Anyone who teaches HSC in NSW knows how busy the end of Term 3 is, so you will understand why my blog got shifted down the priority list for a few weeks. While we finished up Year 12 and got them off the premises, Year 11 were finishing Atwood and doing their end of course exams.
We moved on from imagery to reading critical commentary on Atwood. Since kids will need to read some critical commentary in Year 12 and in general this is not done well, I wanted to do some work on how to read these kinds of texts and we put together a short book of ‘readings’ on Atwood. I appropriated this idea for teaching the skill of reading ‘academic articles’ from my daughter Zoe (thanks Zoe!). Zoe has read many academic articles in her time and worked out a ‘system’ that she taught her Year 11 and 12 this year.
We talked about the purpose of reading these kinds of texts first, identifying the need to test ideas against our personal response to the poems as well as getting to know the territory, as we did when we began preparing to teach the poetry unit. Kids were told they would ‘read’ the text three times and each time there was an explicit goal.
Step 1: First reading – read the first and last sentence of every paragraph to get some idea of the thesis and scope of the article. While reading identify key words and terms that you are unsure about. Look these up and annotate the reading with meanings before you go on to step 2. Make a note of three things you think the article will focus on.
Step 2: Second reading – while reading the text through make a summary note next to paragraphs you understand. Don’t worry about the paragraphs you don’t understand, build on what you do understand. Also highlight interesting quotes and language that drives the argument. Look for connecting ideas and draw lines to connect them. (Some examples/modelling required here)
Step 3: Third reading – During the this reading look for lines/phrases ideas that provide fresh insights into the text you are studying (quotable quotes!) and annotate these, commenting/questioning/summarizing.
Step 4: Finally, make a short summary of key ideas, supporting details and useful quotes.
This approach supported students into both reading a dense academic text, developing confidence in their selections, note-making skills and added to their skills base for writing about Atwood. We followed up the class work with a second reading for Homework. We noticed that kids used quotes from these readings in the exam essay.
We are coming to the end of the unit now and the final sequence of lessons was about ‘big ideas’ that linked together poems we were studying.