Wednesday, April 30, 2014

'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

Have you ever mis-heard something and you had to listen to it again to better understand it? There are books and websites dedicated to the hilarity of misheard lyrics. My all-time best misheard song lyric is Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. The misheard lyric is “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy”. The REAL lyric is “‘Scuse me while I kiss THE SKY”.

I love misheard lyrics. They usually make me giggle out loud like a kid. Partly because I mishear lyrics all the time, partly because they’re so silly and funny, partly because they make you listen to the song again. I sung “rock the cash box” instead of “rock the casbah” until well into adulthood!

Here are some of my other favorite misheard lyrics

Dancing Queen by Abba
Original: See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the dancing queen
Misheard:See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen

Tiny Dancer by Elton John
Original: Hold me closer, tiny dancer
Misheard: Hold me closer, Tony Danza
(Right. Who’s the boss?)

Rock and Roll by KISS
Original: I want to rock and roll all night and party every day
Misheard: I want to rock and roll all day and part of every day
(So much more practical)

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Original: There’s a bad moon on the rise
Misheard: There’s a bathroom on the right
(good to know!)

All this silliness is to help us remember that sometimes, you just need to relisten and reread to get it right.  Sometimes, you need to listen to Elton John’s song a few bijillion times. Sometimes, you need to sing along with the KISS song.

And sometimes, in class, you need to read a text more than once. Sometimes you need to read it two or three times.


I admit that even as the literacy-in-social studies coach, I have pushed back a little against this read-it-more-than-once trend. I rolled my eyes. I thought I didn’t have time. I thought my kids “got it” the first time. I thought I had too much content to teach to stop and reread something.

The eye-rolling was even more recent than I would like to admit.

And then, I spent a half of class period on a document from Industrial Revolution mill workers only to be asked what the Industrial Revolution was and what a mill was immediately. My choice at that point was to either reteach it or grumble about ‘these kids” and move on without them learning it.

I chose to have them reread and I’m glad I did.

If you are having your kids read primary source documents (or more challenging secondary sources), the chances are pretty good that your kids will get tripped up at some point. It’s natural. It’s normal. Kids don’t always have the vocabulary, background knowledge, or reading level to deeply understand every primary source document you put in front of them.

If they could do it by themselves, you wouldn’t have to teach it!

Common Core and the new Florida Standards ask our kids to read complex text deeply. Nobody gets it right the first time. That’s why they call it complex. And that’s okay. That’s why second (and third) tries were invented!

First -- make sure your document is manageable. If it’s super long, pull out a smaller excerpt. If the vocab is way above them, annotate it a bit by defining a couple of words in the margins that are necessary to the understanding of the document (ex. industrial, mill)

Second -- come up with two or three separate reasons to read your document. Here are some examples, but JUST USE two or three
  • Overview read -- read the document silently or teacher read aloud to get the overall idea.
  • Text Marking Read -- have kids use a (?) for parts where they are confused, an (!) for an important piece of info, an underline for patterns or things that come up repeatedly, and an --> (arrow) for connecting one piece of text to another.
  • Vocabulary -- have kids read specifically to find meaning for vocabulary terms (either ones selected by you or by them)
  • Reading Strategy -- have kids read another time to use your reading strategy (Venn Diagram, for example)
  • Essential Question -- have the kids circle words or phrases that will help answer the Essential Question of the day.

There are a ton of different “types” of reads, or different purposes for reading. That’s okay.

PLEASE DON’T... have kids read it five times (too much!). PLEASE DON’T have kids do these on a long piece of text (it will take forever).

Instead,  choose two or three of the ones above and guide your kids through a close reading in which they read the document more than once.

We all have to read things more than once. It’s why millions of books or sermons are written on the same pieces of holy writings. It’s why people can read Shakespeare (or even their favorite novels) again and again. It’s why every time I look at a great work of art, I see something I missed last time.

I recently got a piece of furniture from IKEA. Even though the directions are pictorial and not textual, I still had to “read” the directions multiple times to get it right. And I’m a visual-learning, masters’ degree-holding, adult who has EXPERIENCE and LIKES putting IKEA furniture together. If I needed to read the directions more than once, why shouldn’t a kid who may or may not have background knowledge or confidence reading documents?

There’s no shame in rereading. It’s not just for lower-level kids. There’s honor and pride and rigor in multiple reads -- or IKEA directions or song lyrics or (hopefully) in primary and secondary documents.

It’s important to read important or complex texts more than once. There are several ways to do that. So, will you try it? Start with something complex but brief -- something like a short  letter or the Preamble or a paragraph from a historian.

Please drop me a line and let me know how it goes. And, please, hold me closer, Tony Danza!

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