For those of you who have heard me speak in person, you know that I come from a complete place of humility about teaching.  Throughout my speaking gigs, I say, “I didn’t have a clue about this when I taught!” or “All of my former students are probably in prison because I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing!”  (And I kind of mean it!)

One of the things that I realize now is that I taught stuff because it was on the curriculum map. I taught stuff because it was in the curriculum.  I taught stuff because my colleagues were teaching that same stuff.

What I missed (nearly completely, I think!) was to teach kids the WHY behind what I was teaching them.

I think we’re missing a MAJOR why as we teach kids to think deeply about what they’ve read…let me give you an example.  (For this example I’m using figurative language but you can substitute ANY comprehension strategy/skill and you’ll get the idea!)

Level 1 (I’m calling these levels, but it’s just something I made up so don’t go googling it – it’s not a “thing”)

I am going to teach you how to find figurative language in the text

Level 2

I am going to teach you to determine which type of figurative you’ve found

Level 3

I’m going to teach you how to use figurative language for comprehension

But the BIG “DUH!?” MOMENT FOR ME?

Level 4

I’m going to teach you why an author uses figurative language and that reason is because the use of figurative language helps highlight the most important points in the text.  In other words, the devices the author uses are like big red flags that say, “Pay attention to what I wrote here!” or “Watch this – this is really important information!’

So…..I didn’t do that when I taught.  I didn’t know how to teach kids to think, ‘Hey – the author used figurative language to highlight some important information here…I better pay attention.”

The structure of the text, the language the author uses, the features of the text…all of those things and many more are TOOLS that the author uses to help the read organize their thoughts and content and pay attention to the information that matters.

Well – oh my gosh.  We’ve got a whole bunch of kids running around who are able to identify figurative language but who have no idea HOW to use figurative language to understand what the author is trying to say at that point in the text.

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If you found this practical thinking article the least bit helpful, then you’ll probably like this too.