Figuring It Out

Teaching students to enjoy literature is a great practice. It can foster a love of books or allow their imaginations to run wild. For everyday purposes though, students must learn to dissect a text. This ability will be something they will utilize in adulthood. Think about contracts, legal documents, and employment applications that students will someday encounter. In order to make informed decisions, students must be able to read these documents and understand what they are placing their signature on. This exact example is what I preach to my students. You may not like reading, but it is a critical skill to have in adulthood. I ask students how they would feel if they were to rent a house for an assumed amount, only to find out that the lease states XYZ charges will also be applicable. If they did not read it and clarify those statements, the burden will be theirs to carry.

Fluency is one skill, but comprehension is quite another. This requires critical thinking on the student’s part. I teach three skills in order to assist the students with the figuring out a document or literature text.

  1. Read the entire text. How many times have you neglected to read each section of a document only to find out later an important clause was included in one of those sections? For my students, I use app permissions as an example. Most students will download apps onto their device without reading the permissions statement. They are horrified to know that they have agreed to allow the app permission to utilize the camera feature. As I have stated to them, it is unlikely that a news app will use your camera, but you have clearly agreed that they have permission. We can only hope that you are not picking your nose if they do.
  2. Underline and Research. If at all possible, underline important sections as you read. If you feel that this will affect a character or yourself later on, underline. Underline words that are unknown. This is a way for the student to refer back to the section for clarification. Then, research. Ask others that may be knowledgeable. Use the Internet. Call a professional. Ask for copies.
  3. Use prior knowledge. For unknown words, use clues around the word to help determine the meaning. Determine the tone of the document or literature. If it is a contract with plenty of legal language, consult an attorney.  I teach my students that they should always read a document on their own, but if there is any confusion or they know they are not capable of making an informed decision without assistance to see a professional. Prior knowledge tells me that I am computer savvy, but I am not proficient in developing apps. I know my limitations and my strengths. I teach my students to recognize their own strengths and limitations. There is nothing wrong with consulting someone more knowledgeable than yourself.

How do you prepare students for literature and documents that they will encounter as an adult? Do you feel that we as educators prepare them adequately to encounter these adult transactions?


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