Structures for Processing Text

Last summer, I worked with a local teacher, the wonderful Kristie Leyba, during a summer institute for teachers. One of the things that I found to be really impressive about Kristie was the myriad ways she had of helping participants engage with reading assignments. I wish I had taken notes about each one, because frequently when I’m planning for class I’m trying to remember what Kristie did. At the beginning of the semester, I asked my students to read an excerpt of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and an article about critical English education by Ernest Morrell. Both assignments employ academic and theoretical language that can be challenging to students. I’ve taught Freire frequently, but this was my first time using Morrell–and since there were so many interesting intersections between the two articles, I wanted my students to synthesize them. After all, Morrell’s work in critical literacy is an evolution of Freire’s critique of the banking concept of education and his pioneering work in problem-posing/liberation pedagogy. Thinking of Kristie’s work teaching reading, I created a four square activity where partners had to gather information from the article about what “knowledge” meant in the two approaches to education and then what the teacher’s role was in each approach. I asked them to look at the articles closely, identify passages, and also paraphrase. This enabled us to have a rich discussion in class about the articles as I took notes, asked follow-up questions, and worked to push their thinking.

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