Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Get Back to the Nazi Dinosaurs, or An Interrogation Worth Having...

I promised myself that, along with all the professional reading and YA reading I wanted to do this summer, that I would make time to write things that bring pleasure to me.  Apparently, my subconscious was not about to let me forget that promise, as I tossed and turned with snippets of dialogue weighing down my mind last night until I finally got up to write it down on my yellow legal pad.  A new piece for middle grade about a young boogeyman (girl) who is miserable in her job as an evil spirit.

Today, I started my professional reading stack for the summer with a re-read of Kylene Beers' and Richard Probst's newest book about teaching reading using the new Common Core State Standards.  I was reading the section about the use of questioning as a strategy to get students to read more closely and engage with the texts they are given.  Most questioning that teachers do is monologic (meaning they already know the answer or are guiding students in a certain direction to understand a specific facet of the text).  I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.  "I've already seen the light at the end of this tunnel, kids, now let me help you see what I saw!"

The problem with this, of course, is that students aren't asking their own questions and engaging with the text that way.  When that happens, it's called dialogic questioning.  That's what we really need to be striving for.  Of course, free form questioning and discussion can take some interesting turns.

It reminded me of a conversation I'd had with students in my ninth hour class this last year.  We were reading the amazing novel "The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963" by Christopher Paul Curtis.  We had just read the passage where the main character, Kenny, is lamenting his choice of friends as more and more of his toy dinosaurs go missing when he plays with this "friend".  The two are having the "Greatest Dinosaur War Ever".  The following is a word for word transcript of our discussion of Kenny's statement: "It was always a struggle to see who got to be the American dinosaurs and who had to be the Nazi dinosaurs."

Me:  (posing question to the class) What is odd about what Kenny just said there?

D:  Dinosaurs don't have wars!

J: Dinosaurs can't be Nazis! (murmurs of agreement)

Me: Why not?

S:  (with perfect confidence) Because dinosaurs weren't around in World War II

Me:  Good. In fact, dinosaurs lived long before both Americans and Nazis existed, right?

A:  Dinosaurs and men didn't exist at the same time.

L:  What about cavemen?

A:  Nope.

S: Yuh-huh! I saw lots of movies with people and dinosaurs in them together.

Me: Actually, those are fictitious.

D: Yeah, that's right! Didn't we come from monkeys or something?

Me: Well, I...

J: I didn't come from no monkey!

Me: Okay, let's bring it back to Kenny and the Nazi dinosaurs...

J:  My mom told me that I didn't come from no monkey!

Me: (sensing that this could get ugly, but not able to stop the train) Okay, well, what you're referring to is called Darwin's Theory of Evolution, but there are also people who believe in another theory called Creationism...ummm....

S: Why don't I have a tail?

Me: Soooooo, back to the Nazi dinosaurs...

1 comment:

  1. This story is just as funny...perhaps even funnier...the second time around! So glad you captured it here.