The Philosophical Question: How Do I Use An Embedded Reading?
Any way that your professional experience and your knowledge of your students tells you to.
Ask yourself a few questions about the reading before you get started:
1. Why do you want your students to work with this piece? (This is good to know. You may have to defend your choice.)
2. Why will your students want to work with this piece? (If you cannot come up with a good reason, it will be hard to convince them to do it.)
3. What do you want them to be able to do when they are finished working with this piece? (Use that piece in whatever ways necessary to make that happen.)
4. What activities do your students already do that help them to achieve the goal(s) identified in #3? (adapt those to use with a version of the reading. The things that you ALREADY DO SUCCESSFULLY are the best place to start.)
Connect your activities to your goals.
My goals as a teacher, and my goals for my students, are not the same as yours.
I’ll share mine so that you can understand the activities that I have mentioned for the readings that I use, but you will have to connect your goals to your instruction. ( If you are not about how to do that, please ask. Many people read this blog and will happily share ideas!)
I teach for comprehension.
Students acquire language when they understand it. Every time I ask students to read, it must BECOME comprehensible.
I teach for success.
I plan for my students to be successful. I ask them to focus, to think, to take chances, to adapt, to stretch, to learn from mistakes but every single activity is geared towards success.
I teach so that my students will have a better understanding of the world.
We live in an ever-changing world full of constants. Love. Hate. Challenge. Triumph. Laughter. Tears. The deeper their understanding of the constants, the more skilled they will be to work with the changes.
I teach so that I can sleep at night.
I try very hard not to mislead, misuse, misjudge, mistake, misread or mismanage my students. When it happens, because I’m very human, I try to apologize, and to change what I am doing.
Problem #1: It is so easy to get caught up in having my students read a particular piece so that I am happy. That is in direct opposition to my goals. What makes me happy? For a “Top Down” reading it’s beautiful literature, literature that has an emotional connection for me, literature that will impress other educators or parents, literature that makes me feel like a great teacher, articles that native speakers would read, fascinating cultural pieces. For a “Bottom Up” reading it’s when I love the story that I created, or because I love creating Embedded Readings, because I am proud of how I used every single student contribution, or because I want to show off how well my students have written the stories that eventually became the reading. But, teaching should not be about me. It should be about my students.
The Solution: Examine, realistically, the benefits FOR MY STUDENTS of reading a particular piece. If the benefits align with my goals, then I have chosen a good piece.
Problem #2: The piece is too difficult for my students. It doesn’t matter how perfect the piece is, if I have to destroy it to make it comprehensible it is not the right piece for my students. If I have to pre-teach a structure for every sentence, it is not the right piece for my students, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I LIKE IT OR WANT TO USE IT.
The Solution: Choose, very carefully, the pieces to adapt. Can a piece be scaffolded to BECOME comprehensible within 5 versions? If not, re-think it’s viability for your students.
Enjoy the journey!!
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