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Day 101: Reading Basics
By Mark Heintz
Jan 24, 2020

Day 101

Student voice provided by Viki Velikova

A  component of AP World History is reading primary and secondary documents. After the students read a document, they have to make an argument. When they read in class, the students read narrowly. I mean students look at something as written to be true. One of the skills they need to get better at is reading to understand the point of the view of the person:

  • Why is the person saying what they are saying?
  • How is the person saying what they are saying?
  • How does their tone impact the understanding of what is being said?

As I said, they read narrowly. I’m not trying to put them down; the task is difficult. They typically only have one read-through of the document and are suppose to pick up on the nuances of a person’s argument, but also make a claim, provide evidence, and analyze the validity of that claim.

As a reader, most people bring in what they know to understand what is being said. The issue with reading a complex document in this class is they have so much to do with the document on one read-through. That process leads to students not bringing in what they know. Ultimately, they read differently than how they read in everyday life. They read it in isolation, take the information as 100% valid, and then summarize what was said in simplistic terms. I have to teach them to use the skills they typically use but forget them when it is in an academic setting.

I’m not faulting them. These skills are difficult, and the documents are on topics that often have little interest to them.

My point? We read and write every day. It’s not glamorous, but we do it. As they write, I gain a window into their world and they get to interrupt the past for themselves. Interpreting it for themselves is the best part of the class. It leads to a discussion of complex topics that reveal their opinion.

As Viki says, “In class, we are doing well on implying outside information into our writing. With this, it could help support the claims we make in our writing. In class, we’re also doing well on analyzing documents so that we could understand it better.”

The document below is an example of what I am talking about.

“Understanding certain topics. I have trouble putting cause and effects together, especially with the time line. Memorizing where different events happen is hard for me because so much happens at once.” It is hard. It’s taken me multiple years to understand it and fluidly master it, and they are suppose to do it in a year. They don’t need to know dates; however, it’s more of when events happen in order. Still hard. I’m still impressed at the amount of they try and work towards it in a year.

My students impress me. They impress me every day.

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