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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
our purpose made clearAug. 2 2011
Jeffrey C. Roper
- Published on Amazon.com
In this world of teaching for skills and measurable outcomes, Wilhelm and Novak's book comes as complete surprise. Here is a book that asks what is the central purpose of the English classroom, of literature, not what is the best way to increase student comprehension or writing clarity (though comprehension and clarity certainly increase when students experience a story, not just read it). For those of us who teach English because of the way literature transforms lives, changes the way we see the world and ourselves, this book is powerfully reaffirming. On the shoulders of Peter Elbow, James Moffett, and particularly Louise Rosenblatt and George Hillocks, these authors have constructed a dense and provocative argument for an experiential encounter with literature that leads to new and courageous thinking and acting. This book is radical in the finest sense of the word, and I encourage every English teacher and every English teacher training program to plunge into this clarion call for purpose redefined.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An Old-Fashioned Word Like WisdomAug. 4 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
The central tenet of this collaboration between Jeffrey Wilhelm and Bruce Novak is that we should be teaching more for the love of literature and how it can impact our lives now and in the future than for knowledge alone. To use words from one of the book's apostles, Louise Rosenblatt, the aesthetic transaction between reader and writer is of greater importance than any efferent responses (i.e. simply naming facts as you do in a standardized test). Fans of Wilhelm's past books will be happy to see reiterations of his belief in inquiry (learned from his mentor, George Hillocks). The first task of the teacher, then, is to set up an authentically compelling question that students want to explore. Frontloading activities then get the students personally invested in the question, which in turn echoes the great questions about life explored by the author to be read. Wilhelm reviews some of the activities that can be done to get students to feel a personal stake as citizens of the world that the author inhabits as well.
Although you get some of Wilhelm's practical ideas explained, the book is much heavier on the theoretical side (I'd say 70%). Thus, many teachers might be put off by the numerous allusions to philosophers and educational theorists, the ubiquitous quotes, the sometimes difficult diction. As Wilhelm and Novak were preaching to the choir in my case, I was fine with it, but I know many teachers object to heavy theory and I only say as much so they know going in. Personally, I see the book as a confirmation of some Romantic and historical ideals of man that should be kept in mind while teachers plan. Reading strategies, then? A means, not an end. THIS is the "end."