With all of the attention paid to close reading and text dependent questioning in the Common Core, I have had a heightened awareness when I visit classrooms to look for practices that promote these shifts.
However, sometimes the best learning comes from seeing the antithesis of the shift that is desired in practice.
As I was sitting in the back of the classroom recently, the teacher proceeded to hand out a well crafted assignment document, one which detailed all of the particulars of an end of semester assignment.
The teacher then spent the next twenty minutes providing an oral summary of the document, as thirty teenagers stared back in various stages of disengagement.
All of the work that went into crafting the assignment sheet......wasted.
Any responsibility on the part of the students to read and comprehend a detailed, multi-step set of instructions.....evaporated.
What I saw was a classic display of the old paradigm of teacher as gatekeeper and rationer of educational experiences.
If, as an education profession, we are serious about a deep infusion of literacy in our classrooms, then we need look no further than the time honored tradition of the teacher orally telling students what to do for a place to start making change.
An easy way to promote close reading is to start with a complete makeover about how we expect students to get information on assignments they are supposed to undertake.
If you go through the trouble of creating a document that explains the task, make your students responsible for accessing the task information from the document. Simply talking about the assignment and having the assignment sheet as a fallback is a waste of everybody's time.
Will this be uncomfortable at first? Sure.
Will you have to practice re-directs that force students to return to the text for evidence about the assignment? Absolutely.
Will your students become more independent, self-directed learners over time? Without a doubt.