Archive for November, 2005

Here are some short reads for your free time.

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

This is one of those often cited books, like Ways with Words , so I figured I’d better read it. Also, it discusses issues of identity which has been on my mind, as I think of our apprenticeship to scholarship in literacy studies. The authors look broadly at learning as apprenticeship, which is a familiar model of practice, just as the idea of “communities of practice” if fairly familiar, also, when thinking of learning in a sociocultural context. I like this idea of learning being social. I think, too, that these online communities, such as blogging, are good examples of becoming initiated into a community, only it’s not clear who is the master and who is the apprentice.
The examples of learning such as the tailors and midwives are relevant to my own life right now. Sometimes it feels like I’m on the the “periphery” looking in, taking small steps, wanting access to participating in the community of practice of becoming a literacy scholar (hence the name of this blog).
This idea of “access” that Lave & Wenger bring up is intriguing and applicable to the life of a doc student, I think: “To become a full member of a community of practice requires access to a wide range of ongoing activity , old-timers, and other members of the community; and to information, resources, and opportunities for participation (p.101).” I think this means we ought to go to conferences in our field, participate in larger, ongoing conversations, and get to know our professors and others who are established in the field. I think this is not an option-it is something we must do. I think it also means we need to network and meet others. I felt really good about meeting a few people recently in Pittsburgh. I hope to meet more people in the future.
Another striking idea that I’m excited about–the idea of learning from one’s peers. “It seems typical of apprenticeship that apprentices learn mostly in relation to other apprentices…where the circulation of knowledge among peers and near-peers is possible, it spreads exceedingly rapidly and effectively (p. 93).” I think we have more to learn from each other….We can also inspire each other and keep each other motivated.

Altwerger, B. (Ed.) (2005). Reading for profit: How the bottom line leaves kids behind. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

I’ve just begun reading this series of essays about the corporate takeover of reading programs in the schools. Most of the chapters address specific scripted programs head-on: Open Court, SRA Reading Mastery, and other widely used phonics programs. We can’t let DI take over…What will children think reading is?


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Update from Pittsburgh

I have to say this: I didn’t come ready to deal with the cold. It’s about 25 degrees here! Brrr….feeling a lot like winter! NCTE is great. It’s wonderful to see and hear so many interesting ideas. Here’s a photo of our presentation at NCTE–myself, Laura, Randy, and Joel- from today. I went to three sessions: new literacies, miscue analysis with bilingual students, and scaffolding beginning reading instruction. The scaffolding workshop with Elaine Garan and was the most fun. They had a lot of great photos of young readers. It’s so much fun to see kids learning to read! They talked about how gesture and voice are used to scaffold instruction. It was great to hear the lively dialogue after our presentation. There were almost 200 people there.


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Chapter Four is about the students learning more about their preferences and styles in reading, and how the teacher can work on structuring reading environments to maximize all the talk, conversations, and inquiry into ideas of democracy. I like how Randy and Katherine emphasize making connections between what is going on the classroom with the way the larger world is, to encourage transfer of learning and to make students aware of various conceptions of social justice.
Later, in the section on independent reading, they emphasize this sort of awareness that students may h ave about “intention”, or knowing oneself as a reader, knowing what books to select and what will work for him or her in discovering their reading style. This awareness will help the reader form a growing knowledge of themselves and helps the teacher in helping students see reading as an important, meaningful activity that is personal to each student.
I’m wondering if I know myself as a reader and writer. I know I love to do both. I think I actually like thinking more than reading and writing, if that’s possible to seperate them all like that.
The suggestions for conferring during independent reading are helpful: confer at the student’s desk, helping the student to name what they are doing and thinking, and pushing their thinking towards where they are as a reader. Looking back at my own conferring with students during independent reading, I think I did mostly two things: discuss elements of the story grammar of the text (plot, setting, characters, etc.) and also ask them open-ended questions that encouraged reader-response (How do you like the story? What do you think will happen next?). I also frequently asked them higher-level, inferential questions that centered mainly on the text or, occasionally, their strategy use while reading. I don’t remember going into depth with questioning them about themselves as a reader. I will do more of this in the future.
Another interesting point is on p. 69 in the discussion about how independent reading is in fact often a social time when children like to share with a neighbor friend something interesting about what they learned. “This social impulse is what drives the reading curriculum from independent reading toward partnership and clubs.” I’ve been thinking about this more and more as I think about my own need to discuss readings with others, to share favorite parts, enthusiasms about topics, and listen to others’ insights and thoughts about a shared topic. Why does independent reading always have to be silent? I let the students talk during this time and I monitored their “on-taskness”, too.

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Further thoughts on For A Better World:

On p. 57 we learn about Ben’s reading of MLK, Jr. Ben decided that he was “just like Martin Luther King, Jr.” because they were both treated badly because they were different. I really appreciated this example because I’ve been thinking lately about the way people typically qualify who should be given “similar chances to have a happy life” p. 30.

The list usually includes: gender, class, race, religious beliefs, and sometimes it includes people with ‘handicaps’ or ‘disabilities’. The dialogue about differences in race, gender, and religious beliefs is more common than it is for respecting those who think or learn differently. People who don’t have high academic or street “smarts” are often portrayed as villains or victims in stories. I liked how Katherines class was able to take the story of Martin Luther King as a “loose script” that made room for discussions of accepting those who are different from others and then, most importantly, students were given opportunity to turn this script into action.

I’m still wondering about the discussion that the first graders were having around the word “tomboy” (described on a previous post). If they were to discuss this further or read a book that might raise awareness of the social construction of gender roles, how might that knew understanding be translated into action within a first grade classroom? It gives me the itch to get back into the classroom again.

Just like the Harste and Carrey quote on p. 57 suggests, it’s not enough to be reading this book if I don’t put it into use in the way I talk and act.

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