Snow in Florida! That was the forecast for last night’s weather, unfortunately we only ended up with ice pellets that look like a sprinkling of snow. However, we did get a snow day, my first ever in 20 years of teaching!
I have taken advantage of the day to catch up on school related work and some serious independent PD by taking a first good look at a book I have been crazy about reading since I ordered it off Amazon in August. Yes August! So many school and life related events have kept me from sitting down to read and reflect on a book that I feel will energize my teaching. Even though I have several “not so happy faces” on this post, I am ecstatic that I have had time to digest the first few chapters of Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. You can find the book on Amazon by following the link below.
This book addresses Common Core close reading strategies among school aged children. However, the authors approach this strategy through the literature component, rather than informational text. Yes, fiction is in the driver’s seat, and and I am definitely a willing passenger.
It is no secret among my colleagues that I have an uneasy feeling many teachers will largely ignore fiction in the quest to teach to the new Common Core Standards. These standards heavily promote teaching students to read informational text, pushing literature into the backseat, particularly in advanced grades. Don’t get me wrong. Sure I want my kids to understand informational text so they can repair their own lawn mower, fill out a job application, and increase their knowledge on subjects they find interesting and relevant. I want them to understand their college text books and find their way to visit the Grand Canyon using a road map. But I strongly feel that literature should continue to play a major role in the educational arena.
The authors elaborate on narrative thinking by pointing out that listening to and telling stories is the way most of us, young and old alike learn to make sense of our world. Fictional works do more than entertain, they “sustain us.” Themes, character development, fictional events help us think about the humanness of emotions and experiences. A direct quote from Kylene, “Nonfiction lets us learn more; fiction lets us be more.”
The authors draw on Keith Oatley’s studies related to fictional reading. The studies strongly indicate that fictional reading facilitates empathy, the development of social skills, and has the power to change the reader’s personality. Wow! How powerful is that! Instead of canned social skills programs, think of the ways literature can guide today’s students in a positive direction through shared reading experiences. Rosenblatt’s transactional strategies and classroom dialogue, along with quality literature open a gateway to a more peaceful classroom and a better world.
In addition, fiction will reach more students because of the universal themes they share. Informational text generally appeals to a smaller audience who have direct interest in that subject. For example, the authors point out that a student may dream of becoming a surgeon, but have no interest in reading about military history. Another student may enjoy the history text, but have no interest in reading about brain research. However, most students will care about love, loneliness, friendship, and so on that are present in literary themes.
Think about your reading habits. I know informational text plays an important role in my life, but it is generally aimed at providing information I need and want to know.
So what role does fiction and nonfiction play in your life? In your classroom? How do we as teachers find a suitable balance that meets the reading needs of all of our students?
Just got word we have a second snow day in Florida! Whoop Whoop! I hope to spend more time with my nose in this informational text! Hoping to get insights on assisting my kids in actually interacting with the text, rather than simply finishing a book. Just an advance warning, you might be hearing more about this wonderful book.