I have been reading an excellent resource lately. It is titled The Art of Slow Reading: Six Time-Honored Practices for Engagement by Thomas Newkirk. He was a college professor, former urban high school teacher, and now the lead editor for Heinemann.
Newkirk believes that education moves way too fast, with the advent of technology plus all the standards and academic expectations set upon us. Classrooms should slow down and be more mindful about what students are learning right now. He speaks about strategies he has found that helps with student engagement and slow reading (p 42-43):
- Performing (attending to the texts as dramatic, as enacted for an audience, even internally)
- Memorizing (learning by “heart”)
- Centering (assigning significance to a part of text)
- Problem finding (interrupting the flow of reading to note a problem or confusion)
- Reading like a writer (attending to the decisions a writer makes)
- Elaborating (developing the capacity to comment and expand on texts)
One of the most surprising quotes for me addresses the importance of committing words to memory. On page 77, Newkirk believes that memorizing a piece of text “isn’t rote learning. It is claiming a heritage. It is the act of owning language, making it literally a part of our bodies, to be called upon decades later when it fits a situation.”
Memorable phrases, such as principles and analogies, make the abstract more concrete. Consider the following precept, discovered in Wonder by R.J. Palacio:
When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind. – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Isn’t this so much more accessible for people, young or old, instead of “Make better choices”? Dyer’s words seem worth owning. The phrasing and word choice also help to make the precept memorable. It is language that I am committing to memory.
As you and your students explore excellent literature together this year, in what works will you all find phrases and principles to live through, share, and discuss? How might this slow down learning and deepen engagement in your classrooms? I am excited to find out – please share in the comments.