Reading, Thinking, and Project Based Learning

With much of today’s new tools and resources and teaching/learning techniques focusing on project based learning, one might be left to question where do books fit in? How do we take literature and textbooks and incorporate them into this new teaching modality.

Reading is the sister to thinking. But, as is often true, these sisters are very different. Reading is an active learning method, as opposed to listening, which is a passive learning method. (Extrovert/Introvert)

To enhance reading literacy, students should be encouraged to also be physically engaged. Reading sections out loud and gesturing are ways to engage physically. This creates an active component for the visual learner and an activity for the kinesthetic learner. The eye movement required by reading also creates subtle but active participation as you track words, turn the pages,or if you read digitally, click the mouse or flip the pages. Carrying a storyline in short-term memory is a part of the passive engagement of literacy learning.

Reading gets the creative learning juices flowing in a student’s brain. While they read, it would be a missed integrated education opportunity not to take advantage of engaging in writing too. A simple strategy is to read with a pen in hand. As the student reads, he or she should make notes in the margins, underline, circle and highlight.

What? Write in the book? Well, we all probably remember purchasing used college textbooks that were highlighted and had notes in the margins. Often they actually helped us study, making writing in books a great idea! However, if you are a purist, get a notebook and write in that. E-book reading allows you to highlight text with a slide of the finger and make note of important concepts with just the tap of a finger!

However you choose take notes, and whatever tools and resources you choose to utilize, writing the key concepts and any questions, new words, supporting details, etc. creates another active literacy learning opportunity.

Learning to identify key concepts while they read is the number one literacy learning skill. Textbook authors tend to do that for us by providing topic headings and subheadings. However, much of literature doesn’t give these clues and that is where the passive thinking brain comes in.

Have you heard of the term “residue of thinking?” According to a study done at the University of Virginia, the residue of thinking is memory. This study says that learning to activate memory with small clues is easier when we engage more of our senses; creating a very personal form of integrated learning! Studies have shown that chewing gum or nibbling on a snack, fragrances in the air, soft classical instrumental music in the background, and highlighters in a variety of colors — key concepts would be one color, supporting concepts and new words would be other colors — are all ways to enhance memory.

Along with reading for comprehension, learn to question what you are reading. Is it true or is it biased? What supporting documentation does it need? What else needs to be learned to determine the validity of the concept? Write these questions and thoughts down too. Some of them may be answered in the text, others might lead to your next book!

If you are teaching literacy learning make sure your students write a short descriptive paragraph or two about what was the main concept, whether or not they agree with the ideas, and what new ways of thinking did the text inspire. Vocabulary words should also be looked up and incorporated in to memory by using them at least 3 times each in daily speech.

The ability to use integrated education and project based teaching techniques that provide many of the tools and resources that made homeschooling a viable and successful education choice are being explored at an unprecedented rate. Regardless of your choice for your child’s education, enhanced literacy learning should be a part of your tools and resources and their day.