Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In Reflective Teaching, Reflective Learning, I’ve discovered some interesting ideas:

1. The authors describe something called the Flanders’ Interaction Analysis System, which is a method a classroom observer can use to evaluate the kinds of communication that occur among students and teachers. The observer simply makes a note, every few seconds, of the type of interaction that’s happening, whether indirect teacher talk, direct teacher talk, student talk, or silence. The authors suggest that the good English classroom has a lot of student talk and not so much teacher talk, but I’m afraid I would fail in that respect. (I do most of the talking, by far.) Next year, I hope to recruit another teacher to come and observe me occasionally, and perhaps do the Flanders’ Analysis. I suspect it would be surprising (maybe shocking), but certainly helpful.

2. I like the idea behind what is known as Raphael’s Question-Answer Relationships. He delineates two main categories of questions regarding literature assignments, each category being then broken down into two sub-types. The first type of question is “in the book” – that is, the answer can be found by simply looking in the book. These questions are further divided into “right there” questions (the answer is in the text and rather easy to find), and “think and search” questions (the answer’s there, but you need to put different parts of the story together to discover it). The second major category of questions is “in my head” questions. It is broken down into two sub-types: “author and you” (the answer can be found by thinking about what you know combined with what the author tells you), and “on my own” (the answer is not anywhere in the book, and you can find it without reading the text).

These are very interesting categories to consider for next year.

3. A concept I don’t agree with is the idea that “flow” is an important goal to aim for in literary experiences for kids. Basically, “flow” is the kind of experience that is so fulfilling that one loses track of time while one is engaged in it. The authors suggest that English teachers should design a curriculum that encourages this kind of “flow”, and they use video games (!) as a fine example of flow. They imply that, like the gamer gets hypnotized by his action figures, our literature students should get hypnotized by the books we assign – get “lost” in them, as some might say.

I’m sorry, but I do not want this kind of “flow” in my literature classroom. I want to encourage careful, systematic thinking in my students, not the mindless trances that we see in video game enthusiasts. In fact, I guess I want my student readers to stand a bit outside the flow of the story, so they can begin to appreciate its larger truths. I don’t want them to get “lost” in a book, because then they won’t be able to “find” the really great ideas contained in the pages. True thinking requires some distance from the topic, and you can’t get that distance if you’re totally into the “flow”.

No comments: