We spent this week thinking about text-based questions and responses, and we want to end the week on a practical note. So we offer another sporting analogy, which we hope serves both as a framework for you to think about text-based questions and as a metaphor for explaining text-based responses to students.
Think of the text under discussion as homebase. Just as a player at bat must return to homebase to make a run, a reader must always return to the text to bring home a thought. The pitcher’s mound, or the question, is central to the the path the runner/responder takes.
To take the analogy even further, the bases may represent different kinds of responses to the text. First base represents responses that connect homebase to a child’s personal experiences. We think of this as deeper than typical text-to-self connections. Instead, first-base represents the ways we understand the implied meaning of the text by comparing the events, characters, or ideas in the text to their own experiences. Answering a first-base question, or hitting a single, represents using personal experience to understand what the author didn’t say explicitly.
A second-base response involves using content knowledge, perhaps from other texts, to infer implications from the homebase text. Finally, reaching third base involves connecting ideas within the text. This is where children synthesize ideas across the text, looking for patterns in thought or big ideas.
For this metaphor, getting on the base means that the response really connects in ways that offer insight or deepen the thinking of the group. It doesn’t work if the runner is only “coming close.” So a runner that “hits” toward first with a response that begins with, “That reminds me of the time I … ” probably isn’t actually getting all the way to the base. Instead, a single would start with something like, “I understand what the author means because I experienced … and the two are similar because … “ Superficial or tangential observations are off base. If they can’t return to the homebase, they become “outs.” To reach homebase a reader would have to integrate these three sources of information to articulate an idea that circles the bases.
This baseball analogy comes with a few disclaimers.
- This metaphor is not scientific at all. As a general illustration it works, but it is not hard to find holes in the metaphor. Please, don’t see it as a rigid structure; feel free to let it evolve along with your thinking or that of your students.
- While personal connections to the text represent a batter hitting a single, which means that connecting personal experiences to the text are less valuable in terms of the baseball metaphor than a double or a triple. This doesn’t mean that we think that personal connections to text are less important; in fact, they are essential. Connections to personal experiences are, however, easier to make and are often our default setting. While we do not want to diminish the value of students connecting their personal experiences to text, we do want to help students push beyond these connections and work to dig deeper into what the text says.
- This is a tool for launching discussions, a means to an end. Please, don’t spend a lot of time having children label their responses as first-, second-, or third-base hits.
- Our knowledge of baseball is exceedingly limited. Pretty much all our combined knowledge of the sport is in this blog, so please forgive us if we didn’t do the metaphor justice. We welcome your clarifications and/or elaborations!