A signpost is usually found at a crossroads. So says the definition. And in the teaching book Notice and Note, you’re given six avenues — ways to go or topics of conversation. What should we notice in a book? How do we note what we read?
When discussing literature, there’s often no right or wrong answer. You’re using the signposts to get into the characters of ask the book questions. And questioning is what we want young people to do — in literature and in life. After all, we all have essential questions, such as Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the meaning? The word ‘essential’ has taken on such important meaning this year, with the rise in respect for essential workers.
Have your heard of ‘essential questions?’ When I first started teaching high school five years ago, the department chair told me, “Be sure that you have your Essential Questions posted for all to see somewhere in the classroom.”
I was like, ‘Whaaat?’ I had no idea. I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to have the right — the most essential — questions on my bulletin board. So I did what all teachers do when they don’t know and they don’t want to ask. I googled, “What is an essential question?” And of course, I fell into the rabbit hole of what makes a good question. The more questions I had, the more confused I became. But my mentor at my new school four years ago turned me on to this Notice and Note process. Look for the signposts. Discuss these topics. Yes, one category is called Tough Questions, which to me is the same as Essential Questions.
Ultimately, I decided that an essential question is a deep question — one that that leads to more questions and cannot be answered simply with a yes or no response.
Hey, I love learning about learning. Yes, I’m meta like that!
For mother-daughter book club, we are reading The River Between Us by Richard Peck. It is the story of the Civil War told from a girl’s point of view. I love the Civil War as a metaphor for families in conflict.
For my friends’ book club, we are reading Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (we had previously read March. Loved it!) For workplace book club, we’re reading What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. All three of these have astute girl narrators, nice!
I wrote this a few weeks ago and never posted. So now I must update. In my workplace book club, we are reading Hanhunt: The 12 Day-Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. And for friends’ group, we are reading The Hunger Games (though I’ve seen the movie!) by Suzanne Collins.
I am not very far in either of these books. But I know that they are quests. I love novels about a hero’s journey, especially when the hero is a spunky heroine!
For book club we are reading Diane Keaton’s Then Again.
I can’t find the passage but at one point she says we mustn’t blame mothers for all of our adult unhappiness. Mothers do their best. I agree. The book is a collage of memories, a collage like the kind Diane’s mother created – scrapbooks and journals.
I am having trouble staying focused on my reading. Fortunately, occasionally, the choices from my work book club and my other book club coincide, like when we read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wallsin both.
At my work book club, we are reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Catch-22 and for Mother-Daughter Book Club, we are reading the Robin Benway’s The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June. The girls and I recommended that book; we’ve already read it. Very funny. (But if you don’t like it, don’t blame me, a mother.) Phew. I have one less book to read.
I’d like to blog more on this topic, but yes, you guessed it, I have to get back to the Diane Keaton memoir. Book club is Tuesday night and I have hundreds of pages to go. I might just skip ahead to the Warren Beatty part.