I read an extremely interesting article this week that has really left me thinking about how I read with my children.
It left me thinking about my expectations for what we discuss and for what my children are capable of gaining from texts.
It left me thinking about how deeply we delve into the books we read and whether or not I am helping to prepare Maddy, Owen, and Cora for a ‘new’ literacy–a literacy ‘reconceptualized for the 21st century’.
I am fairly confident that during many of our read-alouds, I do my best to sneak in some sort of comprehension strategy, whether it be connecting, questioning, predicting, or the like. But I’m not sure how much critical thinking I have my kids do during read-alouds. I’m not sure how much ‘multi-modal’ reading we do, and I’m not sure how much ‘remixing’ of information they do with the texts they read.
I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s really not that difficult once I broke it all down.
A lot of ’21st century literacy’ is what I do every day on teach mama and we teach. It’s a lot of what many of us do on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or perhaps in the presentations we create for work or the invitations we create for our kids’ birthday parties or the apps we use for gaming, exercising, eating, or shopping.
It’s a natural next step for many of us to bring to own children so that they–our future–are able to learn, adapt, and grow as ‘connected’ learners of the millennium.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Critical Thinking & New Literacies: ‘New’ Literacies, as outlined in “Envisioning New Literacies Through a Lens of Teaching and Learning”, by Lapp, Moss & Rowsell (The Reading Teacher, March 2012), contain three principles — critical thinking; engagement with multi-modal texts; and the transformation and redesign of text information.
Yeeeowzers. That’s a mouthful. But I promise it’s do-able. And I do think it’s seriously worthwhile. . .
My goal in the next few weeks is to share several ways that every parent and child can incorporate all of the ‘new literacy’ principles in simple–and meaningful–ways.
Here, we’re focusing on the first element, critical thinking, because it seemed the most natural for us at the time. We were reading Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth–a perfect book for stretching minds.
Zen Shorts is a sweet and thoughtful book about a story-telling panda named Stillwater who moves into Michael, Karl, and Addy’s neighborhood, teaching them lessons that help the children better understand themselves and others.
We love the book for its illustrations, but even more amazing are the messages that Stillwater shares within the stories he tells.
I’m just sure that my kids have ever really understood them. They understand the surface, but I don’t think they understand the deeper meaning.
So with critical thinking in mind, during our read-aloud, I wanted to focus on one of Stillwater’s stories and really talk the kids through it. I wanted to make sure that they ‘got’ at least one of the stories, and I just knew that talking them through too much would be an instant turn-off.
My number one priority is that I want them to always love reading with me–which is why learning during read-alouds has to be totally sneaky.
So my comments focused on the story that Stillwater told Karl:
- The cool thing about this story is that Stillwater’s stories mean different things to different people. Here, Stillwater tells Karl about the monks carrying a woman over puddles. What’s your favorite part of this little story?
- What does the story say to you?
- Can you think of a time when you might have carried–or held onto–something longer than you needed?
- How did you feel when you ‘let it go’?
I didn’t push. I just wanted them to think more deeply, more critically. What surprised me was that Cora was the least inhibited–the one most eager to share her ideas and to think ‘outside the box’. Maddy and Owen were more conscious of being ‘wrong’, which was a red flag for me. We need to discuss-openly and supportively–more often.
I’ll definitely continue a teeny critical-thinking slant to our read-alouds, using some of the following prompts, depending on what we’re reading:
- Why do you think [the character] made that choice?
- How might the story have been different if. . .
- What clues does the author give us to show that. . .
- How does the author share his (or her) message?
- What might this character be thinking when. . .
- What do you think the author wants readers to remember most in this story?. . .
And that’s it–we talked through two of Stillwater’s stories and only briefly about the third; we had a pile of books to read, and I wanted to make sure I hit them all, throwing in a few think-alouds, questions, connections, and predictions when we could. Happy sneaky read-aloud reading!
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