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Geeking out on Literacy

July 11, 2010

Whew.  I just finished reading chapter eight of Ten Steps to Advancing College Reading Skills.  Chapter EIGHT.  That is four chapters read today alone.  Oh, my gosh, how boring it is.  B-O-R-I-N-G.  I fight sleep.  Doze.  Shake it off, and begin again.  I am outlining all of the chapters, but I have only typed up the first three outlines.  It was my way of NOT reading.  I would rather type the outlines.

I am so excited that I got through so much today.  I only have two chapters left in Part Two.  That only leaves Part Three and Part Four to read.  I have a really good deadline though.  If you remember, I tend to ignore everything unless I have a deadline.  My deadline is Thursday.  Why, you ask?  Because I will be meeting with one of the professors that I will be working with next month.  Hooray!  Last week, when I went to my remedial reading class, we had a new teacher.  Our old teacher was just fine, but rather inexperienced.  This teacher teaches Freshmen Composition at Northwestern.  After class, I stayed after and told him why I was taking the class, and asked him for any advice.  He gave me some great suggestions and told me that I needed to email the other professors and ask for help.  So, the next day that is exactly what I did.  I looked back at my notes from when I attended those Reading Department Meetings last spring, figured out who taught the section of class that I will be teaching and sent them an email asking for copies of their syllabus and any other help they would be willing to offer.  I received two syllabus examples, and two offers to meet with me.  That kicked my butt into gear:  I had to begin reading the damn textbook.

I keep reminding myself that part of college (a large part, in fact) is reading things that you don’t find interesting.  This book will definitely give them some practice with that.  I have learned a whole lot about what I am expected to teach.  But it has also given me many reasons to second guess the curriculum (Shocker!).  Some of the skills that I need to teach have a tremendous amount of value.  Using context clues to determine word meanings of unknown words is a skill we all use every day.  Figuring out the main idea and its supporting details, yes.  You need to know how to do that.  Inference, absolutely.  Very important.  Paragraph patterns though?  Hmmm.  I didn’t even know what they were before I began to read about them in this textbook.  It seems like it makes the reading process more complicated than it needs to be.  As a good reader, I don’t dissect every passage I read.  I don’t look for “signal words” and figure out if the author is using a “definition and example” pattern or a “compare and contrast” pattern.

I talked it over with Jeff tonight, and he agreed, but of course needed to be the devils advocate and defend the curriculum as I was wanting to rewrite it.  As we talked, I think I found a way to muddle through.  From what I can grasp, all of these patterns address the concept of the author’s message.  Is the author trying to compare and contrast a certain idea?  Or, is the author merely trying to teach the reader what the definition of the idea is and give examples to explain it?  In this context, I feel like I might be able to swallow the bitter pill, but I think it is hard to determine the pattern of the paragraphs.  There are six different lists of signal words, and some lists have overlap.  The students are supposed to use the signal words to determine the patterns.  It is confusing to ME.  I read fairly well.  I passed my entrance exam for English.  Obviously, I will be asking questions about this on Thursday.  I will be nice, don’t worry.

Tomorrow I get to attend my favorite week of summer!  The Summer Literacy Institute at Hamline University begins bright and early tomorrow morning.  I will be basking in the greatness of Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Lester Laminack and two other speakers whom I have never heard before:  Stephanie Harvey and E.B. Lewis.  I will be immersed in the teaching of reading and writing and breathing in the scent of new books.  This year I have a purpose to my visit just like I used to when I was teaching.  This year is probably more urgent for me though.  I need to be able to ask good questions about what I am teaching.  I really wish I could have finished the entire ten chapters of my textbook so I could know all of my questions before tomorrow.  Eight out of ten isn’t bad, but shoot.  So close.

I am not sure how much energy I will have to post this week, because I intend to keep getting up and going on my walk/run.  I skipped Friday, but went out before yoga yesterday and went again today.  Franklin accompanied me today.  I am not sure about tomorrow.  It is 12:30 right now, and I will have to get up at 5:00 so I can leave at 7:00.  I like to get there early.  Get a good seat in the front.  Bask in the greatness.  What a GEEK.  I know.

  1. July 12, 2010 10:11 pm

    Not Geek!! Definitely “smart”, though! Whew…I give you a lot of credit. Unless I HAD to teach THAT material I don’t think I could get through it. Hope you enjoy your literacy event & I sure hope your meetings with the profs is fruitful. Good for you for asking!! I did an online thing (Mondo Beyond–I’ll be particiapting again in Aug) & one of the assignments was to ask someone dangerous to tea. In actuality it meant to directly ask someone “significant” for lack of a better word right now to meet for whatever reason you might have AND YOU DID THAT without even knowing it! Very courageous & strong, woman! Keep up with your greatness!!!!! XO

  2. July 21, 2010 8:09 am


    You give me WAY too much credit. I am in sink or swim mode right now. I love the notion to asking someone dangerous to tea though. That is totally what it feels like. The week was amazing and I think I will be okay. I can be true to myself and be doing what is required. That is the beauty of this institute. It is always challenging because it is on the cutting edge, and it dares you to teeter right there.

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