Books are not made to be believed, but to subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it means...--Umberto Eco (Author of The Name of the Rose)
Honestly, never heard of that book or author, but I like the sentiment. Part of reading is actively thinking about what you are reading and responding to it. One of the things that is hard for students to do is actively respond to their readings--especially if it is a non-fiction reading. With stories they can relate to the characters or the plot line gives them motivation to keep going. But with non-fiction readings students respond with, "It's boring!" or "It's too hard!" or "It's too long!" Sometimes they will just skim it and then they do not do well on the project, analysis, etc. that you have after the reading. As a result, I have started to make students write all over their readings. I taught one of my new students this technique because he struggled a lot with a Thoreau reading. After working with him individually on the first few paragraphs, he began to figure out that as long as he was thinking about the reading and writing that thinking down he will understand it better. I call it active reading writing assignment with my students. The cool thing is that after a while it becomes second nature to them and they respond without me prompting them.
What do you do to help students understand "what it means"?
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