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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Teaching With My Books

A teacher reader asks me how I would teach with my books. I told her there is no one way to teach. I see the author as a partner with teachers who are free to try whatever approach works for them and their students.
That wasn’t a good enough answer for my questioner: “ But I was wondering if you had a certain idea or image in your mind, as you were writing, of how you would use them if you were teaching with them.”
Okay, I do. Keep in mind that when I was a teacher I was a rule-breaking renegade. Sometimes I got in trouble; sometimes I quietly did my own thing. And, whether teaching fifth grade, Special Ed 15-year-olds (officially a 7th grade), or American Lit (in high school and a community college), I always thought of myself as a reading/writing teacher who used subject matter to teach those reading and writing skills.
So, I would start by having my students do a quick read of the whole book: I'd give them upfront vocabulary and concepts in preparation and some tasks and tests to complete along the way. I'd also give them research and writing assignments related to the book they are reading.
After that overview, we’d go back to the beginning and reread, with a special focus on some key chapters. With the science books we would do coordinated experiments and activities from the wonderful JH teaching materials. As a writer, I read a lot of nonfiction; I’ve learned that rereading with specifics in mind, is an essential part of the process.
As a teacher, I was influenced by some gurus: One of them was Mortimer Adler, of University of Chicago fame, who said to understand nonfiction you need to read a work three times (his “How to Read A Book” has details). The other was Kieran Egan, whose books on educational philosophy are wonderfully insightful.
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