface: if you read this blog occasionally, you know I'm not a huge fan of engagement. Points can make kids engage. What makes kids curious? What makes them want to read more?

For me, there are a couple things at work here. One is material that is interesting. Yes, obvious and vague. Readings we do to prepare for Socratic seminars are usually discussion-inducing in the prep stages. So there's a clue there: giving kids the time and space to make meaning to talk about what they've read is important. I've seen kids really dig in when the readings are followed by a Socratic seminar - there's an aspect to the public performance that I think helps kids dig into a text.

Additionally, texts that speak to larger human issues - inequality, evil, issues of race and class - seem to generate interest in the topic at hand. The more readings stray from a clear, 'correct' answer seems to help too. As a history teacher, I watch kids engage in a task when they're trying to figure out what happened in the past, however recent that past may be.

Finally, if my kids have a purpose for reading they know what they're looking for. They know what they might see. They're readier to do the intellectual work of making meaning of a text.

So there's a scattered answer about curiosity and reading. Give them time and space to talk, get texts with big issues and without right answers, and give kids a purpose for reading. Not a magic bullet but a start.

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