Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mapping Readings

Mapping readings -- something I enjoy incorporating into my English curriculum. As I was reading through the various activities that Anne Wysocki suggests in "Opening New Media in Writing" from Writing New Media, I was oddly surprised that I was at least familiar with the majority and had incorporated many of them at some point in the past.

Okay, back to mapping readings. Why do I find them useful? Well, I think it's pretty simple for two reasons: (1) I'm an English teacher and (2) I'm a special education teacher. As for English, I think it is important for students to visualize what they are reading and why. Many times I hear students complain that they don't understand why they are reading a particular novel, short story, poem, etc. However, if I can give them something for them to see how it is connected, it makes my life much easier because they now have something concrete. I also don't have to hear them ask the same question 16 million times and can tell them to just refer to their reading maps. So am I slightly selfish...maybe...

As for special education, well it gives great visual representation. I know, I already said this in regards to teaching a general education English class. But, really, students who are struggling in the classroom need multiple representations in order for them to understand the material. The more visuals they have, the better off they are. I'm a graphic organizer, visual junky, and I having students map their readings just feeds into my love for incorporating visuals into the curriculum.

What I loved that Wysocki suggested was having the students come up with three questions on their own after putting together the map and have them bring those questions to class to help lead the discussion (35). I have done many activities in my classroom that "forced" the students to lead the discussion, but I, honestly, never would have thought of using the mapped reading to be the basis for a class discussion. When I did reading maps it was more for informational purposes.

In my future classes, I would like to have the students use their mapped readings to form higher level thinking questions. This is a great opportunity for them dig into the text and really analyze and synthesize the information they are reading. I will be curious as to how my students with reading and writing disabilities are able to use this extension of the activity to help them better understand what they are reading and how they think about the reading. My assumption is that it will take some modeling and a few practices for them to grasp the concept, but once they are used to working with the model, I know that it will be beneficial.

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