Saturday, February 21, 2009

Imaginative rehearsal or the second half of books.

I've been thinking more and more about the literacy part of my "literacy, technology, learning" mantra. This may be because I'm nearing the end of my reading specialist coursework.

From page 44 of Kelly Gallagher's Readicide: = "struggling readers who do not read voraciously will never catch up." I've been thinking about the simplicity of this line since I first read it. There is abundant research available on the gaps among and between the various groups of children who enter kindergarten.

So how do we get children to read at all, let alone read "voraciously?" One thing that is clear, we must make time for this reading during the school day, we can't just say "go home and read." What must we give up during the school day to allow substantial reading? Gallagher has some suggestions that I want to start implementing tomorrow. He talks about the Article of the Week program he instituted when he realized that none of his students could identify the vice president of the US. Straightforward, doable, and ready for class tomorrow. I really can't recommend this book enough.

So, back to the title of this post, "Imaginative Rehearsal." In Influencer, Patterson et. al. discuss the fact that the most powerful method of behavior change is through experience. While direct experience is best, vicarious experience can be nearly as motivational. I know that film can have enormous impact on viewers, but I would argue that it is in books that good readers can best immerse themselves and truly become someone else for a while. Gallagher calls this an "imaginative rehearsal." I hadn't heard the term before, but it is perfect for capturing the ways in which reading a good book can help the reader become a better person. Repeatedly imagining oneself in the role of hero can lead to courage when life brings a challenge that calls for it.

How then, do we choose the books we ask students to read? If they are too slight, yet engaging, we may get the voraciousness we seek but at what cost? Clique books come to mind. What impact does light reading have on students' chances for imaginative rehearsal? When I read Thread of Grace, by Mary Doria Russell, I was fully engaged in imaginative rehearsal. The book is an achingly beautiful story set in WWII Italy and centered around the fact that the Italians largely did their best to protect the Jews in their population from the Nazis. The book demands the reader think "could I, would I" over and over. Studies such as the Milgrim experiment from the 60's show how inhumanely humans can behave. Reading literature that asks us to be better than we are must be a part of education if we are to rise above our baser instincts.

There's an interesting debate going on in several threads on the English Companion ning on this very topic. Is it only the canonical classics that can best inspire deep thinking?

I'm not actually finished with either book yet, but I'm so engrossed I had to share. . .


Bob Heiny said...

Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I appreciate your tone.

I agree with your suggestions for arranging time, suggesting thought provoking reading in class.

I'd add, some of my best memories in K12 school occurred when the teacher reading aloud to the class.

I still learn from listening to authors reading their writings.

Those simple moments have added meanings to words I thought at the time had only one technical definition.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for sharing, Sarah. I've been focusing much of my reader's workshop (8th grade) on vicarious rehearsals, but taking it one step beyond the evaluative you talke about (should I? Would I?). I've asked students to isolate concepts and themes they discover in literature and adapt them to fit their projected futures. In essence, I've asked students to apply the general theme/concept to a situation they potentially foresee occurring in their future. Great blog post!!