Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coding Novels for Literature Discussions

For many years, my students in both elementary and college classes have asked me about what to put on their post-its, how many post-its are required for each book, and what are they expected to do with them when they are finished reading. These are all logical questions, but they also reveal that students were not using the post-its for their own purposes, but were simply following directions to complete an assignment.

As a reader, I don’t comment on texts or write in margins to complete an assignment. Rather, I highlight or code texts, write comments, and share these comments to help me make sense of and analyze the texts I read. Until our students understand the purposes behind these coding and commenting practices, they will simply complete the assignments we require of them and fill their books with useless post-its.

Coding texts is simply a form of highlighting and commenting. When I have asked students to code texts in preparation for their literature discussions, I suggested they place a post-it or margin note on sections of the text they wanted to feature and included a word or short phrase that indicated why the post-it was placed there.

Asking readers to add comments and codes to a book, whether print-based or digital, requires teachers to explain the purposes for this practice, and how these codes and comments will be used to enhance one’s discussions.

Possible Things to Code When Reading Fictional Texts

· Noticings – things readers notice as they are reading, including illustrations, language, book design elements, or genre characteristics.

· Connections – things readers connect to themselves from personal experiences or connections to other literary texts.

· Interpretations – potential meanings associated with what the reader notices, including character motives, inferences about themes, mood, symbols, or social issues.

· Strategies – strategies readers notice they are using to make sense of the text.

· Wonderings – questions readers have.

· Confusions – things readers find confusing.

· Narrative Elements – aspects of the plot, setting, or characters that seem relevant for understanding the story.

· Literary Devices – aspects of the writer’s style or craft, including figurative language, metaphors and others.