Saturday, June 23, 2012

What's the Big Idea by Jim Burke

As always, Burke provides pre-service and practicing teachers with realistic guides to make literature more meaningful to students. The reality is that schools have required reading lists, and on those lists are canonical titles that every teacher struggles with getting students engaged. By accessing students' prior knowledge, the texts become more meaningful to them and allows for more successful connections. Like many great ideas, however, he encourages teachers to know the needs of their students and make the proper modifications based on those needs as well as the teacher's strengths. Not only that, but his rubrics and sample lessons are only meant as guides, not lock-step criteria that has to be covered exactly.

Something that I really appreciate about Burke is that he does a really good job of incorporating current research within his texts to show the validity of his approaches to teaching literature. Not only do I enjoy the research, but I appreciate his effortless writing style. He's not really coming up with anything too innovative; however, he is showing English teachers that students can learn doing activities other than whole-class-discussions-turned-lecture. The goal should be to get students to share how much THEY know, not showing them how much WE know. Regardless of the Scholar Academic Ideology, students aren't sponges waiting for us to impart knowledge; they have their own, and we need to let them construct it.

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