How does the shape of a text change the shape of my teaching?
Teaching text and task-specific strategies:
1. identifying reading strategies in think-aloud response to a text. Select a short text—a poem or a section of a story or novel—and do a think-aloud activity with a partner, sharing your thoughts with the partner, who simply provides encouraging prompts. Then, reflect with your partner on the kinds of reading strategies that you employed in doing the think aloud, as well as the prior knowledge or schema you drew on in reading the text. Then, reverse roles and have your partner do a think-aloud and reflection on the strategies employed. Then, based on the strategies you and your partner employed, devise some activities for fostering students’ use of these strategies.
2. Identifying cues signaling the use of strategies. Read a poem, short essay, short story, and a one-act play. Then, identify the strategies you are employing in reading these different texts and how these strategies differ according to each of these different genres. Then, for these different strategies, identify those cues in a text specific to a certain genre that invite you to employ certain strategies, for example, the use of titles in a poem that invite you to infer the theme of a poem. Describe how these cues are designed to achieve audience identification with the position, cause, or idea being proposed. To what degree does the writer succeed in gaining audience identification?
3. Developing frontloading activities for teaching strategies. Select a text that you might teach in student teaching. As you are reading the text, identify the strategies you are employing in comprehending the text unique to the genre of that text. . Then, develop some frontloading activities for modeling or scaffolding the use of these strategies consistent with your students’ ZPD. Describe how you will model or scaffold the use of strategies, how you will then have students practice the use of these strategies, and how you will know that they have successfully learned to employ these strategies.
4. Selecting tools for teaching strategies. Select a poem that you would teach in your student teaching. Re-read the poem several times and reflect on those strategies you’re using in responding to the poem. Focus particularly on parts of the poem that may be particularly difficult for students. Then, for each strategy, identify some specific write, talk, art-work, or drama tools that you could use to help students employ these different strategies.
5. Selecting and performing favorite poems or song/rap lyrics. Bring in a favorite poem or song/rap lyrics to share with the class. Discuss reasons why you like this poem or song/rap in terms of specific aspects of the poem and the genre features unique to each text.
Then, perform this poem or song/rap lyric using techniques of oral interpretation: determine the meanings you want to convey, practice performing the text by emphasizing certain words or using pauses, and then share your performance with the class. (For examples of adolescents performing poem in poetry slam contests, see the video, Poetic License).
6. Create poetry anthologies or Web sites. Create poetry anthologies or Web sites based on similar topics, themes, issues, or genre features (image poems, etc.). You could also illustrate their anthologies with visual images or drawings associated with the topics, themes, issues, or genre features.
7. Analyzing the culture functions of myths or legends. Find some myths or legends specific to a certain culture or nationality, for example, Native American, Norse, African, Roman, Greek, Chinese, Eskimo, Inca’s, Mayan, etc. Describe how these myths or legends shared certain similar storylines, for example, creation myths explaining the creation of the world. Then, describe how these same myths or legends differ according to the how they functioned in these different cultures to explain certain phenomena unique to these cultures.
8. Analyzing the storylines in fantasy, science fiction, or adventure literature or films. Examine the use of certain storylines in contemporary fantasy, science fiction, or adventure literature or films popular with adolescents: the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc. Define how consistent narrative patterns in these storylines reflect certain cultural attitudes or beliefs operating in a culture or society.
9. Making intertextual connections. In devising mythology, fantasy, or science-fiction units, you need to encourage students to learn to define their own connections between texts in an inductive, “bottom-up” manner.
10. Helping students suspend disbelief. Reading fantasy and science fiction requires students to suspend their disbelief so that they can accept an alternative version of reality, something that may be difficult for “reality-bound” adolescents. For use in teaching a fantasy or science-fiction novel, devise some activities that would help students suspend their disbelief.
11. Addressing issues in science fiction. Much of contemporary science fiction addresses current social, political, technological or ecological problems. To help students understand these problems, it would be useful to collaborate with a social studies or science teacher about social studies or science issues portrayed in science fiction. In preparing to teach a science fiction novel, discuss some possible instructional techniques, topics, or themes with a social studies or science teacher.
12. Studying initiations. Students could study of examples of initiations in contemporary society, literature, and film. They could identify the larger purpose for the initiation as well as norms constituting success in achieving the initiation.
13. Studying heroes and anti-heroes. Students could study the topic of heroes and anti-heroes, examining characteristics of what contributes to being a hero in different historical periods and cultures, as well as what prevents contemporary characters from achieving heroic stature. They could also examine why the system often works against the hero’s attempts to change the system.
14. Issues of subjectivity and objectivity in essays. Discuss the issue of objectivity in journalism—the extent to which writers can achieve an “objective” perspective on their subject or topic.
15. Create essay anthologies. Create some essay anthologies using short essays about similar topics, themes, issues, or phenomena. Compare and contrast the authors’ perspectives and attitudes related to the same topic, theme, issue, or phenomenon. Write a preface for the anthology defining these differences and similarities in writers’ treatment of these topics, themes, issues, or phenomena.
16. Creating parodies of genre texts. Collect some examples of parodies or satires of genre texts, for example, parodies of romantic poems, song lyrics, self-help essays, etc. Then, discuss how the parody or satire is used to ridicule the use of genre conventions through mimicry of language or exaggeration of genre features. For example, Mary Shelley’s (1977) novel, Frankenstein, mimics the use of “science talk” set against talk of political power, romance, and religion.