Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reading: the old way vs. the new way

In Experts Wary of Springboard, we find out that “Hillsborough schools have switched to new math and language arts curriculum for most middle and high school students that focuses on specific hands-on lessons. Most dramatic is the shift away from yearlong studies of British, American and world literature in high schools…But district officials say students don't realize they are learning because the lessons - designed to improve critical thinking - only seem easy…Richard Paul, director of research at the Center for Critical Thinking at Sonoma State University in California and chairman of the National Council for Excellence in Critical thinking, states that, ‘It's not what you think about - it's how you think…’ ”

That last statement had me really thinking (of course critically thinking). Do we really teach our students how to think? I know that we spend lots of time telling them what to think. In fact, I remember having to memorize lots of facts and details during my school but I remember having a really hard time with critical thinking. I loved multiple choices, true or false, and fill in the blanks kind of tests because I was a master memorizer. But I really hated essay tests because they involved thinking. It involved analysis as well as synthesis. Luckily, for me, many of my teachers felt it was easier to give the tests that I liked. Unfortunately for me, when I went to college, I was like a fish out of water. Of course, I had wonderful friends who supported and encouraged me when I struggled. It was during this time that I learned how to think and realized that I was pretty good at it too. College professors do not want you to spit back things that they have told you. I began to look at things differently and having my own ideas and opinions about what I was reading.

I feel like once you learn how to use the tools, you can use them to create new things and we all do not have to create the same things in order to be considered a craftsman. We may use different tools and perfect our skills in different ways but that is what makes the world what it is. An artist can be a painter using oils or a painter using watercolors but nonetheless, both are artists. Someone may use hammers and saws to build cabinets or build houses, but both are skilled in their particular field.

This makes me realize that it doesn’t matter whether we teach our students using the classics or using modern literature. Maybe our students are reading material that explain a new hobby that they are interested in. Maybe students are reading directions that show them how to do something new.We need to be encouraging our students to read and analyze what they read no matter what they read. I remember having a teacher that didn’t care if I read Harlequin romance novels or classic novels (at the time, I read both) but he was just happy that I was reading. This encouragement helped me develop my love of reading. I think if we do this for our students, students will be more successful in reading for knowledge and reading for fun.

Original image: 'What I'm reading and re-reading' http://www.flickr.com/photos/61787893@N00/163867388 by: Earl


Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm currently a student studying English Education. I've enjoyed reading your blog. Recently we have been talking about the "whats" and "hows" of teaching, focusing especially on teaching students reading strategies (how to read). We've been discussing how for independent readers they go through all the different steps and processes, but dependent readers sometimes don't realize that reading is a process and that there are lots of things readers do to make sense of what they are reading. As opposed to teaching content, we are looking at teaching strategies that students can apply across content areas. It's challenging, for sure.

loonyhiker said...

@Anonymous Good luck in your courses. I'm glad to see this conversation is going on! I think if we teach students the strategies they need, they can use them in whatever reading situation they face. Thanks so much for reading my blog!