This post is going to be a little shorter than usual, as they are really keeping me busy here at Upward Bound. Classes continue to go really well — even though my classroom is currently a balmy 80+ degrees, my students seem to be honing a more critical lens through which to view media content. This week they all had to go and locate an ad with a positive message and an ad with an offensive message and share them on our course Pinterest page. They seemed really troubled by the content of the ads — particularly the things that they said about race and gender. I can see the lightbulbs going on for some of them!
While I haven’t posted about my progress through my reading list lately, I have kept reading! Here’s a brief synopsis of each of the latest books I’ve completed:
The Price of Inequality – Joseph Stiglitz
This was one of the only economics books that I’ve read, but I found it very accessible. Stiglitz makes a lot of compelling arguments about how dangerous America’s continuing inequality is for our country’s future. The statistics about the lack of social mobility in America were particularly sobering for me, as an educator, to read and ponder. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a primer on inequality in America and the economic policies that help to maintain, rather than eradicate, this gap in wealth.
The Smartest Kids in the World – Amanda Ripley
In this book, journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans as they each spend a year abroad in one of the countries considered to provide outstanding educational experiences for their students — Finland, South Korea, and Poland. This book offered a fascinating glimpse into what school is like in these other countries, but I found myself disagreeing with some of the assumptions inherent in the conclusions drawn for how to apply these lessons to the American school system. The role of poverty in student educational outcomes, for example, was largely glossed over as being insignificant and something that we should be able to surmount. Hearing the students talk about their experiences in American schools versus the schools in the highlighted countries — particularly their reflections on the cultural attitudes towards schools, teachers, and learning, makes the book a worthwhile read.
Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction — Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmerman
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about reading comprehension instruction. The book is written in a more narrative form than other literacy books that I’ve read before, and I found the format both informative and refreshing. The book proposes a different model of literacy instruction than the guided reading one we are seeing in most classrooms these days. Essentially, the book argues that we have been trying to teach reading comprehension in the wrong way — by emphasizing very basic, literal comprehension or simply asking students questions at the end of a read-aloud or guided reading session. Instead, they argue, we should instruct students in seven specific comprehension strategies that they can apply to any reading situation. Their emphasis on the “think aloud,” where the teacher explicitly models a reading strategy at length was particularly interesting and something that I am definitely going to try in my classroom when fall rolls around. From my training in literacy, I know that the best readers are those who are able to utilize a vast repertoire of strategies and the model posited here seems at least as effective at arming students with a variety of strategies as other approaches that are being widely applied in schools. This is a book that I’m going to do a lot of reflecting on over the next couple of months while I think about re-framing my literacy instruction.
Fellow educators, what will you be reading this summer?