Buffy Hamilton
                    READ 8100
                    K-6 Literacy Group
                   Response to John De...
growth in a positive direction for the student. Choosing and setting up experiences that
“live fruitfully and creatively i...
the reader or the text, but that instead, meaning is created in the transaction between
the two. Dewey believes that the m...
independent learners without depending on me all the time and how to create a learning
environment that fosters this goal ...
Dewey’s comments on involving children in decision making reminds me of the
ideas set forth in Donald Graves’ Creating a L...
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Buffy hamilton response to john dewey reading september 8 2002

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Buffy hamilton response to john dewey reading september 8 2002

  1. 1. Buffy Hamilton READ 8100 K-6 Literacy Group Response to John Dewey’s Experience and Education September 8, 2002 As I read through John Dewey’s Experience and Education, several thoughts came to mind as I reflected upon his ideas and those of Rosenblatt. While reading, I tried to keep in mind our guiding question, “How can inquiry help facilitate K-6 literacy?” and my own essential question, “How can an inquiry stance help me create a learning community in which children compose lives where reading and writing matter?” Overall Thoughts As I try to think about how Dewey’s ideas relate to Rosenblatt and our group’s concerns, I wonder how we could help students to have richer transactions with texts? When I first studied Rosenblatt and “Reader Response” theories as an undergraduate in 1991, I thought that students could simply read the text and have a quality transaction. How naïve was that! ☺ I wonder now how I could create “situations” that would scaffold students’ with strategies to have richer transactions with texts. And what about students who have limited experiences or worse, lots of “mis-educative experiences” that would color or affect their transactions with texts since Dewey says that all experiences affect future ones? Key Thoughts/Ideas/Connections/Questions From Chapter 1 It is fascinating to me that nearly 70 years after the publication of this book, educators still tend to think in the “either/or” terms or binary. It seems difficult for us to think of issues or stances as a continuum as presented by Rosenblatt with the efferent--- aesthetic stance. The debate of whole language vs. phonics based reading instruction immediately came to mind; why can’t we incorporate best practices of both rather than feeling we must choose one approach or the other? Dewey warns against advancing a philosophy based on the rejection of another one; unfortunately, this seems to be the norm instead of our formulating questions about our philosophy and moving forward based on the answers we find to our questions. From Chapter 2: Two key thoughts struck me in this chapter. First, Dewey emphasizes that students do have experiences in school whether they are in the traditional setting or progressive. However, not all experiences are educative and not all experiences nudge further Page 1 of 5 Buffy Hamilton/K-6 Literacy Group September 8, 2002 Response to Dewey
  2. 2. growth in a positive direction for the student. Choosing and setting up experiences that “live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences” is the challenge for all classroom teachers. As a Language Arts teacher, I constantly struggle with this challenge! The other statement that has become increasingly clearer to me in the last three or so years of my career is that “ …the easy and simple are not identical. To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task.” The principles of teaching with a reading and writing workshop approach are simple on the surface, but implementing them for the first time is more difficult that I thought it would be, plus I find myself generating additional questions that will hopefully help me teach more effectively from this stance and to provide more authentic learning experiences for my students. I think too that if you are pioneering with a new and/or more progressive approach to literacy instruction that departs from the traditional methods, you may meet resistance from fellow teachers, administrators, parents, and even the students themselves. As Dewey points out, there are indeed many obstacles to forging ahead in new directions while being careful not to throw out the wisdoms that could be helpful from more traditional practices. Thus, it is important to have a well- developed philosophy of education as this is your “north star” while you are chartering new territories in teaching and learning with more progressive or newer methods. From Chapter 3 On page 35, Dewey talks about the principle of habit and that every experience “enacted and undergone modifies the one who acts and undergoes, while this modification affects, whether we wish it or not, the quality of subsequent experiences. For it is a somewhat different person who enters into them.” This idea reminded somewhat of Rosenblatt’s belief that each reader’s transaction with a text is unique and consequently, those transactions in turn affect future transactions with other texts. This concept of habit is viewed as the foundation of the “principle of continuity of experience as a criterion for discrimination”, an important concept for determining which experiences are “educative” and those that are “mis-educative”. This discussion makes me think about the experiences my own students have and how they shape their attitudes toward literacy as well as their skills and strategies they use as readers. On page 38, Dewey maintains that “It is the business of the educator to see in what direction the experience is heading”. When Nancie Atwell revised In the Middle in 1998, she reflected that when she first began her workshop approach to teaching reading and writing, she felt that it would be intrusive to provide direct instruction or some direct intervention in students’ writing. After 10 years, though, she realized that she had the responsibility as the teacher to share what she knew and that students’ authentic learning could still be facilitated in a classroom that balanced students’ need for autonomy and her need to provide direct and/or group instruction. On p. 39, Dewey states that “Experience does not go on simply inside a person.” In this paragraph, I am reminded of Rosenblatt’s idea that meaning is not resident in Page 2 of 5 Buffy Hamilton/K-6 Literacy Group September 8, 2002 Response to Dewey
  3. 3. the reader or the text, but that instead, meaning is created in the transaction between the two. Dewey believes that the meaning of the experience is created between the transaction that occurs between a person and the external conditions or objective conditions in which the experience takes place. This idea is reinforced on p. 43 when Dewey says, “An experience is always what it is because of a transaction taking place between an individual and what, at the time, constitutes his environment…” The idea that “experience does not occur in a vacuum” {p. 40} is one that has been discussed in other courses I have taken, especially ELAN 7400 {Language and Learning} and ELAN 7310 {P-8 Writing Pedagogies). Ann Haas Dyson, Shirley Bryce Heath, and Barbara Kamler all make compelling arguments on the how our culture and social environment shape how we interpret and transact with external experiences. As a teacher, I constantly wonder about my students’ prior experiences and what shapes them as learners; in addition, I wonder how I can structure my classroom and teaching to accommodate the significance of those experiences while nudging their growth in new and rich directions. “Continuity and interaction in their active union with each other provide the measure of the educative significance and value of an experience” {pp. 44-45}. How do we as educators, especially in a K-6 literacy setting, provide situations in which these interactions can take place and develop the “latitude and longitude of experience” for our students, especially for students who are not of the dominant culture within the classroom? What about students whose experiences are very different from those of their classmates or are limited? I do wonder how students who have limited experiences and/or those that are different from the dominant school culture can have more of that aesthetic [and even efferent] stance in their transactions with texts. The discussion of how so many students learn facts and information in isolation on pp. 47-48 still dominate talk in educational circles today. It seems obvious that an inquiry approach to learning would definitely provide a more authentic and integrated approach to learning. However, it is not a quick or easy path to learning, and quick and easy is something that the public, administrators, students, and even some teachers prefer. I know that I do not remember much of what I learned in high school because it was so rote and teacher-dominated. On the other hand, I remember much of what I learned in elementary and junior high where I had learning experiences that were more balanced. Much of my own learning was gained “collaterally” through reading. I wonder how we could encourage literacy as a tool for more collateral learning? Chapters 4 and 5 I think I recall someone raising the question of social control vs. the individual that is raised in Chapter 4. The discussion of the teacher’s role and the use of his/her authority to keep maintain an orderly classroom that operates in the best interests of the class as a whole really hit home with me. I seem to spend a good deal of time thinking about how to keep my classroom humming in which students can eventually work as Page 3 of 5 Buffy Hamilton/K-6 Literacy Group September 8, 2002 Response to Dewey
  4. 4. independent learners without depending on me all the time and how to create a learning environment that fosters this goal of students being able to work independently. At the same time, I realize that I am the facilitator of the classroom and that is my job to exercise my authority when needed. I do not want to “keep order” for the sake of doing so, but rather because “…it is in the teacher’s keeping instead of residing in the shared work being done” (p.55). I also appreciate Dewey pointing out that progressive education involves planning and organization; simply turning students loose or not having a game plan is irresponsible and will not automatically foster an authentic learning environment. On p. 61, Dewey says that the only freedom of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence. His discussion of the importance of enduring freedom reminds me of Thoreau’s account of how he was not imprisoned when he was jailed for not paying his taxes {a protest of a war he felt was being used to expand slavery} because he still had the freedom of his mental abilities and ideas. Chapters 6, 7, 8 On p. 67, Dewey says that a purpose is “an end-view”. Just because we may be implementing more progressive methods of teaching does not mean we do not set a purpose for learning or that we fail to plan. I am finding that purpose, planning, and preparation are very important in a reading-workshop/writing workshop approach to literacy. Looking ahead to where you want your students to be is critical. If you have purpose and structure, you will be able to create “situations” in which experiences are educative and propel students forward on the continuum of experience. You still have room to seize those “teachable” moments and individualize instruction as you try to consider the needs and prior experiences of your students. I think that even for those of us that subscribe to a transactional view of reading, we need to help set purposes in literacy acts for our students. I liked the idea that our guidance is an aid to students’ intellectual freedom, not a hindrance {p.71}. Some of the early advocates of the reading/writing workshop approach to literacy admonished teachers’ incorporating their guidance, and this led to a much frustration for many teachers who attempted to follow that lead {myself included!}. As Dewey points out, though, we learn as we forge these new paths, and more contemporary advocates of the reading/writing workshop approach reflect more of the principles of Dewey that are set forth in this text. In addition, I like Dewey’s emphasis on the importance of reflection---without reflection, how can we grow as teachers? {p.87} Page 4 of 5 Buffy Hamilton/K-6 Literacy Group September 8, 2002 Response to Dewey
  5. 5. Dewey’s comments on involving children in decision making reminds me of the ideas set forth in Donald Graves’ Creating a Literate Classroom. I like the idea of “the plan” being a cooperative venture, not a dictation. (p.72) Page 5 of 5 Buffy Hamilton/K-6 Literacy Group September 8, 2002 Response to Dewey

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