With so much food in so many places, free food isn’t always a draw to an event, especially one on book reading. But Denise set up three stacks of pizza boxes and rows of pop on the table in ACA 158 , the parlor of the campus, which is across the hall from the bookstore. Competing with the pizza was an adjacent table with a large, hardback Webster’s Dictionary. The lonely book sat there, and I knew Denise would get around to it in her thirty minute lesson.
Ever congenial, Denise may appear cordial to a fault, but she hasn’t been preparing for the Literatzi implementation phase without a plan deeper than a pile of pizzas and personal charm. She has a plan, and it is soon seen in action with clarity and obvious thought out purpose and deep training on how to get millions of pages turning in books over the next five years.
But the first obstacle for many who go to college is the weight, density, and nomenclature (chiefly vocabulary) of the primary tools, which are … books. Recently Denise showed a video of a middle aged student stymied by her course text books because of not being able to negotiate the vocabulary, which left the student dazed and philosophical about changes needed in pedagogy to get students oriented to their books and to books in general in our tech crazy world. Does that mean tech is the sinister death star, and advocates of actually holding a hard copy book in hand are the rebels now? No, of course not.
So Denise left the dictionary on the table while the goo of the cheese and its delectable toppings, swished down with a glug of soda satisfied enough gastric demands for the brain to go along for this adventure. Denise then walked over to her two blank poster sheets on the wall across from the pizza and began getting students to name things that take commitment and to name things that create distractions. Listing them as students spoke up, a picture emerged that you, dear reader, already can imagine, and Denise had set in motion the idea, elicited from the students but pre-known by her, that reading takes commitment.
How boring it would be just to come out and say that in a pedantic way. But how enticing to get people to say what is in them stirring—which might not activate without them saying it for themselves and hearing it said among peers.
Now Denise moved to the dictionary and simultaneously turned on the PowerPoint to show a passage from a text having some challenging vocabulary. She proceeded to model how to read a relatively short passage and begin to build a discipline specific vocabulary list. She even acted like a struggling student.
One student wondered why Denise wouldn’t just use her phone app to look up a word, and Denise explained that the phone can come in handy later in the process after a foundation is established using a hard copy dictionary. In order to overcome the fear of a tool, we often need to use a similar tool that is the master key and master tool underlying what we want to do, in this case reading. So to overcome fear of books, why not use an imposing type of book, but one easy to use since it is compiled of single entries, making for small units that add up to understanding bigger units.
Derek Sims and I sat and enjoyed all this, as well as chatting with Denise afterward. When we had appeared pizza-ready at noon, she tried to shoo us off since, unknown to us, the event is for students. But she had mercy and told us we could stay as long as we didn’t talk. We kind of obeyed, well mostly.
It was fun, and though faculty and staff are not the focus with the “Lunch and Learn” part of Literazi, perhaps Denise will allow a few doves on the roof to observe along the way. It was fun.
(pleasureteam note: Our college’s Quality Enhancement Plan, Literatzi, focuses on reading. Brian’s “report from the front” provides a wonderful example of a skillful educator’s use of several of the components that make learning pleasurable. Notice how Denise’s strategies mirror a reply to yesterday’s blog.—Karen)