Chapter 3: Teaching Smarter: Noticing and Naming
“Our conferences are little mirrors for our students. Are we teaching them that they can or that they can’t?” (p.46). With that, Barnhouse had piqued my interest. How can noticing and naming help students know the ways they understand without just slapping an academic label on what they are already doing? “Congratulations, Jimmy, you’re inferring!” doesn’t seem to be all that helpful.
Instead, Barnhouse suggests we name by describing what the student is doing and how they know what they know. In this way, we can make visible the hard work of reading, work that is often invisible to readers who are successful. We can build our teaching points around what students do well with texts. Noticing and naming the process students use to solve problems in their reading focuses our energies in conferring toward student thinking, not student answers.
In addition to naming how students solve problems in texts, we can also notice and name how texts work during reading conferences. Positioning the text as a puzzle to be solved, a puzzle that may have recognizable corner pieces or patterns, helps students think about being strategic problem-solvers within and across texts (p.51).
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In the final section in this chapter that tackles “What It Means to Teach,” Barnhouse asserts “if I identify a problem the student is having in the text, hold out a solution, and show the student a strategy for working toward that solution, I will have done all the work in that conference” (p.61). How does our current practice reflect/refute the idea of sitting side by side with students to deeply notice their strengths as strategic readers and the patterns that puzzling texts hold?