Without my planning this, I focused on thinking with both of my classes today. It turned out to be an interesting pairing of lessons for me -- seeing the emphasis on independent thought I ask of ninth graders and that which I ask of seniors.
My ninth graders are just getting deep into our study of short stories, and I am pushing them to use their blog posts to explore how the authors use short story techniques. (Please read and comment on their blogs here if you have time -- they are enjoying sharing their ideas.) This is a new thing for me -- to make their reading reflections more than just, "What did you think of the story?," and instead, "What do you think this author is doing with his/her writing and why?" To prepare them for their assignment tonight (to study how Alice Walker shifts traditional plot structure in "To Hell With Dying"), we spent much of the period today looking at the climax and resolution of "The Most Dangerous Game." One student read aloud the ending, which was a subtle use of rereading with them, and the others had pen in hand marking the clues that led them to be able to say, "This story has a clear resolution." I am trying hard this year to be more overt about reading strategies with my students (thanks to I Read I But I Don't Get It), and today's small exploration into this area was great for my students and me. I can already see in those blog posts that have been done tonight how they processed the shifting of plot we discussed happening in "Game" and how they are transferring this understanding to a new and very different story.
The very next period, my AP students spent the class pushing themselves to overtly use the rereading strategy and reflect on how much it helps them. At this stage, I am trying to remind them that careful reading is an obligation so that they slow down and really engage like I know they can. We spent much of the period visiting and revisiting this quote (from an NCTE presentation I went to three years ago): "Confusion represents an advanced stage of understanding." They moved from seeing this as a paradox to understanding that if they come to class thinking they have "gotten it all" in a reading, then they have probably not actually engaged with that reading. We talked about the realistic pressures of rereading -- how they cannot read every assignment three times in full. Instead, they can reread sections that strike them multiple times so that then, as a class, we will all be experts in pieces so we can see a much deeper whole.
My freshmen and my seniors ended up doing the same thing today -- slowing themselves down to let their minds truly think. Great day.