It's personal.

Some sentence starters that lend themselves to bridging personal connections to text, or not.
Some sentence starters that lend themselves to bridging personal connections to text, or not. *Not my sticky-note, but provided by a superlative consultant my district hired to guide us in close reading strategies.

Wanted to share a great discussion about how students can use personal connection to interact with text more deeply. I cannot remember which educational scholar suggested never to use personal connections when discussing text, but it doesn’t sit right. Every text is personal at some level: it’s the getting beyond the personal that creates critical thinking.


The Common Core State Standards: Misunderstandings about Response and Close Reading

by Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona

Teaching something from a text should come after personal response and dialogue, after readers have a chance to see that text as significant. That teaching should focus on one aspect of a text or one reading strategy. Beating a text to death with skill after skill is counterproductive—the reader walks away determined never to return to the text again and with little retention of the skills. By choosing one text structure or reading strategy, teachers provide a focus for students to explore and come to understand without destroying the text. It’s much more useful for students to examine one or two significant metaphors in a particular work of Shakespeare, for example, than to identify every metaphor in that work.


And this NPR story, Common Core Reading: The Struggle Over Struggle — I have used that swimming in both ends of the pool analogy myself! 

This is also where leveled reading comes in. No matter how good the teacher is, reading complex stuff can be exhausting. Kids need variety, says Willingham, and lots of books that they can read on their own, without much struggle.

The hope, says Willingham, is for these easier texts to build a reader’s confidence and create “a virtuous cycle where, the more you read the more you see yourself as a reader. You’re also picking up more background knowledge. You’re picking up more vocabulary. All of these things sort of feed on one another.” And help when it’s time for the next complex text.

Let’s go back to that reading-as-swimming analogy. It turns out, learning to swim requires both ends of the pool. And, ideally, kids reach a point where they can simply glide under the divider and choose for themselves.

Move to pairings of stories, the many tales we share and hear every day, from the most innocuous, mundane questions, to the powerful stories of perseverance and stamina.

Storycorp: “I will do four, five, ten, a hundred jobs for your education.”


You can take these stories any where you want — with your own thinking, and with students’. If they are not allowed to experience the majesty of human spirit in themselves and in others, what’s the point?

So here it is — every story is personal. If you are a human, you have parents. In class the other day, a colleague shared this story book:

father and daughter talesShe is quiet and kind: I could ask her why she shared this book, what it means to her, but perhaps her own personal story is just that — personal. We cannot disconnect ourselves from our connected, collective consciousness, and I will challenge anyone who suggests otherwise. The trick is to not allow students’ thinking to be truncated by stopping right at the text nor ending the conversation with a personal anecdote or connection: circle back around. That’s how it’s done.