Reaching the younger audience and modeling

This weeks readings focused on the concept of understanding the author’s expectations and how readers need to be aware of the author’s assumptions. This started with Rabinowitz’s Before Reading which differentiated between the actual audience and the author’s intended audience. Understanding the difference seems to draw a realization which enables young readers to accept their difficulties with a text, thus getting over the embarrassment that they don’t know. This connects nicely with last weeks readings, specifically the “difficulty paper.” Keeping that in mind, Rabinowitz stated that “making assumptions about the readers’ beliefs, knowledge, and familiarity with conventions” is impossible for an author to accomplish in a text. Therefore it must be expected that some elements of each text will not perfectly match a reader’s prior knowledge or expectations. Unfortunately, some authors present a text which expects too much from the audience – knowledge of an allusion or ability to sympathize with a character – and thus presents difficulty to the less informed/capable reader. The essay continues with an explanation of authorial reading, Rabinowitz’s definition for reading with the author’s intended audience and expectations in mind while simultaneously reading “in an impersonal way” as to avoid misdirecting the meaning with personal interpretations. All of the above may be difficult methods to apply for an inexperienced reader, and they may not pose much use in a younger classroom. But, Rabinowitz’s later sections illuminate the simpler task which may be used by a younger reader, pay attention to titles, first, and last sentences, as they are “privileged” (possessed of insider information) and can reveal important points about the text to a reader. These areas to focus on for a young reader could assist them in getting over the hurdle of not understanding the purpose of a text.
Another passage which was revealing this week, and easily applicable in the classroom, is Collins, Brown, and Holum’s “Cognitave Apprenticeship Making Thinking Visible.” This article presented ideas already recognizable in my classroom, but it also shared a few insights I would like to attempt -more modeling- and a few which may not be possible in the large classroom setting. The primary difficulty with some suggestions is understanding the dynamics of a thirty student, or greater, sized classroom. The “Reciprocal Teaching Dialogue” can potentially work with any sized group, but as the group gets larger is provided more opportunity for distraction, lack of interest, and difficulty on the part of the teacher to monitor each student. This task seems reasonable for a group size no larger than the low twenties. Fortunately, the article did not focus entirely on practices which, at this time, seem impossible to sustain. One great method of instruction is modeling, and the idea of getting in front of the class and sharing how one approaches a reading or writing task is a simple way to provide an example, and lead by example, to get students to find success. The most obvious method for modeling would be the thinking-aloud process. I have done this with small groups after school and will be making an effort to do this with the larger classes as well.