Teaching Secondary English: Readings and Applications

By Daniel Sheridan | Go to book overview
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2
Teaching Literature

Introduction

Teachers of Reading

Teachers of reading? Isn't the title of this chapter "Teaching Literature"? True enough, but I want to suggest here that teaching reading and teaching literature should not be distinct enterprises. Traditionally, of course, they have been considered different. Working on the theory that students already know how to read and that the business of the classroom is to talk about texts, teachers have assigned readings that the students read on their own. Then, having done the reading, students come to class and the talk begins. There could be lecture or discussion, but the pattern is the same: read and then talk.

Both of the assumptions behind traditional practice -- that students already know how to read and that the business of the classroom is to talk about texts -- need to be examined more closely. For example, any classroom practice should be regarded suspiciously that treats reading as a static skill -- a set of mental activities that, once learned, enable us to read all kinds of texts. There are skills of reading, but they are never adequate to describe what a reader does in a given reading situation. It would be more accurate to say that reading is a form of thinking, and thus is something people learn to do, continually and with increasing versatility as they develop as users of language. Thus one never stops learning how to read.

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