Sunday, June 18, 2017

How We Read Matters

Sometimes building empathy in middle school students feels like climbing a long flight of stairs after a heavy meal. 

These children are at that very special age when the entire world revolves around them, and their focus is often limited to their immediate needs and desires. Oh, and lest we forget, they have opinions about EVERYTHING. How do we get them to understand the bigger picture, to really look at what is happening around them, to see that our lives and experiences are small parts of a much larger story?

Enter my new favorite professional book, Disrupting Thinking, by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. I am excited to facilitate a book study with our staff in the fall, and can NOT recommend it to other educators enough. 

Beers and Probst want us (and our students) to be responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers--to read with our heads as well as our hearts. 

Responsive: "...if (the reader) doesn't let the text awaken emotion or inspire thoughts, then she can barely be said to be reading at all" (29).

Responsible: "...not only a willingness to acknowledge and defend one's own thoughts and values, but to change thinking when evidence or reason dictates" (37).

Compassionate: "But if we can convince our students to read with compassion, perhaps they will begin to act with compassion. And perhaps, as adults, they will enter into conversations with one another with more civility, with more generosity, with more kindness toward one another" (51).

My sketchnote of the BHH Framework
I started with baby steps this year. I read aloud to the class and asked them to write in their journals about what was going on in their heads and/or hearts ("What were you thinking?" "What were you feeling?"). Some of our best discussions came from Wonder, All-American Boys, Ghost, and Out of My Mind. And as an added bonus, several students were inspired to read the books during independent reading time. Score!

We used the framework with nonfiction as well. One of our units focused on the importance of clean water. After reading about conditions in other countries as well as the effects of drought in the US, our question became, "So, what can we do about it?"

I am so excited to continue using the framework with our students in the fall! If you have not read Disrupting Thinking yet, please add it to your TBR list. I promise you, it's worth it!

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