Sunday, January 27, 2013

Close Reading and the Arts: BE the Body

Happiness is the Longing for Repetition (Reilly, 2009)
I.  Close What?

So much talk about close reading and the clutter of ideology obfuscates (perhaps like this sentence) meaning, intention.  The phrase, close reading, carries with it an ideological history informed by new criticism and as such, I think it a poor choice by the CCSS authors to convey the idea of attending to text with intention.

Attending with intention makes sense. Close reading offers learners one method, but not the only.

Here's a list of critical approaches we can and some of us use with/alongside and in the composing of text:

Now ask yourself: Why would 9 out of 10 methods be removed from public education and only one privileged for 13 years?  Whose voice is privileged? Muted?  In such scenarios what happens to one's language?  (Language is more important than love, for language is how we know and name love.) 

Limit one's capacity to know and name love and well--and as Edward Said said: 
Everyone lives life in a given language; everyone’s experiences therefore are had, absorbed, and recalled in that language. (Said, 1999, pp. xv!/xvi)
Why must we make children settle for so stingy a literacy, when gregarious and embodied literacies are in our hands?

We need to talk back to this single mindedness.

II. (Un)method

Method is often easier to talk about and we do that often, a lot, more than is healthy (at least for learners). It has remained, as Allan Luke terms it the not so great  'great debate.' Luke said it well:
Many of us working from sociological and cultural perspectives on literacy education have tried to change the subject of the great debate, to shift it sideways. We have argued that there is no ‘right’ way of teaching reading and writing, but that different curricular approaches – and their attendant textbooks, classroom events, assessment instruments and adjunct materials – shape literacy as social practices differently. The ways that literacies are shaped have uneven benefits for particular communities and, unfortunately, the outcomes of literacy teaching continue to favour already advantaged groups in these communities. The matter thus is not one of finding the right and correct scientific methods of teaching literacy and ‘targeting’ these at marginalised groups. Rather it is about reconstructing and realigning the ‘selective traditions’ of curriculum, instruction and assessment in ways that better address the knowledges, practices and aspirations of communities most at risk in the face of the new technologies and economic conditions.

III. a tisket a tasket... text

Along with method, what also gets a bit sticky is the idea of text.

The new critics would tell us to look no further than the marks on the page: "New Critics treat a work of literature as if it were a self-contained, self-referential object" (Think epic.) David Coleman refers to this as the four corners of a book.

These are pithy statements, but are they true?

What constitutes a text? Is it merely marks made within the four corners of a text?  Can it be confined to the page, or even the page and you? Is this 'the' site for meaning making?

James Gee (2013) points out:

human intelligence and creativity, today more than ever, are tied to connecting— synchronizing— people, tools, texts, digital and social media, virtual spaces, and real spaces in the right ways, in ways that make us Minds and not just minds, but also better people in a better world.

So the text is an expression, a desire, a want  of connecting,  synchronizing readers, marks, sounds, images, gestures, and movements. I deeply believe that meaning is made, not found.

This is the poem that Louise Rosenblatt referenced: the art that happens when reader, text and intention meet.

IV. Here's A Body

So what does attending look like?
What does it sound like?
How does it move across a room? How do you stand inside it? Feel it?

(Shh. We mustn't forget we have bodies and sit about like big heads -- [thank you sir ken robinson for such a vital image]).

Again Gee (2011)

When a person has images, actions, goals, and dialogue to attach to words, they have an embodied understanding of those words. When they can only substitute other words, like definitions, in order to understand words, they have only a verbal understanding (Gee 2004).

So close reading is an embodied reading--it our intention to meet word with the physicality of self and know the first through the former.

The arts open such possibility, yes?

V.  Arts and Close Reading

Here's a partial list of arts-based ways of engaging the whole child in close reading.

  1. art conversation
  2. assemblage
  3. block a scene
  4. blogging
  5. book making
  6. build a scene/representation (legos, blocks, Minecraft, paper/pencil, camera)
  7. caption making
  8. cartooning
  9. chants
  10. charades
  11. choral reading
  12. clay modeling
  13. collage
  14. comics
  15. conduct
  16. creative movement
  17. critique
  18. cultural characters
  19. dance
  20. digitize x
  21. docudrama
  22. dramatic play
  23. dramatize
  24. draw 
  25. drawing around a body
  26. ethnodrama
  27. felt board (app too) retells
  28. fixing space
  29. found poems
  30. framing
  31. giving witness
  32. go gangnam style
  33. "Hello. I must be going"
  34. hip hop
  35. his/her thoughts
  36. hot seat
  37. image transfer
  38. improvisation
  39. interviewing
  40. journal: art, audio, collage, double-entry, image, sound, video
  41. kinesthetic movement
  42. listening
  43. making
  44. mask making/performance
  45. mime
  46. mirror
  47. mixed media
  48. monologue
  49. narrate
  50. narrative pantomime
  51. one word at a time story (re)making
  52. oral interpretation
  53. painting
  54. photo voice
  55. podcast
  56. poetry out loud
  57. print making
  58. process drama
  59. quilting
  60. reader's theater
  61. recast the text as ...
  62. re-enactment
  63. role play
  64. role on the wall
  65. rhyming
  66. scrapbook
  67. semiotic masks
  68. sign
  69. simulation
  70. singing
  71. sketching
  72. snowballing
  73. soundscape
  74. split staging
  75. step into a character
  76. storytelling
  77. subtexting
  78. tableaux
  79. talk
  80. thought tracking
  81. videography (so many apps)
  82. visualize
  83. visual symbols
  84. walk about
  85. whose turn is it?
  86. wonder books
  87. yarn making
  88. zydeco impressions


Gee, James Paul; Hayes, Elisabeth R. (2011-03-04). Language and Learning in the Digital Age (p. 116). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

Gee, James Paul (2013-01-08). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning (Kindle Locations 2961-2963). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.