What’s The Purpose?

   The other week in my placement the students were learning about non-fiction texts.  Some of the lessons we taught the students involved being aware of the author’s purpose and being able to tell the difference between important facts and interesting details.  I found myself constantly thinking to myself, “What is the purpose of these lessons?” We were following the pacing guide and these non-fiction lessons where what was supposed to be taught at this specific time, but it lacked any real context or purpose to engage the students. Both Routman and Tovani write a great deal about the need for students to see a purpose for their reading and writing. They need to see the lessons that they are learning as a part of a larger picture. The learning needs to be authentic and not simply isolated lessons that focus on skills or strategies. If students are to apply what we teach them, they need to be learning these lessons in context. Students need to understand “why” they are learning what we are teaching them.  

   There were times in the lessons where the students were told that this information would be helpful in the future when they would be asked to do a research project. They were asked to go back to their readings and use sticky notes to write down when they noticed something in their non-fiction reading that connected to that day’s lesson. It all felt so forced. I did not feel that the lessons were being taught at a time when the students could really use the strategies and retain what they had been taught. I asked my cooperating teacher about this. I asked why we were teaching these lessons now if the research projects were not starting until next month.  She told me that she found that it was best to “front load” the information. She thought it was better for the students to be taught all the lessons before they needed to apply them. I asked her if she believed the students would be able to retain and apply this information a month later, she said that she believed they could.  

   She has been teaching for 6 years and I believe that she is a good teacher who knows what she is doing, but I still struggle with accepting her answer in full. I do agree that you cannot begin teaching about the features of non-fiction texts at the same time that you need the students to begin a research project. The students do need a bit of background knowledge and the project would likely move too slowly if it had to follow along with the entire non-fiction unit. I do think though that the project and the unit should overlap at some point.  If I was sitting there thinking “what is the point to all of this?”, the students were likely feeling the same way. These lessons didn’t seem to really connect with the kids because they didn’t see the purpose.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What’s The Purpose?

  1. 1bluedot says:

    I agree with you – why not teach the skills alongside the research project? Who cares if the research project takes longer as a result – if you’re not bothering to teach the skills in isolation (which seems ineffective to me anyway), then aren’t you saving time which you can then spend on teaching the skills in context? Making connections across subject areas and learning experiences is about 10,000 times easier when you’re setting up your actual units that way! It blows my mind that so many schools are so resistant to the idea of subject integration – or, it’s more like it never occurs to them. I see it all the time.

  2. My class also had a brief 2 week series of lessons and packet work in September on non-fictions texts partly because it’s a 5th grade standard and partly because they were doing a couple research projects later in the year. The packets contained non-fiction text features, but they tended to be very out of context snippets of each feature. I found myself wondering if the students were truly understanding the use of these text features in the context of a whole book. My teacher occasionally would draw attention to the text features they were learning while teaching other subjects, but not all that often.
    I feel that front loading this information is helpful for the research projects, but I also feel it would be stronger to teach it in context of something. Why not use the students’ math books, social studies books, or other relevant reference books to provide the students context and use for what they are learning?

  3. Pingback: Quarterly Revue | Ten Thousand Small Steps

  4. Pingback: Reflection on Winter Quarter | The Teacher-To-Be

  5. Pingback: Reflection on Winter Quarter | The Teacher-To-Be

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s