I was excited to dig into these nonfiction signposts. I really see them as ways to authentically engage our students in close reading and explaining their thinking through nonfiction.
Contrasts and contradictions seem like a signpost students will easily relate to. I loved how the authors showed us all of the skills our students use as they contemplate these differences: comparing and contrasting, cause and effect relationships, central message, related details, and author's purpose. I see these signposts being a guide to authentic conversations and thinking centered around nonfiction reading. Serving gifted students, I can see the benefits of this way of approaching nonfiction text. I love the new perspective these signposts can give our students.
Extreme and absolute language was interesting to me in regard to the way it might point our biases to our students. I see it as a way an author goes about proving a point or trying to persuade others to see things from his or her perspective. I will admit when we write argumentative essays I do advise my students to use direct language and this extreme and absolute language might come up as they state their claims. I know the power of persuasion writing can have on readers. Try reading articles posted on Facebook and comments from adults who read them.
I love that the signpost can cause our students to contemplate whether a point is overstated by the author, whether they now agree with the author, or whether the writing has changed their mind in some way. I could see this leading to some authentic research opportunities for students as well as some amazing debates and discussions.
I spend a great deal of time discussing author's bias with my 6th graders, but my 5th graders do seem to take nonfiction as fact unless both sides are presented in the same text or through paired texts. I see the signposts making a big impact on their eyes being opened toward nonfiction and the power an author has when they write.
We often "why-light" when we read nonfiction. Students highlight sections of text and explain why it was important. I could see why-lighting being used to show various signposts and stance questions with explanations written in the margins for discussion or later longer responses.
My question would be, how might you intend to use these signposts during nonfiction reading?
Like you I see these signposts leading to some great discussions! Extreme/absolute language seems to speak to me the most right now as I too notice people being quick to take something at face value and jump on the "bandwagon" of belief. While I've not started considering how I will teach this explicitly yet, I already have in mind how I will teach my 4th graders about contrasts/contradictions while teaching them to read with a skeptical eye. Check out www.allaboutexplorers.com :0)
Kristi - I love the term "why-lighting"! That "why is something important" is the stretch that kids need to go beyond passive reading and into critical thinking. That's what this book is all about. I'm going to use that!!
I was excited to get into the signpost section, too. One of the things I wondered was how to incorporate the 3 big questions with the signposts. Will it be too much to think about and get in the way of reading? Will it be cumbersome/burdensome to think about the 3 big questions as well as look for signposts? The authors addressed that on page 125 when they said, "We've found that if we teach students to read with the question 'What surprised me?' in mind before teaching this signpost (Contrasts and Contradictions), they see far more C and C than we would have imagined. That makes sense!
Once kids see the signpost, to ask them "Why does it matter?" reflects what Kristi does with her students. Ask them to keep thinking!
The distinction between Contrasts and Contradictions occurring directly in the text and within the reader seems like something gifted readers could grasp and discuss - especially at the 5th/6th grades, which is what I teach. It's so much more sophisticated than making connections to self, to text, to world - something they've heard a lot about by the time they get to me. I like the idea of taking that idea as a stepping stone to Contrasts and Contradictions.
I teach a propaganda unit during our Heroes and Villains unit in 6th grade, which is when we read dystopian novels. The Extreme or Absolute language signpost would work beautifully during that time. I would introduce it when I teach them in 5th grade, and really bring it home during 6th grade. Recognizing Extreme or Absolute Language is such an important critical thinking skill, and like Kristi said, one adults could learn more from! I also liked the distinction made by the authors between hyperbole and Extreme and Absolute language. On page 146, it says, "When the language is used purposefully, when it leads us to false conclusions, then it's no longer hyperbole. It's extreme." What a great discussion we could have with our students about that difference!
I also liked the discussion about skepticism vs. cynicism. I agree that we don't want to be creating cynics! However, we could use way more healthy skepticism!
One of my big takeaways is from the sidebar on p. 143. "We've found that our least skilled and most skilled readers tend to see the fewest signposts." I teach the most skilled, and this statement doesn't surprise me at all. When I get my 5th graders and ask them to slow down and really think, discuss, and write about what they read, it is difficult for them. They are used to reading fast and answering the questions asked of them about their reading. Teaching these signposts and giving them lots of time to think and discuss will help tremendously.
I haven't listened to the podcast yet - I'll do that next!
Thanks for checking out the podcast Holly! It has been my way of reflecting on what I am reading!
I am starting to see how having a questioning stance can lead to the discovery of signposts. For example, if I work on having students look for what surprises them they can identify key parts or phrases, then as they consider what 'surprises' them, we can "flag" signposts. My biggest challenge is finding texts to do this with... ones that are short enough to read and discuss during the short time I get with my students!
I think finding the texts is the biggest struggle teachers have. We teach thematically, also, so we like to find texts that fit with whatever theme topic we're in. I wonder if a shared Google Doc would be helpful. That way whenever someone finds a great text, he/she can share it with others. That may be especially helpful for Kristi and me since we're teaching the same level.
Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts