Sunday, April 26, 2009
Book Review: Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?
I've been a fan of Cris Tovani for some time. I enjoy her style of writing and her inclusion of student work in her texts. I find her easy to read, but not too simplistic in her ideas and observations.
What I like most about Do I Really Have to Teach Writing: Content Comprehension in Grades 6-12 is Tovani's in-depth explanation of each concept and/ or strategy she presents. She does not simply give a list of strategies or ideas with a quick how-to, but describes her process of implementing each strategy in classroom, with real students. She also includes narration of in-class discussions. The reason why I appreciate this style of presentation is that I often read professional development books where I cannot visualize how students would respond to the materials or strategies the author is explaining. This leads to a bit of a disconnect for me because I cannot see or hear how actual students would respond and interact with the strategy being presented. Allowing for the time and energy that inevitably goes into using a new strategy is not a small undertaking. I'd rather read a more rich description of a few strategies used in a actual classrooms than see list of fifty strategies and directions on how to use them.
I tend to be a reflective sort of reader and I take pleasure in thinking about the seemingly small details that make up a text of this sort. When I read Tovani, everything about the text shouts that she repsects students in both their work and their thinking. I notice this because she starts most chapters in this text with a student quotation, rather than one from a famous thinker. I can imagine how powerful and valued Tovani's students must feel having a teacher like Tovani who includes their thoughts and work in such an esteemed way in her life work. Student work is included, with spelling mistakes and an unmistakable teen voice. The inclusion of this student work though, allows those of us who create materials and read this type of writing every day to see Tovani's thoughtful, available, and important strategies.
I've used many of the strategies described in this book and I have been thinking about some of the suggestions Tovani has for structuring thematic units. To me, this is the mark of a powerful teacher text. I love finding resources that stick with me after I've finished them or put them down. I know that Tovani's ideas and suggestions will continue to swirl in my head and influence my planning for some time.