Do take this personally

An experienced teacher was advising me about a specific method of read-a-loud called “text to self” this week and pointed out that, especially with this particular method, I need to relate to the text personally and think those connections out loud to the students as I read the book to them.  (My connections to the books I had been thinking of reading to the students all had to do with my own two children rather than to myself).  The purpose of thinking these connections out loud is to model how good readers stop and ask questions, think about, and connect or define what they do not connect with in the text as they are reading.  It occurred to me that making subject matter personal to the students, or even as in this particular case, revealing how it is personal to the teacher could be the key to engaging students in any subject area.  Perhaps this is why I never had a favorite subject in school; it really depended on the teacher.  Maybe those teachers were the ones who found a way to connect material to me personally or who were brave enough to reveal how they connected to it.  The focus should be on the students’ learning and self-expression of that learning, but the teacher revealing her or himself every so often teaches students that the classroom is not only a safe place to “put yourself out there” but how making a personal connection makes subject matter more relevant and interesting.  Even as people around the world spend more time behind screens, they are doing so in order to make personal connections by either expressing themselves personally or by learning from others’ expression.  So, create a safe space and make it all personal for your students and for yourself.

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4 thoughts on “Do take this personally

  1. What do you think it takes to make a safe space to make it personal for your students? Do you think they need to relate to the space itself? to the teacher? to the picture book? I agree that the focus should be on the students’ learning and self-expression, it’s so important to not overlook this.

  2. Great post! I think the idea you are getting at here is that by modeling this behavior we are taking steps to make the space safer for kids? Because they are seeing US reveal personal information in the context of how we relate to the text. It is a way of breaking down the barriers between us and our students. In so doing, we become vulnerable and demonstrate to our kids that we feel safe enough in the classroom to be vulnerable and reveal those details about ourselves without fear of judgement. My struggle is being receptive to those details from the students but learning where I should be critical (or not!). We had a student announce to the class that he had five dogs. We are reasonably certain this is not the case, but if I raise an eyebrow will other students NOT share they they have five fish? Or siblings? That’s what I’m trying to work out.

  3. Uncommon teacher,

    I loved your post! I have come across this same method during my experience at an elementary school. I agree that this method helps students feel like the classroom is a safe space where they can share personal feelings and experiences. I want to add that this method also relates school and education to real life outside of school. Sometimes, when students read, or do math, they don’t necessarily see or think about how this relates to their personal life. They may just see reading as something they HAVE to do in school. However, by connecting school subjects to students’ experience (and to our own experience as a teacher), we show students that their school and their home culture is intertwined. This often helps children understand the importance of school, because it is made relevant to them personally. In return, students will be more engaged!

  4. My dyad teacher is very effective at what you describe as “text to self”. What I experience when seeing her engage with a book in this way is that she is also a learner, eager to find out something undiscovered in the reading. Instead of an overbearing “main point” underlying her reading voice, there is wonderment and surprise. It also brings to mind your post on time. Somehow, in these moments when we all engage in learning and exploration with her, time does not seem so pressing.

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