Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Students in any language arts class must learn to ground their responses to a text in the words of the text itself. But in reader-response-oriented classrooms, this might be even more important.
Unsophisticated readers often read something quickly and rely on their first impressions for all future discussion and writing; they seldom see the point of going back and rereading, or of looking back to note a writer's exact words when paraphrasing. Many a classroom literature discussion has gone awry when students have attempted to talk about a text without having it open for reference in front of them. Though asking students to find evidence for their point of view in a text is an age-old demand, new methods of doing this can work especially well in a reader-response classroom.
To get students in the habit of finding evidence, many teachers use learning logs or double-entry journals that ask students to copy out quotes that interest them from a text and then write down why. This prevents students from making the kind of response to their reading that is so global as to be meaningless, such as "It was good" or "It was kind of boring." It also helps them to slow down and take note of the author's voice, tone, and style.
During class discussions, whether with the whole class or in literature circles, the teacher might demand that each opinion or assertion is backed up by the words of the text. Because this can keep a discussion from flowing naturally, it need not be done every time; doing it once or twice will serve to remind students of how important the practice is. Particularly significant lines from a text chosen by the teacher or students might be blown up on large paper or written on the board for a deeper response. Students can be asked to draw (see above, "Using Visual Imagery to Respond to Texts" ), write, or talk about these quotes.
A fun way to have students find evidence in a text is to make it a game or "scavenger hunt." Asking students in pairs or small groups to "find a line that demonstrates x" can make it interesting for them, and can spur the kind of text-grounded discussions for which a literature teacher constantly hopes. For instance, a teacher might give small groups of students a list of such "find a line" challenges: "Find a line that shows the main character is secretly angry at his father;" "Find a line that shows the dullness of the town portrayed in the story," etc. These challenges can begin with the literal, where students can find nearly the exact words of the challenge in the text, and move on to the interpretive, where they need to infer meaning from the text.
By instructing students to find evidence in the actual words of a text, teachers train them to be careful readers, and help them develop an awareness and appreciation of different writing styles.
Because students can interpret the reader-response philosophy to mean that anything they say is right, methods that help them connect their responses to the actual words of a text are helpful in keeping the response focused.
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