I often discover what’s popular long after everyone else. I found West Wing during season four. I just discovered The Good Wife. And, a couple of weeks ago, I came across the Meghan Trainor music video hit “All About That Bass.”
To be honest, I found that song because of the brilliant riff by some high school kids titled “All About Those Books.” That song sent me in search of the original. Now, with both lyrics in mind, I find myself humming “It’s all about the bass/books” all the time. And those lyrics set my mind in motion: what is _____________ all about?
No surprise, I fill in that blank with the word “education.” What is education all about? I answer that with it’s “all about the kids.” That’s it. It’s not about a test. Not a blue ribbon. Not racing to the top. It is all about the kids. When we lose sight of that, well, we simply lose.
And when I think about kids, about helping kids discover all they can be, all they are meant to be, then I find myself thinking one word: motivation. My colleague BobProbst and I have been researching this concept a lot, first when we wrote Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading and now as we finish our forthcoming book, one about helping kids read nonfiction.
We’ve been sharing bits and pieces of that new book about nonfiction on my Facebook page and Twitter site for a while and teachers have asked for a couple of those posts to be shared in another format since a lot of schools still block Facebook. (Yes, in 2015 some places are still blocking sites teachers have access to at schools. I think we might need “It’s all about some trust” tunes. But that’s another post.) So, here are the posts previously found on Facebook that are shared together because they are both about motivation and that’s important because school is, after all else is said and done, “all about the kids.”
“All About the Talk”
If we want to get kids thinking, we need to get them talking. Research shows that all too often the talk we encourage in classrooms is a result of the questions we ask and all too often those questions are monologic in nature rather than dialogic. Monologic questions are those questions in which we already know the answer: “Who is the main character in The Giver?” Kids say this isn’t a real question because we aren’t seriously searching for an answer. We’re just checking to see if kids know the answer. By contrast, when we ask, “What most surprised you in this section?” kids know we don’t know that answer; consequently, that question is viewed as authentic.
Does this mean we shouldn’t ask monologic questions? Absolutely not. Monologic questions are great for reviewing facts. They aren’t great for encouraging conversation, speculation, or critical thinking. I use them all the time in workshops and classes at the end of the lesson/workshop to make sure vocabulary and concepts have stuck (or at least been remembered for 15 minutes!).
This chart that Bob and I developed summarizes a lot of research and is meant to just help us see some differences between talk that is to check understanding (monologic talk) and talk that is to create understanding (dialogic). You can read more about the research in Notice and Note in the section on talk.
As a PS to this section on talk, if you haven’t read Ellin Keene’s brilliant book Talk About Understanding, add it to your must-read list.
“All about the Reader”
A few weeks ago, on Twitter I posted the typology (below) that comes from some of the earliest work I did on motivating reluctant readers. This research showed up in my dissertation, and then in articles I published and later in When Kids Can’t Read/What Teachers Can Do. I think the term “dormant reader” was critical to my developing understanding of kids who appear to not like to read. This typology was an important reason, I’m sure, that I received an AERA award years ago and it continues to influence much of my thinking today.
If you want to read more about this typology of readers, check out the articles listed at the bottom of the chart or see the chapter on motivation in When Kids Can’t Read.
But it’s really ALL ABOUT THE KIDS
I have often posted on Twitter and Facebook that want-ability is probably a more important concept when it comes to matching kids to books than readability. After recently reading a great article in The Atlantic that connects interest to difficulty (the more interested you are in reading a topic the more willing you’ll be to struggle through difficult prose), I had to both nod and laugh. I nodded because I agreed. I laughed because The Atlantic thought this a new enough concept to publish it. But brilliant colleagues Penny Kittle, Teri Lesesne, Jeff Wilhelm, Donalyn Miller, Alfred Tatum, Ernest Morrell, Nancie Atwell, and a host of others have written about this for a long time.
If we want to create lifetime readers, we have to think more about connect-ability than readability. When we do that, we’re putting kids first. And that make sense to me because I’m all about the kids, ‘bout the kids, bout the kids. No kidding…