In author Dan Feigelson's new book, Reading Projects Reimagined, Feigelson shows us how conference-based, individual reading projects help students learn to think for themselves. Feigelson raises an important question about the larger goal of reading instruction: while it’s our job as reading teachers to introduce students to new ideas and comprehension strategies, shouldn’t we also teach them to come up with their own ideas? In today's blog, Feigelson writes about the importance of not rushing in to teach.
Don’t Rush in and Teach
Adapted from Reading Projects Reimagined by Dan Feigelson
One way to help children elaborate on their thinking is to hold off on leaping in with our own agenda. Once a student says something—anything—the temptation is to rush in and teach. But how often is the first thing that comes out of people’s mouths their best thinking? Rather than accepting the very first words a student says, it is helpful to pick out one part of what she has said and ask her to say more about that (Keene 2012). But we don’t want to stop there. When the student answers, pick out the most interesting part of her response and ask her to say more about that. Like Russian dolls, one inside the other, when a teacher continues to ask for elaboration in this way, by the third or fourth say more about that, the reader’s thinking is almost always deeper. And then we can stop to name it. Though it goes against the nature of a reading conference to think too much in terms of rules, it may be helpful for a teacher who is beginning this work to force himself to ask a child to say more about something at least three times before deciding on a teaching point. With this in mind, a shorthand way of thinking about the steps in the conference would be
• “Say more about that.” (at least 3 times!)
• Name the type of idea the student is having, using language that is about more than just the current book.
• Negotiate an assignment that will allow the reader to practice the comprehension
strategy and extend his or her idea.
• End by repeating the teaching point, emphasizing how it can apply to the next book, and the book after that.
With repeated practice, even students who have a hard time discussing books begin to respond and come up with ideas for independent reading projects.