The impact of teaching students to truly engage with literature

An 8th grade student was reading “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and decided to use sticky notes to assist her in her questioning of what she would later come to identify as one of several central themes in the novel.  What was fascinating to me  was that this was not an assigned book. This was a book she chose to read. These were her sticky notes, not notes that her teacher made her take, or a class assignment. This was her questioning, synthesizing and interpreting what she was reading.
wpid-20150929_121341.jpgI saw her with this book and asked about her notes. We discussed what she was thinking, how she got answers to the questions she had, and what she thought about Pecola Breedlove and her obsession with blue eyes. The discussion was rich and I was inspired. I was inspired because I wasn’t a teacher talking to an 8th grade student in that moment. We were two people discussing a literary work that I have read many times, yet never interpreted in some of the ways that she did. I was inspired because in that moment I knew that she was thinking deeply about the text.

Close reading is a way of interacting with texts in order to gain a deeper understanding, examine the author’s word choice, draw conclusions and question what you believe based on what the author has presented in her literary work.

We never know how our instruction will impact our students in their every day lives. When I sat down and talked with this student I though about our bigger purpose as educators. As educators we are responsible for giving students tools that will expand their world and help them reach way beyond our own understanding. Our purpose is to teach our students to be better  more critical thinkers than we were at their age.