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April 13, 2017 Disrupting Thinking: Inspiring Deeper Reader Engagement By Mary Blow
Grades 6–8, 9–12

    This past year, I have struggled with getting students to think about the text. The close reading and textual evidence required to support ideas has turned my students into miners of textual evidence. They look for text details to support claims. Yay! you might say. They are successfully reading and answering rigorous questions. Yes, I am proud of their accomplishments, but my concern is that they are not thinking about the text. They don't question how the content relates to their lives. They are not responding emotionally to the content, the types of emotions that inspire them to take action and change their world. Without these connections, they don't develop an appreciation for reading and become lifelong readers. In some ways, I feel like I have failed them. 

    For example, we were a couple of weeks away from state tests when I overheard my students discussing the use of textual evidence in their writing: 

    Student 1: How many text details do I need in a short-answer response? 

    Student 2: Two. You always need two.

    Student 3: It tells you how many details in the question. Two.

    Albeit, we were reviewing for state tests, but inside, I was cringing. I realized by students aren’t thinking beyond the specified amount of text details or thinking beyond the question asked. They were simply mining details, going no further than the text on the page. They lacked engagement, emotional connections, and compassion for the topics they were reading. 

    Disrupting Thinking

    Why How We Read Matters

    After overhearing this discussion, you can understand my excitement to receive a copy of Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, and upon reading it, learning that other educators are feeling the same way. In their book, Beers and Probst discuss the BHH framework: In the Book, In the Head, In the Heart. 

    I am oversimplifying the concepts, so you really need to read the book, but basically, “In the Book” refers to reading the text responsibly. Students need to distinguish between what the text says and what the reader believes — and not impose personal beliefs into the author’s message. They need to evaluate sources to weed out fake news and evaluate what is said and not said. In my opinion, this is the close reading that the Common Core State Standards encourage. Kudos to my students who have jumped this huge hurdle. 

    “In Your Head” refers to the thinking processes that take place when reading. I refer to this as the text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world connections made while reading. Beers and Probst offer the following questions to foster “In Your Head” thinking (p. 66):

    1.   What surprised you?

    2.   What did the author assume you knew? 

    3.   What challenged, changed, or confirmed your thinking?

    “In Your Heart” relates to the emotional response, the making of personal connections that can change a person and give reading a purpose, inspiring a desire to read more. Beers and Probst suggest that “reading is about growing, about changing who we are, about helping us see ourselves in the world from a slightly different perspective” (p. 69). This type of reading changes people, builds compassion, and requires affirmation or adjustment to the readers’ beliefs. It encourages change our youths’ lives and the world.

    Notice that the concepts, although presented separately, are intertwined. You cannot think without connecting to the meaning of the text. You cannot feel without responding to what the text says, creating a balance of close reading and personal connections.

    A Grimm Fairy Tale Lesson

    I excitedly shared what I read with Renee Krusper, my English colleague, and together we modified our Cinderella unit, incorporating the BHH Reading framework. This is not the entire unit — just a three-day activity. Feel free to view the entire unit on my web page: “Cinderella Dark and Grimm.” We read the print version "Aschenputtel" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1812) translated by Lucy Crane. However, the 1812 first edition of "Aschenputtel" translated by D. L. Ashliman is available online (Virginia Commonwealth University). 

    Before Reading

    Write the following topics on the board: family, virtues, role of women in society, wealth and social status, traditions, and faith. You may clarify the terms before students work in groups to discuss their ideas and beliefs on each topic. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of topics found in the fairy tale, so students may want to add to the list as they read. 

    Give each student a copy of the BHH Reader poster I created with my awesome kids and explain the “In the Book, “In the Head,” and “In the Heart” framework. 

    During Reading

    Students read “Aschenputtel,” paying attention to what the text actually says while monitoring their thinking (In the Head) and emotions (In the Heart). Usually, I would introduce the essay question before reading, providing a purpose for reading; however, I intentionally withheld the essay question because I didn’t want them to become miners of text details. The goal is to get them to think beyond the pages of the text, to become more engaged and compassionate readers. 

    After Reading

    Before engaging in discussions, you may have to remind students to be sure that they respond to what the text actually says as opposed to what they think it says or impose their own ideas into their interpretation of the text. 

    I created a blog for my students, so they can engage in online discussions with Renee’s classes. Our “Cinderella Blog” discussions revolved around the following topics that inspire strong emotions:

    1.   Traditions and Faith: Discuss the traditions and religious beliefs practiced in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and/or contrast to traditions and beliefs practiced in your culture?

    2.   Wealth and Social Status: Discuss how wealth and social status play a role in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and contrast to the role wealth and social status play in your culture?

    3.   Women in Society: Discuss the role women play in 1812 German society. Explain how it is similar or different from the role women have in our society today.

    4.   Virtues: Think about virtues such as honesty, kindness, and generosity. Discuss the virtues you feel are most valued in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and/or contrast to the virtues you value most in your culture?

    5.   Family: Think about how family is valued in "Aschenputtel" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Think about the importance Germans in 1812 placed on family. Explain how it is similar or different from the value you place on family.

    Feel free to modify these to meet your classroom needs. 

    Note: I used Weebly for Education to create my website. The blogging component is extremely user-friendly. 

    Below is an excerpt from our group discussion (click on the image to enlarge).

    As you can see on my blog, there are various levels of thinking going on. The discussion forced my sixth graders to consider others’ perspective of and emotional response to the text.

    When blogging, students sometimes struggle to follow the discussion thread. When responding to peers, use the two sentence starters below to help student reference each other.

    1.   On (date), ________________ stated, “______________________________.” 

    2.   __________________, commented that “_______________________________” (Date). 

    You may need to introduce discussion forum etiquette, so students can politely disagree with their peers. Below are sentence starters for disagreeing.

    1.   I can see how _________ might think that ________________. However, I respectfully disagree. I think _____________________.

    2.   Although ___________________ thinks that _______________, I believe ___________. 

     

    Writing Activity

    One of the unit outcomes is writing a literary essay. Below is the literary essay question Renee and I revised to encourage students to use textual evidence and include personal connections.

    Lower Level Question (click anywhere on the text to enlarge)

    Higher Level Question (click anywhere on the text to enlarge)

    My essay resources, including the rubric and graphic organizers, are free to download from my “Cinderella Dark and Grimm” web page. 

    Over the years, I have discovered that no one strategy is the answer for all students. Balance is key. Disrupting Thinking provides one more approach for helping my students to become reflective and responsive readers that goes beyond mining for details. My students will always engage in close reading, providing textual evidence to support their ideas, but they will also reflect on their thinking and emotional connections to the text, the type of reading that changes readers and inspires lifelong reading.

     

    Additional Resources

    •          Note & Notice by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst (Heinemann). This provides an in-depth discussion on many close reading strategies (In Your Head) that are reference in Disrupting Thinking

    •         Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann (Heinemann, 2007). I couldn’t help but make connections to one of my favorite books. It provides background on text-to-self, text, and world connections discussed in Disrupting Thinking.

     

    This past year, I have struggled with getting students to think about the text. The close reading and textual evidence required to support ideas has turned my students into miners of textual evidence. They look for text details to support claims. Yay! you might say. They are successfully reading and answering rigorous questions. Yes, I am proud of their accomplishments, but my concern is that they are not thinking about the text. They don't question how the content relates to their lives. They are not responding emotionally to the content, the types of emotions that inspire them to take action and change their world. Without these connections, they don't develop an appreciation for reading and become lifelong readers. In some ways, I feel like I have failed them. 

    For example, we were a couple of weeks away from state tests when I overheard my students discussing the use of textual evidence in their writing: 

    Student 1: How many text details do I need in a short-answer response? 

    Student 2: Two. You always need two.

    Student 3: It tells you how many details in the question. Two.

    Albeit, we were reviewing for state tests, but inside, I was cringing. I realized by students aren’t thinking beyond the specified amount of text details or thinking beyond the question asked. They were simply mining details, going no further than the text on the page. They lacked engagement, emotional connections, and compassion for the topics they were reading. 

    Disrupting Thinking

    Why How We Read Matters

    After overhearing this discussion, you can understand my excitement to receive a copy of Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, and upon reading it, learning that other educators are feeling the same way. In their book, Beers and Probst discuss the BHH framework: In the Book, In the Head, In the Heart. 

    I am oversimplifying the concepts, so you really need to read the book, but basically, “In the Book” refers to reading the text responsibly. Students need to distinguish between what the text says and what the reader believes — and not impose personal beliefs into the author’s message. They need to evaluate sources to weed out fake news and evaluate what is said and not said. In my opinion, this is the close reading that the Common Core State Standards encourage. Kudos to my students who have jumped this huge hurdle. 

    “In Your Head” refers to the thinking processes that take place when reading. I refer to this as the text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world connections made while reading. Beers and Probst offer the following questions to foster “In Your Head” thinking (p. 66):

    1.   What surprised you?

    2.   What did the author assume you knew? 

    3.   What challenged, changed, or confirmed your thinking?

    “In Your Heart” relates to the emotional response, the making of personal connections that can change a person and give reading a purpose, inspiring a desire to read more. Beers and Probst suggest that “reading is about growing, about changing who we are, about helping us see ourselves in the world from a slightly different perspective” (p. 69). This type of reading changes people, builds compassion, and requires affirmation or adjustment to the readers’ beliefs. It encourages change our youths’ lives and the world.

    Notice that the concepts, although presented separately, are intertwined. You cannot think without connecting to the meaning of the text. You cannot feel without responding to what the text says, creating a balance of close reading and personal connections.

    A Grimm Fairy Tale Lesson

    I excitedly shared what I read with Renee Krusper, my English colleague, and together we modified our Cinderella unit, incorporating the BHH Reading framework. This is not the entire unit — just a three-day activity. Feel free to view the entire unit on my web page: “Cinderella Dark and Grimm.” We read the print version "Aschenputtel" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1812) translated by Lucy Crane. However, the 1812 first edition of "Aschenputtel" translated by D. L. Ashliman is available online (Virginia Commonwealth University). 

    Before Reading

    Write the following topics on the board: family, virtues, role of women in society, wealth and social status, traditions, and faith. You may clarify the terms before students work in groups to discuss their ideas and beliefs on each topic. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of topics found in the fairy tale, so students may want to add to the list as they read. 

    Give each student a copy of the BHH Reader poster I created with my awesome kids and explain the “In the Book, “In the Head,” and “In the Heart” framework. 

    During Reading

    Students read “Aschenputtel,” paying attention to what the text actually says while monitoring their thinking (In the Head) and emotions (In the Heart). Usually, I would introduce the essay question before reading, providing a purpose for reading; however, I intentionally withheld the essay question because I didn’t want them to become miners of text details. The goal is to get them to think beyond the pages of the text, to become more engaged and compassionate readers. 

    After Reading

    Before engaging in discussions, you may have to remind students to be sure that they respond to what the text actually says as opposed to what they think it says or impose their own ideas into their interpretation of the text. 

    I created a blog for my students, so they can engage in online discussions with Renee’s classes. Our “Cinderella Blog” discussions revolved around the following topics that inspire strong emotions:

    1.   Traditions and Faith: Discuss the traditions and religious beliefs practiced in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and/or contrast to traditions and beliefs practiced in your culture?

    2.   Wealth and Social Status: Discuss how wealth and social status play a role in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and contrast to the role wealth and social status play in your culture?

    3.   Women in Society: Discuss the role women play in 1812 German society. Explain how it is similar or different from the role women have in our society today.

    4.   Virtues: Think about virtues such as honesty, kindness, and generosity. Discuss the virtues you feel are most valued in the 1812 German culture. How do they compare and/or contrast to the virtues you value most in your culture?

    5.   Family: Think about how family is valued in "Aschenputtel" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Think about the importance Germans in 1812 placed on family. Explain how it is similar or different from the value you place on family.

    Feel free to modify these to meet your classroom needs. 

    Note: I used Weebly for Education to create my website. The blogging component is extremely user-friendly. 

    Below is an excerpt from our group discussion (click on the image to enlarge).

    As you can see on my blog, there are various levels of thinking going on. The discussion forced my sixth graders to consider others’ perspective of and emotional response to the text.

    When blogging, students sometimes struggle to follow the discussion thread. When responding to peers, use the two sentence starters below to help student reference each other.

    1.   On (date), ________________ stated, “______________________________.” 

    2.   __________________, commented that “_______________________________” (Date). 

    You may need to introduce discussion forum etiquette, so students can politely disagree with their peers. Below are sentence starters for disagreeing.

    1.   I can see how _________ might think that ________________. However, I respectfully disagree. I think _____________________.

    2.   Although ___________________ thinks that _______________, I believe ___________. 

     

    Writing Activity

    One of the unit outcomes is writing a literary essay. Below is the literary essay question Renee and I revised to encourage students to use textual evidence and include personal connections.

    Lower Level Question (click anywhere on the text to enlarge)

    Higher Level Question (click anywhere on the text to enlarge)

    My essay resources, including the rubric and graphic organizers, are free to download from my “Cinderella Dark and Grimm” web page. 

    Over the years, I have discovered that no one strategy is the answer for all students. Balance is key. Disrupting Thinking provides one more approach for helping my students to become reflective and responsive readers that goes beyond mining for details. My students will always engage in close reading, providing textual evidence to support their ideas, but they will also reflect on their thinking and emotional connections to the text, the type of reading that changes readers and inspires lifelong reading.

     

    Additional Resources

    •          Note & Notice by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst (Heinemann). This provides an in-depth discussion on many close reading strategies (In Your Head) that are reference in Disrupting Thinking

    •         Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann (Heinemann, 2007). I couldn’t help but make connections to one of my favorite books. It provides background on text-to-self, text, and world connections discussed in Disrupting Thinking.

     

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