June 25, 2016

The Urge to Read Aloud: “This Book Made Me Think of You”

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Like most readers of Slice of Life posts, we read books constantly. Almost every day, one (or both) of us reads something that we just can’t resist reading aloud. Kim just read aloud the text below, from Born for This, to Jan because she knew Jan would be excited about. Jan is particularly moved by stories of people spending their lives doing what they love most:

When I asked hundreds of people who found the work they were “born to do” what paths they took to become the acupuncturist, the civil servant, the teacher, or whatever their current profession is, one theme ran through all their responses: the search took time and effort, and the path had lots of twists and turns, but they all kept working toward it. They believed in the goal, and when they encountered obstacles, they found ways around them. (p.14)

Jan, just read the following excerpt from Think Like a Freak to Kim and to their professional learning network in a Voxer group. It was a reminder to both of them that having “expertise” in literacy means that we are particularly vulnerable to inadvertently confirming our own biases–i.e. experts tend to look for evidence that what they think and believe is “right.”

When asked to name the attributes of someone who is particularly bad at predicting, Tetlock [researcher] needed just one word, “Dogmatism,” he says. That is, an unshakable belief they know something to be true even when they don’t. Tetlock and other scholars who have tracked prominent pundits find that they tend to be “massively overconfident,” in Tetlock’s words, even when their predictions prove stone-cold wrong. That is a lethal combination–cocky plus wrong–especially when a more prudent option exists: simply admit that the future is far less knowable than you think. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Smart people love to make smart-sounding statements, no matter how wrong they may turn out to be. (p. 25)

We read aloud to our spouses. We read aloud to our children. We read aloud to students. We read aloud in a number of different Voxer chat groups. We call people on the phone and say, “I just had to read you this … .”

We think that the compulsion to share something is less a product of an excellent text (although we think that is important too) and more a product of knowing someone. Jan knows what interests Kim, personally and professionally. Kim knows the same about Jan. Everything we read, we read with an eye/ear/mind for each other, and when we find something that we know the other will find moving/invigorating/inspiring, we feel like a water-diviner who’s fork-shaped stick has locked in on an underground water source.

Reading aloud to someone, for us, says, “This book made me think of you.” And to the listener, it says, “This person has taken the time to really see me.” For both of these, we are always appreciative, for having someone see, having someone read, and having someone listen are all gifts.

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#WhosDoingTheWork : Scaffolding vs. Carrying

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What the Teacher Did!

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Once again, Jan has traveled to paradise to spend a week in south Florida working with Kim. We had decided to focus on deadlines for current writing projects and to take a hiatus from blogging this week. However, Jan’s husband wrote to her early today to tell her what Victor’s (Jan’s eight-year-old son) teacher did, giving us a slice of life post we could not resist writing!

A few months ago, Jan’s husband taught Victor to play the melody of Stand by Me. Many times each day, Victor goes to the piano to play and sing, prompting Jan and her husband to sign him up for piano lessons. Yesterday, Victor met his piano teacher for the first time and took his first lesson.

Apparently, his teacher is a genius! He did all the things we (classroom educators) know children need. He found out what Victor knew and what he was interested in. Then, he connected the lesson to Victor’s interests. The piano teacher taught Victor chords to play with his other hand as he sings Stand by Me. The chords make Victor’s piano playing sound much more sophisticated; they connect to his love for the particular song; they make him instantly successful. The teacher demonstrated that he was responsive to Victor, and that he will follow Victor’s lead.

And then, this morning, something amazing happened. Victor woke early, walked out of his bedroom into the darkness, found the piano, and began to practice. Here is a link to a video. (Forgive the darkness, Jan’s husband was trying to be surreptitious.)

There is little that is more gratifying to a mother than a teacher who takes the time to see, know, and respond to her child’s needs as a learner. We dedicate this post to all of you who so lovingly and responsively take the time to see children and put them before standards’ accountability, instructional maps, and curricular pacing guides. It is amazing to know that so many educators out there are working to engage (rather than “motivate”) children in authentic ways! And it is powerful the responses we get from kids when we follow their lead!


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