Chapter 2: Deciding Smarter: Not Teaching–Yet
Barnhouse contrasts teachers and CEOs in this chapter. While she contends CEOs must make swift decisions in the board room, she cautions that similar behavior in the teaching of reading could be shaky practice at best. The issue here lies in the fact that the true work of reading is mostly invisible, so when we make snap decisions about how to help readers, we often tend to the work that is most visible. Instead, we should “allow ourselves to consider what a reader’s actions and behaviors might mean–not just what is visible but what the visible points to” as we try to “get a glimpse of how the mind and the book are intersecting” (p.29).
If our hopes are for students to read with vision, agency, and a flexible mindset, how do we align our instruction with those goals? Do we believe texts have fixed meaning? Do we look for students to regurgitate our meaning of text or to collaboratively construct their own (p.31)?
Barnhouse nudges us to teaching with vision by noticing how students know instead of what they know. Simple follow-up questions during our conferring, such as “How do you know that?” or “Where did you get that information” or “What did you read that gave you that idea?” If we value process and effort over product and ability, noticing how students accomplish something rather than simply focusing on the accomplishment itself communicates those values (p. 32-33). If we want students to be problem-solvers as they read, we cannot situate ourselves as the problem solvers in a text. What may seem like an innocuous “Are you sure?” when a student makes errors has the power to narrow our vision only to what students don’t get. Instead we might describe the text as a puzzle to solve and ask students, “How can we figure that out?” With this slight shift, the student works to solve a puzzle, not the teacher. Finally, Barnhouse points to the power of errors. If we value students as problem-solvers, they are going to make mistakes. Barnhouse aligns her thinking with Clay when she suggests we should be strategy-oriented not task-oriented when it comes to errors. We should look for opportunities to celebrate their problem-solving process instead of correcting each little error.
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How do you help your students build their identities as Thinkers and Learners both consciously and subconsciously (p.40-41)?