This is just something I’m working on, and it may not be the one best thing to do, it may not be what your student needs, it may not even be a good idea. Somebody else probably does this better. I like reading what other people are doing with their students as it gives me ideas to thinking about with my own student, or myself, so I’m sharing this.
When I ask him to read something as part of school (I use push to kindle for this a lot), and I want a bit more depth than his first off the cuff oral narration, I roughly follow these steps:
1.Read it, and make a list of a few of the author’s main points, representing them as accurately as possible.
2. Look over that list, summarize any supporting points or examples he might give, references, allusions used to support the point.
3. Optional at our house, but that is not ideal: It would be a good idea about now to wait a couple days, and then have your student rewrite the essay or article from his own notes, but we are so busy with planning the Philippines move, college applications, head-butting, work hours, and hanging out with friends I won’t see forever (or for the six months I’ll actually stay with you guys in the Philippines) and doing Khan Academy SAT prep that I haven’t done this.
4. Once the student has demonstrated the ability to actually read and accurately represent the author’s points, then, and only then, ask the student what he thinks about it.
The above process in our case is spread over two to five days, depending on the length of the article in question and depth of material.
I think this works with some current events articles as well.
Some of my reasons:
“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”
“To agree without understanding is inane. To disagree without understanding is impudent.”
Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book
These, of course, are not the only way to read an essay or article. Other things I might do would be to ask about the persuasion techniques used, word choices made, structural decisions in building the article.
You don’t need to do this excessively and squeeze a thing dry and lifeless to the point that it is always ever and after a thing of repugnance to your students. One of the most influential lessons on this sort of thing I ever had was walking through a single essay with Mr. Schmidt, my favourite English teacher. The essay was on poverty, and in the first paragraph the author claimed not to be asking for our sympathy. The next paragraph had a beautifully evocative paragraph on the smells of poverty. I particularly recall being completely emotionally overtaken by her description of the smell of onions and cabbage in hallways of apartment buildings where impoverished families live. There were not really any facts about living in poverty, just emotional statements and moving descriptions done so well you could almost smell the onions. And why cabbage and onions anyway? In America do most poor families (or any other families) really cook from scratch, or do they rely on tv dinners and frozen pizza?
After discussing the skillful use of words in that second paragraph, Mr. Schmidt returned our attention to the first paragraph and asked us to consider again, in view of the onions and cabbage paragraph, what did we make of her claim about not asking for sympathy. What was she asking for, then, asked Mr. Schmidt. We looked at each other, and we knew. She was lying. She was asking for sympathy. That is precisely what she wished to engage, our emotions, and only our emotions, in her article.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It was her job, her goal, to persuade. But as readers, it is our goal to first understand, and then to sift, assess, critique, and be clear about what we are accepting and rejecting and why. And as parents, and teachers, it is our privilege and responsibility to help our students learn to do that, without unduly coming between them and the text. It is a delicate balance.