Roberta Mason

ROBERTA MASON

Uh, say your name, spell your name, university title and affiliation
Okay. Roberta E. Jentes Mason. And it, it’s actually Bobbi. I go by Bobbi. So it’s R-O-B-E-R-T-A, initial E, J-E-N-T-E-S, Mason. Good old German name. And Bobbi, B-O-B-B-I.
Yes. Bobbi Jentes Mason is generally what I use, but my official name is Roberta.
Bobbi. Mm, hmmm. I guess I should be using my more appropriate academic name, but I don’t know.
Yes, you’re right. Yeah.
Fresno Pacific University, um, I’m director of the single subject, which are the secondary teacher ed program, um, which is a part of our larger teacher education program. I’m also the director of Learning Edge, which is, uh, intensive two-week summer literacy project for high school students and college students that we’ve done over the past fifteen years, which is a project that I started in my early years here at Fresno Pacific.
Um, for many many students, at the secondary level, even though they do okay and, um, are quite capable, a major problem is their understanding of the reading process. They have so many misconceptions about how reading and writing really work, in the real world, because of sort of the hodgepodge of instructional strategies, they’ve been given often, the teacher will do this, and the teacher will do that, and they may be good strategies, but sometimes those strategies could be counterproductive, or they may be strategies that really take them away from what really proficient readers do in the real world, so they get confused about what proficient reading is, and for me in working these thirty years, with adolescent, uh, literacy issues, and many of those years at the high school level, the key problem is, for many students, a large percentage, I would say about eighty-five percent, um, they focus on words, instead of ideas. So when they get to the end, the, they have gone over the words, but they can’t articulate anything. They don’t have a clue what they’ve read. Or maybe they have some idea, and they can spout back things, that they’ve read, pieces of it, but they don’t know how to construct meaning in thoughtful, organized kinds of ways, and so they struggle with that, and so in testing situations, or in discussions, they think that, okay there’s something wrong with me, I really can’t read that, I don’t really get it, I’m, there’s something wrong with my brain, when in fact, it’s a conceptual issue. Their misperceptions really add to their problems with reading.
Well, for the second language learner, it takes, it depends on how much they’ve read in English, and how proficient they are in English. Now, and they can be quite verbal, uh, and appear quite strong, but yet their academic English is weak. Often it’s because they haven’t read very much, and so they really can’t articulate their thinking about ideas, and they, they work with text, and it is very easy for them to get confused and to go back when they’re dealing with academic text and so they go back to the old patterns of feeling like, ‘okay, I’ve got to get all the words.’ It, especially if they’ve learned a second language that way, starting out with learning the vocabulary, and then focusing on the words, and so again they’re not really constructing meaning, and so they read too slowly, and in fact I was working with them today about that, and talking to them about, uh, typically, students will think, okay, I read this, and I got all the way through it, and I didn’t, so I must have read it too fast, so they read it even slower, but the trick is to get them to focus on the ideas, and so what I was working with them, even today was giving them a whole chapter, and saying all right, you have two minutes to figure out what the big picture is here, what, what are we talking about here, and building some confidence in looking at the bigger ideas first before we just pacifally let our eyes go across all the words, and then you get to the end and we’re going, well, I hope something happens in my head, and, and really maybe, they have a very, very limited understanding, because the brain really can’t focus that much on the surface structure and focus on ideas at the same time, you know, Frank Smith’s work, with the non-visual and the visual, the more, uh, non-visual, which is the meaning that you have in your head, the background, your experiences with what you’re reading about, the less you need the visual, and so this is the thing for second language learners, if they don’t have much background, then they become, they focus on the visual, on the print, on the page, more than they necessarily need to, but that’s their comfort zone, then, and it isn’t more important, uh, well it is more necessary for them to focus when they don’t have, we all do that when we don’t have as much background, we focus more, but they build that pattern in and so that that generally is how they read, and so they read too slowly, and so they don’t really enjoy reading, so then they don’t read, so then they don’t get better at, and it’s sort of a cycle then that it perpetuates itself so they don’t develop, um, to the level that they’re nearly capable of, you know, it handicaps them.
Well, we have several reading demonstrations that we do with the students and, uh, one that I like to do is I give them a piece of text in which they can read all the words, and have questions at the end for them to answer, and then they realize they can answer all those questions but they really don’t have any idea what it’s about. I have one that I do and they read through this article about <come around take out 8.1>, and all these kinds of things, and they can answer the questions, but I say well what’s this about, well, maybe someone realizes it’s about curling, and they realize they’ve answered the questions because see, the questions focus on the parts, but they don’t ask them to articulate the whole and the relationships between the ideas, which they really can’t do. Now I, I say to them, okay, so it’s about curling, does that really help you? No, it doesn’t really help me, either, because I don’t that much about curling, but for that person who has some background, in, in curling, has some experience with playing curling, they, you know, that makes a lot of sense to them, so then I have another text which is written in, um, nonsense form, but when they figure out, they realize it’s about happy birthday, and somebody forgetting a birthday present, and so on, and then they go, oh, see, they bring all that background about forgetting somebody’s birthday, and baking a birthday cake for them on the wrong day, they bring all that background, that’s different than the curling and the importance of, but it’s, even though you can answer those questions, if you don’t have the background or you don’t understand what it’s about, but how much of schooling has been that way for them? It’s a matter of reading, uh, text material, and answering questions that focus on the parts so very little of their schooling experience really helps them conceptualize ideas or summarize ideas, synthesize ideas across several texts to put their thinking in their own words. That extraction process of looking, okay it talks about this, it talks about this, okay this is what is being said here, and articulating that in, in thoughtful, you know, more precise terms, especially when it comes to expository text or what we’ve come to call affectionately, hierarchy of ideas, I don’t know, uh, I’m beginning to wonder who, uh, dreamt up that term, but it seemed to me clearer than expository which is so over-used in really, students don’t really understand what it means, and I like the idea of hierarchy and, uh, I thought I could make that clearer about a hierarchy, uh, I use the example, okay, what’s the hierarchy in your family? Who o—who has control of the remote control, and so, you know, they have, you know, they’re the most important and make those decisions and so it’s the same thing, we have a hierarchy of ideas and important ideas and then we have second level and lower level examples underneath that, and beginning to think about, then, giving them some language in which they can articulate those ideas and we start out with them and working with this kind of text, um, articulating about general and specific, and understanding the difference between—in relationships—between ideas, which is more general, and what is more specific, so then they have some language to negotiate with one another what they think an author is saying, so I’ll say, well, do you think that’s really what this author’s saying, or is that a little too general? Or is that a little to specific? Does that really cover everything? So, do a few more demonstrations with that, but giving them some language then to negotiate meaning with one another. It’s not like there’s one right answer, but there are wrong answers and we want to get them into that range of right answers in hierarchy of ideas, because this is, is often the problem in adolescent literacy issues there’s adolescent literature which is so, so important but the strategies we use in reading literature are different than the strategies for reading hierarchy of ideas. So, in reading hierarchy of ideas we want them to focus on, um, that big picture first and see the relationship between the ideas, now that’s much more sophisticated. A lot of them have had a lot of experience following a sequence of events in stories, and so narrative comes easily to them, but the extraction process, i—of looking at text and extracting a generalization from that is much more sophisticated, but that’s at the heart of academic work, and so I have found that when you begin to give students confidence in reading that kind of text that, so that they begin to handle, uh, the more academic reading challenges, that they’re so empowered, they begin to see themselves differently as readers, they begin to respond differently to text, and then they, and they begin to not be so word-bound to, uh, the print on the page, but, uh, can engage with that transaction with the text, in, uh, a richer way.
Okay.
Okay.
Okay.
Well, in, we talk about Holtapart (sp) thinking with the students and we talk about Holtapart thinking at two levels. Holtapart understanding the reading process and the writing process, understanding reading as a transaction, Holtapart, understanding that in the reading/writing process, there are actually three texts: the text in the writer’s head, the text that actually gets put in the page, and then the text that the reader creates in his or her head, when they look at that text. And so those texts are always intersecting and any change in any aspect of the writer’s intention, or what their reader’s attempting to get out of it, changes the dynamics of that transaction, and so we try to make that much more concrete, putting, um, uh, a blank Venn diagram of what we call the Portrait of the Transaction on the wall, and always referring to that, in talking about, Okay, we’re putting on a readerly hat here, and in thinking about how we’re responding to this text, are we responding emotionally, or are we trying to be more rational about what are the ideas being presented, and then we can be emotional if we want, or, um, shifting over to the writerly hat, and thinking about, well, what is this writer really trying to do? Is this writer just writing to express their angst in this situation, or are we, uh, is this author trying to create a literary, uh, experience for us, or engage us in, help us live in this world with the literary <piece or peace ? 15.4> or is the author trying to inform us, or persuade us of something? And all those intentions change the dynamics of that transaction, so we want them to understand reading and writing, a Holtapart, a big picture of that reading and writing process. Then it’s the same Holtapart in looking at text (clears throat) and Judith Langer uses the, um, the language rather than Rosenblatt’s terminology, aesthetic efferent, uh, uh, reading literature and having aesthetic experience, just having the feel of that, as opposed to efferent, reading for information, Judith Langer, uh, I like her, uh, language of orientations and the, with literature being, um, a horizon of possibilities, and so the horizon of possibilities is shifting as you go through the story and you’re thinking, okay, where’s it going now? But with, um, more expository text, or hierarchy of ideas, it’s a frame of reference. And so, what we do then is help them, help students grasp that frame of reference from the beginning, with using some specific language about looking at a text and very quickly coming up with what is it about? And we call that the subject matter. Okay, and then going back and saying, okay now that’s our, that’s part of our big picture, let’s go back to the text and figure out what’s the most important thing this author is saying about that subject matter, okay, so that’s our big picture. And then we look at how is that picture supported? What does the author do to support that larger idea and beginning to, uh, conceptualize that. Now, one of my students, who’s really really struggling to get this, and even in these two weeks as we’re working on this, and she said to me the other day, (gasps), how did I make it, that, through school, I can’t, I want to get this so bad, but how do I make it through school with not being able to do this, and I said, well, we want to make it easier for you, and do you see how this would make it easier for you. It’s what we call working smart, rather than being lost in all those ideas and all of those words and not really being able to articulate something clearly, um, finally, you’re thinking, so you’ve internalized this process when you’re looking at this kind of test, that you’re thinking, okay, what’s going on here? What’s, um, not in the sense of sequence of events, but what’s this author saying? And what’s the most important thing they’re saying about this subject matter, here? And how are they supporting it? Wha—how are they developing this text? And, then helping them delineate between persuasive and informative hierarchy of ideas of text, although narrative can be informative also, but helping them looking at informative and persuasive hierarchy of text, in particular in thinking about the difference in that, so that they can write that kind of text that, they begin to see, oh, okay, what could you do with this text? For instance, today we gave them, uh, a news, a little news report about a, um, little five-year old whose mother was into drugs, stopped on a street corner, and just gave the child to a student on the street corner—a student who just happened to be standing there, who she’d never seen before, and she says, I have to get rid of this child, because the boyfriend doesn’t want him and so this college student (laughing) suddenly has this five-year-old boy, and the Child Protective Services won’t help her, and they beg her to keep this kid because they don’t have another place for him, and so we take that premise and ask the students to choose one of the perspectives, either from the mother of this little child, the child’s perspective, or, um, this girl who suddenly—college student who suddenly receives this five-year-old on the street corner, or the social worker, and have them write a narrative literary piece that tells that story from that perspective. Always doing those kinds of things and helping them see the nature of the transaction and how we would write that differently than if we were writing a position paper about what needs to happen child protective services. So always working that, linking that reading and writing process so that they really begin to understand the nature of transaction as it plays out in the real world.
Okay. Text structures—text structure is so critical because that’s the framework for them to construct meaning Holtapart, and when they have those patterns, have a sense of those patterns, they can use those patterns at will to structure their thinking for, uh, looking at text, for organizing their thinking for writing, for, even for listening. Uh, I was always amazed, in my early years as I worked at the high school level, students would come to me and say, you know, I’m getting more out of the physics lectures, or, you know, I’m getting more out of this class, or I wouldn’t have passed chemistry except for what we’ve done in here, now I wasn’t sure at that time why, why it was working, but I began to realize it was the text structures and helping them see and read Holtapart because we’re talking about the structure of communication, not just reading, but the structure of communication, so in physics, they were listening to sort out big ideas and smaller ideas and supporting ideas, that they internalize the sense of structuring of ideas, and especially with the note-taking which then I used to build on this, that’s, uh, looking with the structure of ideas, really helped them internalize that structure so they just naturally would follow author’s thinking, author’s ideas and not be so lost, as students would often say, well I can, uh, you know, I can go through and read my chapters in social studies so much quicker but still understand more and not feel lost, feel that I understand more of what I’m reading. So the text structures are like patterns, and the human brain is pattern-seeking, but for too many students they’ve given up the pattern-seeking when it comes to reading, and so helping them own those patterns really helps them be so much more effective as readers and it helps them organize their thinking, which in fact helps their retrieval of that, those ideas. The fact that they have read and organized their thinking, uh, in response to a text, and maybe articulated in some organized way, means that tomorrow they can articulate what they read. Otherwise, if they looked at that text tomorrow, they couldn’t tell you anything. It’s all gone by them, but the process of thinking more deeply about what’s being said and how it’s being said and how it’s being supported that’s a very generic pattern, uh, hierarchy of idea pattern, but that forces them to think more deeply, therefore they retain more, and they can retrieve it much more easily.
Okay.
Yes, right.
(Sighs). What I say to my teachers is, reading and writing are the tools of learning in your classroom, and if you wanted to be a master carpenter, wouldn’t you want to know the most critical tools, and understand how to use them well, so reading and writing are just the critical tools in your classroom in science and in math, believe it or not, those are the critical tools, so what I want to do is help you understand those tools in depth, so that you can use them to your best advantage, because if you can’t help your students read science, or read math, then you are seriously handicapped as a teacher. And I say to my students, I want you to see yourselves as more than a math teacher, or more than a social studies teacher or science teacher, I want you to see yourself as a professional educator, and so that you have some sense of the larger issues, and literacy is at the heart of learning and those educational issues, and for you to have some more in-depth understanding of that, so that you can use that to develop your expertise as an educator, as a professional educator, more than just a math teacher. Now, math is the tricky one, because math is a language, and I really begin talking about, what’s the difference between English and French and math as compared to biology, history, uh, uh, biology, history, and what’s another one? Uh, geography. Okay. Well, the first are sign systems, and math is a language, and so it, learning, your job, then, as a math teacher, is to help students learn math language and be able to speak the language of math. Now math language is quite abstract, so if students are having difficulty reading, um, regular, written text, they’re going to really struggle with the abstract, reading the abstractions in math, so, but it really, it still is the same process that they have to construct meaning, and so you have to think about, how are you going to help them construct meaning from math language, and how are you going to help them do the conceptual development in math, so that they are beginning to own that language and can use that language and can negotiate all sorts of mathematical problem solving.
Okay let me…
Uh, I think I’ve got it covered.
Okay.
Uh, I want them to understand, that, um, as I talked about Frank Smith’s work, that reading is a transaction between, uh, the reader and the text with the writer and that it’s, in the reader, it’s the visual, the text, the visual and the non-visual in the reader’s head and how that non-visual in the reader’s head transacts with the print on the page that visual and that, that proficient readers use as few visual cues as possible, and so too many secondary teachers have the mistaken notion that students who can read aloud very proficiently are in fact proficient readers. In fact, oral performance is one kind of reading and is not necessarily an indication of proficient readers, unless they can retell you, do a retelling of what they’ve read, so the key is for them to read something and to be able to tell you what it says. And so, I actually have my high school, uh, pre-service teachers listen to the, uh, one student at, probably student, and tape, uh, them reading aloud, uh, a complete piece of text, a short piece, but a complete text, and even if they’re math teacher, some math text, and then that student and they set the student up for this in the beginning that they’ll have to retell what they’ve read and the students are just blown away but, you know, it’s just like you said, they could read it but they could not tell you, or they’ll have a student who’ll read and stumble and they can tell you what they’ve read. And so helping teachers then understand about the three text, and connecting with that and that their job is to help build background so that students have much more non-visual information that they can bring to that print on the page. So again, the the three texts in the reading process: the text that’s in the writer’s head which we don’t any way of really knowing, but we try to look inside that writer’s head, and then what actually gets put down on the page, and then the text that their reader uh creates. And so the more we give them some sense of where the writer might be coming from uh the more they can engage with that text, the more we help them understand about text structures and so that they can look at those things in uh richer ways, the more they can engage with that. The more they understand about their own process the more that they can own that process.
OK. It’s a transaction because they’re changed by it. The text is changed, the reader is cha--- and every time you look at that text it it would be a different transaction because you’ve read it the whole way through before and so now you’re transacting differently. And Louise Rosenblatt is very specific about it being a transaction and not an interaction. Interaction being bu—like two billiard balls knocking against one another as opposed to a transaction between the reader and the text in the middle uh and so it’s really open, much more open.
I want them to see that real writers use a variety of strategies uh and that it is not one structure, You know a five paragraph essay that columnists in the newspaper don’t write five paragraph essays but they play with ideas. And I want writers to understand about ideas coming before form. Writers think about what they want to say and then they decide what form they’re gonna use to express those ideas and so I want teachers to understand, have more a sense about how to help kids look at structures and think about the structure possibilities and to own those structures so they can use those structure to serve their writing purposes and think about the things that they want to communicate and how they might do it in creative, interesting ways that we might not even think about. That they own structure and see the myriad of possibilities with structure, that there isn’t one structure per se, I mean there’s a generic hierarchy but how you play out, and h, how you present that hierarchy has lots of possibilities. And we’ve been reading all sorts of articles and I’ll say to the students, ‘Well, what do you mean? The thesis statement isn’t in the first paragraph..’ You know they’re reading articles where when they get to end there are all these stories or examples in the beginning and then they get to the end and they say, ‘Oh, this is the big picture, this is really what’s happening here.’ And so I’m saying to this, this is how authors write in the real world. And I want them to have a sense of writers in the real world. And so as result of that I want them to read lots of real writers. I’m not having them read writing textbooks, which sort of have bogus essays in them but I want them to read real writing in which authors are communicating their thinking whether we would call them essays, literary essays, whether we’d call the essay so to speak, but it’s more about how is this author choosing to communicate what they’re passionate about or what they’re really feeling strongly about. And noticing more, attending to those, to that craft that an author uses in that, and to see that that real authors don’t produce perfect copy you know, on demand, but they struggle and they develop pieces and I want them to understand about expressive writing. Uh Gloria Houston talks about expressive writing being being like a reservoir, a pool uh that we develop of clay, raw, uh, yes of clay from which we mold. And and from that clay of expressive journal writing kind of thing, where we’re just getting our ideas down on paper, then from that clay we choose to sculpt a narrative, or we go over in the other direction and create, uh sculpt a a persuasive piece or uh some sort of informative report. And for them to understand the relationship between those and how authors (clears throat) develop and are are writing some of their ideas and they go “Oh, I think I’d like to make this into a literary piece’ Or ‘I feel very strongly about this and I want to write a persuasive piece in which I make clear what I believe about this issue and support it with maybe some dramatic or emotional kind of support or maybe I want to use more objective kind of support and which would be more of a thesis kind of thing. We help them understand the difference between opinion reason recommendation kind of persuasive kind of text and where we’re communicating uh our emotional response to something and what we believe about something and why we believe uh we just did that today with the death penalty. It it uh, executing teenage murderers is appropriate punishment for a just society or executing is inappropriate punishment for a just society and coming up with some support for that. And then reading some articles in which an author articulates their thinking about the death penalty and why they uh don’t agree with the death penalty. But then looking at that support and then looking at another piece in which they’ve presented all sorts of data, reasons to question the death penalty, but but here it’s presented in much more of an objective sort of way. And so, and then going on to look at uh what we call a thesis proof in which uh an author sets up um a statement, an opinion but uses much more of an objective kind of support for that. We often call that a thesis proof. Uh I think the thesis term has gotten overused and students really don’t understand and so what we’re doing with the hierarchy of ideas and the beginning work of how we can understand subject matter controlling idea, the big idea, the most important idea is um a conceptual development of what they’re often taught as thesis statement. But the thesis statement comes out of that old view of taking the I out and depersonalizing it and making it sound very authoritative as though we’re speaking the truth and so we want them to understand about having their voice and being able to speak about issues uh and being persuasive. That it’s not wrong to put out your bias, or put your opinion but to own that opinion and talk about where you’re coming from and why you think that this is true. And how that might be different from an informative report, a research report in which you would um present some sort of hypothesis or some sort of thesis and then have to have the research to back up that thesis and helping them to understand the difference between that kind of writing by looking at actual texts in which authors do that differently.
Uh hum, uh hum
Well, I would, first of all I would work with them to help them help their students read the textbooks more effectively and help them to help their students focus on the ideas. OK,. Let’s take a chapter, OK and help the students, give the students three minutes to skim this chapter. What’s the big idea? How are the ideas related? What’s the map? How is this chapter mapped out? So that they’re seeing the relationship and so they’re not spending so much time you know answering study questions at the end, but they’re looking at the relationships between the ideas and they’re seeing those kinds of things that they’re developing some expert, expertise there and maybe some you know, even some note-taking skills, although I don’t want text, note-taking for every chapter in a textbook, please know. I want them to understand the note taking process so they can read that way and think that way and sort ideas and think about the author’s ideas. But I would soon help them, going back to the reading process, a science textbook. You have all these abstract concepts. You’ve got to build much more background for the students. It’s that non-visual information that you have them to develop for them so they’re bringing to the text or it’s like reading come around take-outs about furling. It, it you know they can read the words, and they can even pronounce some of those technical terms but they have no idea really what it’s about. See these are very abstract concepts so you’ve gotta do what I call concept development. So you have to find ways to engage them with the concepts so then they’re bringing that understanding to reading the text. So you can’t really afford to just, especially for second language learners, it is just absolutely critical that you build background with realia, hands-on, officers of contec eh ah contectualizing it uh conceptual development so that they can begin to own the concepts so that they can make sense, some sense out of the text.
OK
Well, you know we’re working wi, in learning ads right now with Spanish speaking and Mong speaking uh paraprofessionals, so they’re college students. Second language, English is their second language. So we’ve been reading all sorts of stories that they can connect to. And so it’s so meaningful, they’re so touched by the stories because they bring so much personal um meaning to that. So it makes it so much more meaningful, then we can build on that to go to things that they don’t necessarily have as much background on but you build on that. You have to start that way and hook them in and use the aesthetic kinds of reading experiences to help them build confidence and build background to go to the more abstract kinds of reading where you want them to put on more of an effort, take more of an effort stance in reading for information. But if you’ve built background for that then they’re not so intimidated by that.
Yes. Yes.
Laugh
OK. Text studies, ii um which which is what I’ve come to call what I’m doing actually with teachers and with students. I wanted them to do that text studies and I’m calling it after the cove and inquiry into the nature of text and transaction. And so what I’ll do is just hand out two texts that are related in some way and ask them to talk about you know, what are the connections they’re making. And I’m looking first of all for the content connections and then the process connections. And so uh quickly I’ll move, depending on the students, I’ll move quickly from the content to the process and thinking about how’s the transaction different? How are these texts different. What did these authors do differently? And one of the things that I start out with is I, the two texts, and this is using the term ‘texts’ broadly. I give them a text which is actually an art print and a picture, a photo actually, of Martin Luther King being carried off to jail and ask them about the meaning making process in those two and how are they different? And so they sort of struggle, because that is an abstraction to think about that, that metacognitive conversation about how is the meaning-making process you know different and and they eventually start to talk about one being more factual and one being more imaginative and that kind of language. And so some of the language I give them then is OK that Martin Luther King, the meaning is much more text centered but in the art the meaning is much more reader centered. It’s much more in the head of the reader and it’s much more open. The meaning is much more closed in the Martin Luther King. You don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, hey, It looks to me like he’s going to a party. That’s my interpretation.’ You know, it’s not open but with art it’s pieces it’s very open and it doesn’t, you know, we we don’t have to really even go with what they, the artist, you know, we we’re making this personal connection if we like it and how it makes us feel. That’s what we take away. And so then ya, that’s the big basis for beginning to think about the transaction and so then I’ll give maybe an informative piece and a persuasive piece about the same subject or give a literary piece, uh um and then an informative piece. Just today we read ‘em a story about Booker T. Washington, uh more than anything, just a beautifully written picture book with wonderful images about how much he hungered to learn to read and tell me more, because he’s hungry to have that power of reading. And then we talked about it and how they’re responding to that and then I give them a text which is a much more informative biography what it ha, which ha, has all these details about Booker T. Washington. And I asked them about well how, which did they like better, and why and how are they different and what was the authors intention here, and how is that different? So, just juxtaposing text. Or I may give them four texts and ask them to think about which one really do they connect with? Which one just really strikes an emotional cord with them? And then ask them to think about the author’s intentions for those and then a, I would probably have one of each of the four intentions: expressive, literary, informative, persuasive, to think about that so that they’re now noticing more about how text works. And then I might have them look at two of the texts and think about, you know, how the ideas structured differently, here’s for them to start to notice. Well, OK this is a story, and this is a hierarchy of ideas. Now, it’s amazing, uh you can give them a piece of text and they’re not sure about ---
OK
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Yes
yeah, well, it’s amazing uh
OK, (pause)
OK. It
It’s amazing. It seems very obvious. OK narrative hierarchy of ideas, two global structures, two different structures, it’s pretty obvious. But in reality when you look at text uh and ask them to think about well, is this more of a story? Or is it more of a hierarchy of ideas? They’re going, wait a minute. I’m not sure. Um when an author tells lots of little vignettes, but he’s making those vignettes to make a point. Oh, but there’s lots of story in here. OK, but we’re talking about the global overall structure, and how is that different as opposed to where the author is stating a a point of view about something and then supporting that. And so e, even teachers struggle with that because they haven’t really thought in those terms and so that’s the kind of text study I want them to notice. And in the real world there’s a lot of overlap. You know, and I always say to them, well, not we can’t get hardening of the categories, but this is a framework, a lens for us to think about the rich possibilities here.
OK
OK
Uh hmm
Uh hmm
Well, cough,
Well, in the beginning, it was the name we came up with as we, Learning Edge started um fifteen year
OK
Learning Edge started about fifteen years ago when I first arrived at Fresno Pacific and began teaching here. And the president asked me to develop a an intensive summer program for underprepared college freshman. And um I said I would love to do that but I won’t make it, it can’t be a remedial program. It has to be an enrichment kind of program which would serve the needs of struggling readers but I, there’s no, I’m not interested in creating an academic ghetto so to speak. You know this is for the marginalized students, and so I said from the beginning we want to advertise this as an enrichment and have a a range of students, strong students as well as struggling. And so in talking about what we were gonna call us, call this, we talked about several different names and somehow Learning Edge came to be the name which I learned to really appreciate and has lots of rich possibilities and so I’ve started calling it uh Learning Edge, Putting An Edge on Learning. And so I like that. Jerry Hartstein helped me think of it, oh putting and edge on learning. He, he likes that that language. And so the thing I think I’ve learned in working with the bilingual students is really just the importance of building that background and that support and that confidence. Providing a vision for them of where we want to take them, you know, the standards are here, but then providing the support and the confidence for them to go there. And maybe they don’t get there right away but they can see what they have to work on and what they have to develop. And so really working with them on that and providing that support. And one of the ways we provide that support is we do a lot of reading that is culturally, that raises all sorts of cultural issues that they can connect with in powerful ways, helping them tell some of their own stories that they can connect with and are telling those stories, or reading those stories or connecting with them helps them tell their own stories. And that becomes very empowering for them. One student got so excited last week that she could write a fable. And you know it was because of being open to sharing more of their stories in that situation. And nurturing their core identity of who they are as second language learners. And nurturing that sense of identity they have with their language and affirming that um just gives them so much more power and and helps them speak with such a stronger voice. And that’s why we use the voice acronym which is I think I know the acronym VOICE uh valuing, owning, identity, collaboration and um excellence. Yeah, and so owning all of those things, and we work through with all of those things. And I think you know that really you know makes a huge difference. That there’s so much they can culturally connect with. We use you know lots of Hispanic authors, Hispanic issues, as well as Mong. We always have more Spanish speaking students than Mong speaking students but we address those two. And then we take it to African-American and broaden to other um uh cultures so they then begin to see the universals of struggle across cultures.
Uh huh, uh huh.
OK
OK, uh huh
Well, and see so, vocabulary study oh uh we really need to engage and think about vocabulary study because the research shows that just learning vocabulary, list of words, does not really sticky. Now, that’s something different though from vocabulary study and getting them to engage with some of the techno, technical language, the Greek and Latin roots, the technical terminology in classification, so, some of that, or the whole idea of conceptual development. They’re concepts that they have to understand that are key in science and so you have this technico, technical language and so you have to do things to help them grasp those concepts. That’s why experiments, lab experiences, hands-on experiences in science class are just critical. And now with computers you can do so much you know with the computers, but still the hands-on lab experiences are just critical. And I, I hear far too many science teachers saying, well they don’t have time or it’s, they have too many kids to do the lab work. But really lab work is just critical in science. And is social study, it’s the same thing. You have to give them experience, engagements with different time periods, simulations, kinds of things that they can begin to connect with the realities of those different time periods or the issues. So that they can learn uh terminology and answer questions on a test about terminology. That doesn’t mean they understand. So what we want to work on is deepening the understanding. Teaching for understanding is the key. Building the capacity for much more cognitive engagement with concepts. And so in Learning Edge that’s what we talk about, teaching for understanding, that when you understand you don’t forget. The old model, much more behaviorist kind of learning well, it was about memorizing the things. You, you didn’t have to understand it, you just memorize it and spit it out and then you, you when that course was over you just let that go. But I’m saying to them when you understand, and that’s why we’re working so hard at you understanding the tra, transaction, understanding about how reading and writing work. When you understand that you don’t forget it. So uh ju, teaching for understanding and and teaching for that depth and helping teachers begin to think about that. And that you can’t teach everything. So think about what are the big ideas, the key concepts that you want to teach. And how are you going to build and layer so you take them deeper into those concepts.
Oh, man.
OK. Maybe this is something I could say. Well, everybody’s starting to talk about the importance of text structure. OK. And that that’s important. But from the conversations and the things that I see in the professional literature about text structure it’s very one dimensional. They see that just as OK that’s there in the print. And the way that I want to look at text structure is much more a part of that multi-dimensional transaction. And it mu is much richer when you see it as part of that transaction. And it’s much more real. Um and that’s why I don’t think that there’s been much su uh in-depth work with it, the text structures because they haven’t really known how to work with the text structures except for artificial exercises in which they give them a few simple text structures. But if you give them a much broader sense of the transaction and some informative patterns or structures and some persuasive patterns which they can use as well as some general structures which you know just uh hierarchy of ideas, most important ideas and supporting ideas which is just a general for fairly simple text but then giving some more specific patterns uh like the opinion reasoned recommendation which is a sua persuasive pattern. But helping them understand that uh we have these patterns typically in the literature. They talk about cause and effect, and comparison and contrast. But those are very uh (pause) irregular minor patterns that are woven into much larger patterns,. And so that’s why we don’t have really that much appropriate instructional strategies out there for engaging with those uh um patterns in a much more thoughtful way in which kids can kind of own because they can see them in the real world. I’m going back and working with the the work. This is really old work from the fifties of Allan Sack and Jack Yoreman who began looking at real texts and thinking about what the patterns were in real text that they saw and develop and and I’ve built my work on their work early on with patterns and have begun to um just play with that and continuing my own inquiry into the nature of text and transaction. And so I’ve learned much from doing that. For many years I just thought I was a slow learner and everybody else had this figured out. And I’m thinking well, and then I, when I moved to California, after teaching in the Midwest for eighteen years or so, uh and began to share what I was doing and I realized that no, nobody was really doing or talking about these kinds of things. So I think my strength is that my development of these ideas have been in classrooms with students, with high school students and then with college students. And so Learning Edge has been important in my growth is it gave me a chance to continue to play with these ideas, to see response from students to hoan how I would present these ideas, how I would layer these ideas, how I would pace uh the presentation of these ideas with other things that would make it not overwhelm them too much although they do o feel overwhelmed but we overwhelm then, and then we support them and then back and forth and so that they are starting to talk about how much more confident they feel, even already. And even after three or four days last week they were saying that they just couldn’t believe that they could learn so much. And and I said to ‘em, see it’s because you’re understanding. It’s, we’re not just doing things. You’re understanding. We’re building for understanding. And we keep circling around. It’s not a linear sequential. We think of OK I learned this, and I learned this, master this then I can go on to this. No, it’s these key concepts about transaction, about making sense of text that are the core and we keep presenting those ideas and then we circle around and we go further out, further out, in more sophisticated ways, in more depth so that those core concepts become clearer and clearer. I say often to my teacher ed students is that they begin they just have this glazed look on their face and I say ‘now you just have to trust me. I know it’s kind of foggy. But by the end the fog will lift and and thi this picture will be clear for you.’ And sure enough they say ‘well, you know what, (giggle) it is getting much clearer. The fog is lifting.’ And for most of them most of them you know by the end yo, they have much clearer pictures of the transaction which gives them some sense of what they need to do. Uh not, I’m not confident that it gives them um the depth that they really need be because there’s so much to learn and do when they go back to their own classrooms and begin to develop it. But they understand that there’s more there and it woes them away from some of the counter-productive kind of reading practices of uh assigning the chapter and having them answer the questions at the end. And I like um, oh, I can’t think of her name, um … her diagram of how with the old view of reading assignments we s we spent very little time at the beginning was the triangle. We spent very little time at the top and then lots of time at the end with the assessment you know, discussion. But now we’ve turned that t triangle on its side. We spend all this time before building background and helping them engage with the concepts and then reading. We don’t have to spend nearly as much time afterwards because we’ve prepared them for engaging with the ideas.
Sigh
Uh, personal soap box um. Well, the th that reading and writing are so intertwined but yet even in English studies, the compositi, you have the composition people and the literature crit, and the literary criticism folk. And so we have that fragmentation even at the university level. And so that fragmentation in English studies carries on because that’s the way teachers are trained. And so they see themselves as a literature teacher or a writing teacher and how do we help them see the relationship between reading and writing? And I say to English teachers, and they’re stunned. You know, so you ask them in English classes in high school, you ask them to read narrative. But then you ask them to write here, hierarchy of ideas. And they’re going ‘Ah! You know, I really never thought of that.’ That’s a revelation. See but we want them to read and write both. It’s not that one is better than the other. But they need both and they need facility in going back and forth, reading both and writing both, narrative and hierarchy of ideas and to see the relationship. And the rich relationship between engaging um with ideas and seeing how authors make a point and tell provocative stories to support their point or a literary work in which they tell the story in such a a provocative way but we’re left to think ‘Now really what was the point of this story?’ And that’s a whole different kind of experience. But (slight pause) I guess my soap box is for English who think far too narrowly about text and want them to open up their uh thinking about text and engaging with text and how they can use some really provocative hierarchy of ideas kinds of texts that presents some issues that builds background for the issues that are coming up in the literature they read. So that the kids are engaging with the ideas. I think we do far too much of focusing on the parts in reading literature, the plot, structure and all of that, which are important things. We want them to know those things but we spend too much time on that rather than having them connect with the provocative ideas that are being communicated with the story, the themes, the ideas, the issues, about the human condition that are presented in the stories and how those ideas connect with their own lives. That’s why authors write literature, to make a statement about the human condition, but yet we don’t give students a chance to talk about that and how that connects with their own lives. And that’s the most powerful kind of reading and we’re shutting down too many kids by not giving them the opportunity to do that with reading. OK
OK
I’m off the hook for now.

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Wise BEEDE: Fresno 3
Bobbi Mason