More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood.
My husband is a professional baseball writer. Like many self-employed folks, and thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, he’s “on” almost constantly. One weekend this summer, we had the opportunity to travel to Chicago together, sans kids. While we loved our solo time together, when it was time to go, we were ready to get home for toddler and preschooler hugs and kisses. On our six-hour-drive back to Columbus, Brett was driving, and I was on “duty” for him, which mostly consists of checking his Twitter feed to monitor breaking news — trades, injuries, roster moves, and the like. In the middle of a particularly trafficked stretch, Brett realized that he also needed to publish a drafted post, and with the clock ticking for us to get home to our two kids, we had no desire to pull over and either switch drivers or sit in a McDonald’s parking lot to wait for him to update his piece and hit “publish.”
“It just needs to be copyedited,” Brett told me. He casually gestured at his laptop bag behind his seat. I was happy for the chance to check for typos while also helping us stay the course. I reached behind the driver’s seat and lugged the silver laptop onto my lap. I opened the screen to the unpublished draft, an overview of a baseball player acquisition.
Simple, I thought — technical, straightforward, and easy to check for commas. After a quick spelling and usage look, I scrolled over to click publish.
“Oh wait — see where it says excerpt? Just write a quick summary in that box.” Brett gestured quickly at his screen.
Um. Summary? What?
I squinted and read the piece again. Glove first utility guy and groundball rate and something about … yeah.
I screwed up my nose and looked for the most important ideas in each section. Like I tell my students, that’s always a great strategy for summarization.
But here’s the thing: after the fifth go-round reading something about back-end upgrades, rental moves, and bench-bat market, my eyes were crossed, my mind was spinning, and my confidence was shot. I am a 33-year-old literacy teacher, and I had no clue what I was reading. I don’t know enough yet about baseball pitching or business transactions to piece together any kind of cohesive summary. Much to my chagrin, my husband and I pulled over and quickly (all right, we grabbed ice cream, too) switched places in the car so he could finish up the post. As we drove through the cornfields of western Ohio, I reflected on my literacy-related failure.
The text surely wasn’t above my Lexile level. I read the Wall Street Journal (or at least the style section) on a regular basis. But as a reader sorely lacking specialized background knowledge in baseball, I wasn’t prepared for the complexity of this 500-word piece. The task at hand — a summary — made me rethink my stance as a teacher of reading. So many times, I’ve handed students articles (or even given them a choice from a variety of articles) that I thought were “easy enough” for them to practice the strategy or demonstrate mastery over the learning goal at hand, without thinking through the delicate balance between reader, task, and text.
Am I a reading teacher who reads? Yes — widely, frequently, passionately, and in-depth. Am I a reading teacher who puts herself in the trenches enough to feel the struggle and better understand the reader-task-text considerations our students live with? I will be now.
This week we look at ways to tackle visual literacy in reading and writing workshops. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
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Franki Sibberson shares some of her favorite wordless picture books for teaching reading skills:
We are continuing our 10th Anniversary Classics series with this popular post from Andrea Smith on the Image of the Week activity:
The resource Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies from Todd Finley at Edutopia includes templates, videos, and tip sheets for infusing workshops with more visual literacy strategies:
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Carly Ulmer uses visual literacy to build writing skills with her seventh graders through two powerful minilessons:
Katherine Sokolowski explains why she uses webcomics in her literacy workshops, and shares an extensive list of her favorite online sources:
Gretchen Schroeder melds famous artwork with literacy instruction in her high school classroom:
In this week’s video, Beth Lawson helps a child visualize a mystery story he is writing as a roller coaster with ups and downs or twists and turns:
In an encore video, Katie DiCesare demonstrates how she builds visual literacy skills in Picture Reading in First Grade:
That’s all for this week!