[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation


I will pass along some observations on this interesting topic, both as someone who was slow to read, and as someone who passed on the favors I received by teaching a third grader to read while I was a substitute in a resource specialist program. I have no particular science behind it except for experience, though introspection is at least in part where science begins. 

One barrier to reading is surely that it is a tedious thing to learn, full of technical details, and at the end of all of the process, if the best you get is "See Spot run. Run, Spot, run," it really doesn't seem worth the bother, does it? It is like trying to learn how to drive a car on some sort of treadmill in an enclosed room, where there are abstract symbols representing directions and goals, so when you do it successfully, there is no sense of achieving anything, or finding new horizons. Instead, it is a mindless tyranny of adult control, requiring a young body that wants to run to sit still and do something because you are told to do it.

That is how it felt to me. What worked for me was to be put in what was the equivalent of a resource specialist program then, where we were given a variety of types of stories we could look at, and help to read them if we wanted them--the only restriction was that we were asked to pick one, or otherwise do a phonics drill. I chose a Reader's Digest  series (!) for adult illiterates that had something in it that I wanted to read--notably O. Henry stories like "A Retrieved Reformation," which appealed to the budding little anti-authoritarian criminal in me--and in that story, the criminal reforms, because he has a good reason to reform. A year of that, and I was at grade level, and shortly thereafter, above grade level, as I was better at turning in the work the warden wanted, and reading what I wanted to read on recess. 

In my own brief stint with my one notable contribution to someone else--my "pay it forward" experience, if you will--I asked one of the boys assigned to me to bring in something that he liked to have read to him, or that he thought he might want to read. He brought in a Disney book with pictures of their film characters, and extracts from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book--an utterly apt choice for a boy born addicted to crack cocaine, being raised by his grandmother in the kind of jungle where predators eat little children all the time, and being given the sections of time an overloaded resource specialist program allowed. He was in the third grade, but he could not read at all. I could give him more time, because I wasn't allowed to do any paperwork--nor would I have wanted to. Part of the extra time went to him. We read his book, I acted the voices, and I would sometimes "chew" a word--start to sound it out, and ask him to help me work it out, which
 we both knew was a fraud. But it was his book, and he was getting one-on-one attention, and from a male figure, which was probably a first for him. And most importantly, he wanted to travel that road, because this was his story--it really was, in every way--and he wanted to learn to be able to possess it within himself. 

You will notice that there are phonetics in there, in both cases. Joy of reading and  rote drill, but in both cases, free from the burden of keeping a class of children proceeding up to the prescribed point of achievement, neither lagging behind nor moving too far ahead. I agree that it is nature and nurture all over again. Separating the two is what people do who want to develop an ideology--a doctrine of belief that can organize a movement, typically political in nature. There is a longing for the secret procedural program that Makes It All Work, that can be used to build a virtuous empire. But in the pragmatic world of that little boy that was me, and that other little boy whom no one asked what he wanted, a child in an eggshell riding on the tempests of others ideologies. the way to teach him to read was to make it something that he controlled, and that he wanted to do. It was a personal thing. almost anarchic, the opposite of living in an empire. 

I doubt that this is taught in a teaching ed program--how could it be?--but when time and circumstances permit, it works. And I suspect it is what happens a lot of the time anyway, outside of school, in homes where little boys have parents and are not lost in the woods. 


 From: Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu> 
Sent: Thursday, September 5, 2013 11:27 AM
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation

Your comment:

"We move in an out of abstract/analytical, fun, meaning,
abstract, laugh, meaning, snack, computer book etc."

is lovely.

Do any teachers ed programs actually teach this?

On Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM, Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon@gmail.com>wrote:

> Sorry to put my oar in so late in the day. (Eight days later.)
> The reading books these days (at least I can source many such) are
> beautiful and interesting to children. I teach children with minor
> dyslexia.  We move in an out of abstract/analytical, fun, meaning,
> abstract, laugh, meaning, snack, computer book etc.  Just keep the tempo up
> and the mood light, but we do need to move in and out of phonic skills.
> Motivation pervades,
> The children are astonished that I make the reading exercises specially for
> them - I think  children reckon we can just get everything off the
> computer!
> Carol
> On 28 August 2013 09:27, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> > Re: Peg Griffin - http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/**
> > xmcamail.2011_05.dir/msg00530.**html<
> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/Mail/xmcamail.2011_05.dir/msg00530.html>
> > and Peg and Mike et al: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/**NEWTECHN.pdf<
> http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf>
> >
> > The first article sets up a scenario in 5thD where kids "sneak" a look at
> > piece of writing in order to find an answer to a current affairs
> question.
> > As opposed to telling the kids to read a text and then (for example)
> > testing them on it.
> > The second talks about "reading for meaning" where assistance is given to
> > kids to read in order to find out something they want to know about the
> > world. As opposed to decoding "Jack and Jill" stories containing nothing
> of
> > interest to them at all (and actually humiliating).
> >
> > I am trying to get my head around the issue of the motivation which the
> > teachers are trying to engender in the child which facilitates learning
> to
> > read.
> >
> > Following A N Leontyev, Peg talks about the "merely understood" motive
> for
> > the child "to be a productive, informed, literate citizen" which is what
> > the education system is supposed to be doing. Peg says this motive was
> "in
> > the social interactions and ready to replace the 'really effective'
> motives
> > that got the kid to come to/put up with our reading group." ... *in the
> > social interactions*!
> >
> > Generally speaking I think there is no doubt that the distinction between
> > "really effective" and "merely understood" motives is valid, and that in
> > general children who have difficulty in reading, read only for
> "effective"
> > but "external" motives which do not succeed in them learning to read
> > effectively. Further, the task of the teacher may be or may be supposed
> to
> > be to get the child to learn to read so as "to be a productive, informed,
> > literate citizen." This objective is somewhere in the complex of motives
> > underlying a teacher's motives, certainly in 5thD, but I suspect often a
> > "merely understood" motive for many teachers, alongside earning a wage
> for
> > their own family, having a quiet day and the kids getting good test
> scores,
> > etc.
> >
> > But I question whether it is *ever* the child's motive "to be a
> > productive, informed, literate citizen." This may be an "internal reward"
> > for learning to read, but not for learning to read any particular text or
> > even a particular type of text.
> >
> > Would this explanation make sense: Learning to read is like happiness. It
> > does not generally arise through being the motivation of the activity
> which
> > produces it. People learn to read as a byproduct of struggling to get
> > something they want out of particular texts. And this applies to adults
> as
> > much as children. I think people can only learn to read philosophy if
> they
> > are struggling to get something out of a book on philosophy (other than
> > pass the exam or acquire an air of erudition). In Peg's email message we
> > learn that the kids jumped on the newspaper article to extract
> information
> > they wanted in (what they took to be) /another/ task. In the QAR story,
> > adults mediate kids' relation to a text which is in turn mediating their
> > real and meaningful relation to the world. (I think if a kid is strongly
> > enough motivated to pass a reading test, and assisted, they will usually
> > manage to learn to read, but it is for those for whom this doesn't work
> > that the issue arises, isn't it?)
> >
> > But in general I think it is neither necessary nor likely that a child
> has
> > their eye on becoming a literate citizen when they struggle with a text
> and
> > learn to read in the process. Isn't it always more proximate motives? The
> > "internal" reward in reading a particular text is the particular content
> of
> > that text, not actually anything to do with books, or texts, or reading
> or
> > citizenship.
> >
> > I know there are dozens of experts in literacy education out there, so
> > please help me.
> >
> > Andy
> >
> > --
> > ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> > ------------
> > *Andy Blunden*
> > http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> >
> >
> --
> Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
> Developmental psycholinguist
> Academic, Researcher,  and Editor  *EditLab.net*
> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602