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Conversations in Literature
Conversations in Literature — Workshop
About CONVERSATIONS IN LITERATURE

Individual Program
Descriptions

1. Responding
as Readers


2. Envisioning

3. Stepping In

4. Moving Through

5. Rethinking

6. Objectifying
the Text


7. The Stances
in Action


8. Returning to the
Classroom

Support Materials
Teacher-Talk




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Stepping In


Introduction

Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Extension:
Classroom Connection


Ongoing Activity
Additional Reading


Introduction

Imagine yourself entering a party. The first thing you do is scan the room, size things up, take a mental note of who you know, who is unfamiliar to you, the atmosphere, the noise level, what people are wearing, who is talking with whom, and where you might first enter the party, either by helping yourself to a refreshment or by saying "hello" to someone you have not seen in some time. Because it is a party, you are aware that people are going to be more relaxed than in a formal business setting, and the expectation is to enjoy yourself, socialize, and sample appetizers.

This very same intuitive mental process occurs for readers each time they pick up a text, whether it is a poem, a short story, or a novel. When readers are stepping into a text, they attempt to acquaint themselves with it by gathering information, making hunches, and predicting what will happen next. This process happens not only as readers begin a text, but also when readers encounter new information that confounds them or when they discover a new realization that alters their original envisionment. Here, readers are thrown outside the text, and need to reshape their envisionment. When readers step into the text, it is also a time for them to attempt to gather information about story elements, while at the same time connecting that information to what they already know and to their own life experiences. For instance, if a piece is set during the Great Depression, the reader can immediately call up knowledge about that era and other experiences related to the topic and then connect the information to the literature, asking themselves what to expect from the characters and the challenges they face during that time period. Here, readers build a sketch or beginning point, as the envisionment they have developed is very thin.

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Some of the questions that readers mentally ask themselves when stepping into the text might include:

  • What is the title and what does it suggest? Can I make any predictions based on the title?
  • Who is the author and what do I already know about his/her writing? What can I expect from this author?
  • What does the book jacket suggest about the story? What predictions can I make about the story based on the illustrations or the teaser on the cover?
  • Who are the characters and what are they like? What can I expect from them in the future?
  • What time period does this take place? What do I already know about this era that can inform my understanding?
  • Where does this story or poem take place and how might this impact the piece?
  • What is the shape of this piece and what does this tell me about the text?
  • What genre is this text and how does that impact what I can expect to encounter in the piece?
  • How is this story similar to something I have already experienced?
It is helpful for teachers to become aware of the stances as a way to support the processes readers go through as they make meaning of what they read. Understanding what good readers do as they step into a text allows teachers to strategically design instruction, so that students successfully experience the process of building their own envisionment. As student readers become more savvy, this will be a natural step in their own reading discovery process.

For a complete guide to the workshop session activities, download and print our support materials.

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