Reading about Discipline

Context: This is a small Family Literacy class where most of the students are also preparing for the GED. Each member had identified their individual family goals before entering the class and the counselor had discussed with each where they felt their strengths and weaknesses were.

Lesson: In order to find a common focus, the teacher invited volunteers to share their goals with each other. As they listened to each other many heads nodded, they responded to each other with, “Yeah, that’s really important!” and some students asked if it was okay to change their goals. The teacher suggested that they add ideas to their goal list for now, and promised that they would have more chances to revise their lists throughout the course. He noticed that a couple of goals had generated a lot of interest from the entire group, and he asked if they’d like to work on one of those together. They agreed and, before he could suggest taking a vote, they had decided that they wanted to work on the goal of finding effective ways to discipline children.

The class had been introduced to the EFF Standards Wheel earlier, and they looked at it now to think about which skills were actually involved in disciplining children. They first considered “Resolve Conflict and Negotiate,” but felt that this didn’t adequately describe situations in which you were trying to set and enforce rules without a conflict. Then they considered “Solve Problems and Make Decisions” which they felt was very important but, since “problem-solving” isn’t explicitly on the GED test, they were reluctant to focus on it. They decided, in the end, to focus on “Read with Understanding” because this way they felt they would be preparing for the GED while they also worked on this common family problem by reading about the experiences of other parents.

The group browsed the program’s collection of parenting magazines and selected two articles that best addressed the age groups of their children. Before reading, they brainstormed a list of questions that they hoped the articles might answer for them. They talked about the strategies you can use to help you understand articles – scan for the answers to your questions, read the subheads and go to sections that are most relevant, take notes in the margins, etc. But these were long articles. What if you got lost in the middle? How would you know?

The students seemed to be unclear about what they could do if they got lost, so the teacher paused to give a little mini-lesson on ways to get back on track – things like paraphrasing what you read up to the point you got lost and rereading from there, or circling difficult vocabulary in a passage that may have derailed you so that you can return to work on it later. Since this was an area that needed practice, the teacher told them that they were going to pay special attention to it as they assessed their progress.

The teacher asked the students to keep a “Read with Understanding Diary” as they read the articles. He had them read the article in chunks, stopping in between to make notes, write down questions answered or new questions raised. They also had to make note of any places they got “stuck” and what they did about it. They could refer to their “Read with Understanding Guide” as they did this.

When they finished reading, they compared their Diary notes and the strategies that had worked best for them. Students added class ideas to their notes and then talked about which parts of the article they agreed with or disagreed with, based on their own experience. A couple of the students seemed to dismiss almost everything in the articles (“Wouldn’t work with my kids!”), which led to a long discussion about how difficult it is to take advice about parenting. Whose advice would we be willing to take? What gets in the way of taking someone else’s advice?

The class was ending, so the teacher asked them to write their thoughts about the discussion in their journals for homework. Also, despite the reticence of some, they all agreed to try out one new discipline strategy that they’d learned in the article, write about the effectiveness of the strategy, and then discuss the experience in class. They would answer some teacher-made GED-type questions about the articles in the next class. They would also use a reflective worksheet, based on EFF’s four Dimensions of Performance, to think about what they learned and how they would use it.

Using What You Learned

What you learned: What did you learn about disciplining children? What did you learn about reading a long article?

I learned that "testing authority" is normal at certain ages.
I learned about being consistent.
I learned to read the subheads first and think about the topic.
I learned to stop in the middle to think about what I'm reading.

Where you can use it: In what new situations can you use what you learned? How will you use it?

I can use these ideas at home and anywhere with my kids.
I can read magazines this way.
Maybe for the GED?

Comfort level: How hard is this kind of reading for you? How much help do you need?

It's not hard, but I get tired when the article is long.
Talking about the article together is better, but I can do it alone.

In this teaching example, the learning standard was addressed in the following ways:

Read with Understanding

How the standard was addressed by the lesson

Determine the reading purpose.

The purpose was identified through group discussion about goals, and by deciding that reading could help them address an issue they were struggling with.

Select reading strategies appropriate to the purpose.

The group practiced strategies related to reading informational articles, focusing on those that seemed most challenging - repair strategies once they lost comprehension of a text.

Monitor comprehension and adjust reading strategies.

The teacher kept their attention on their strategies by talking about them a lot, giving them a "strategies worksheet," and then having them discuss their reading experience together.

Analyze the information and reflect on its underlying meaning.

They analyzed the article's information in light of their own collective expertise. They also examined their own openness to hearing new information about a topic that is so central to who they are.

Integrate it with prior knowledge to address reading purpose.

They integrated the new information by discussing it and by testing it out (weighing its pros and cons). The teacher was clear with them that "integrating" information meant that they needed to understand and consider it, not necessarily accept it.