This week we explored books that can engage students in deep conversations. A quintessential difference in the Common Core State Standards (vs. previous state standards) is the focus on reading books to understand them, a la literature standard two, rather than to make a particular teaching point (not that we will stop making teaching points!).
We love it when our readers make comments on our posts and push our thinking. On Wednesday, Tom Hoffman commented on our post Selecting Texts for Read Aloud: 8 Questions. We were already fans of Tom’s writing. Given that we love the way his brain works, we were excited to engage with him!
Of course, his ideas prompted our thinking. Basically, we agree and disagree, which means Tom and B&Y think alike (fine by us). We need to clarify our focus on the questions about the worth of the books in read aloud selections, however.
Tom wrote: Those are certainly nice questions, but I don’t see how they apply to Common Core standards in particular. If anything I’d be thinking about “How can I model textual analysis while reading this?” or “What are some text dependent questions I can ask while reading this?” That seems more directly relevant to CC.
In agreement with Tom, if we are engaging students in discussions about books, we will certainly think about exactly what we will model and what questions we will use to prompt student thinking. We are assuming, however, that we can do this with any book that is fabulous. We write, of course, from an elementary perspective, so we can’t speak to how well this theory holds up with older readers, but we stand behind our original assertion that read aloud selection begins with finding a book that says something of merit, has powerful illustrations (if it’s a picture book), and text that is artfully crafted. Give us such a book and we can certainly write text-based questions and plan for guiding students in textual analysis. We did not mean to imply that our 8 questions were exhaustive, or that they preclude other questions. We can just add Tom’s questions as questions 9 and 10. We are confident there are others that need to go on the list.
As we thought through Tom’s comments, we began to wonder if the text-based questions are as important as the text-based answers offered by students. For example, are there a handful of text-based questions that could stand up with most great books (not necessarily precluding other carefully crafted, specific, text-based questions!), such as Why did the author write this book and how do you know?, What is this book really about and how do you know?, or What did this book say to you and why? This thinking process prompted us to revisit our post on Text-based Answers or Text-based Responses?, to which we refer you for today’s Friday Favorite.
Many, many thanks Tom Hoffman for the nudge.