By Trang Tran
The lecturers of English in my school usually remind their students of Mark Twain’s famous saying “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read” in their teaching as a way to encourage them to read and improve their reading skills; yet, their interests in books, especially in literature subject, are extremely low. For them, reading novels, poetries, stories bring no enjoyment compared to the time they click “like” and wait for “comments” on Face book. Several questions have been raised such as whether their vocabulary range is limited, or they have difficulty in communicating thoughts, or they experience failures in reading materials above their levels, or their teachers have not taught them how to read and how to enjoy from what they perceive. Whatever the reasons might be, we teachers play a key role in assisting them to become good readers. That is why I enjoyed this morning session with Dr. Chin about “Reading strategies that improve Students’ Critical and Creative Thinking”.
Dr. Chin shared seven useful reading comprehension strategies about asking questions (using KWL), making connections (from text to self, text to other texts, text to the world), visualizing (with the inclusion of senses evoked by the author), making inferences, understanding vocabulary, determining importance and summarizing. I believe that the scholars are very much into these practical strategies and they will surely apply in their own teaching contexts. More importantly, what if we put all these strategies together and help students recognize their desire to read? Then I would like to share the “Literature Circles” I observed at Lewis and Clark Elementary School. In this “project”, students work in groups of six and are assigned to read the same number of pages from a book each week; each of them has a role to fulfill: one is a discussion director who has to provide a brief summary of the reading and discuss the main characters of the book, one is a literary luminary who has to read some powerful or interesting passages, one is a connector who has to make at least three connections, one is a visualize who has to illustrate part of the story, one is a word wizard who help others understand word meanings, and one is a fortune teller who has to think of questions arisen from the reading. Students do this in six weeks and exchange the role every week to complete reading the whole book. I think what I observed is totally linked with what Dr. Chin talked about today. What I like even more is I see the underlying theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner in this project, which is so important in students’ learning. Actually, I have spread this project to the teachers in my place and they like it a lot.
For the second half of the morning sessions and in the afternoon, we learned about the U.S Legal System, which is complicated on one hand, but unique on the other hand shown through how well the United States Government has operated this country for years, and the Role of the Local Government. It was a good chance for me to compare with the Legal system in Vietnam and spot out the differences between the two.
Today is very special for all of us (I guess J) as we were at Missoula City Council Chambers and talked with the mayors. What else could I expect more? J