Book Review: Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

This book changed how I approach reading in my classroom and the results were amazing. I want students to be active in their reading, I love when students annotate and write in the margins while reading, but I was having trouble turning readings into engaging discussions that were student led. That changed when I read this book.

This book makes a compelling case for why we need to change how we approach reading in our classrooms in order to save democracy. That might sound cheesy or too bold of a stand for an education book to make but when I tried the practices in this book, I don't think they are too far off from their goal.

The framework and practices in this book encourage students to talk about what the text says, what the text makes them think, and how the text makes them feel. This might sound too obvious or simple but often in classrooms we aren't asking students to do all three and we aren't giving time for students to talk about all three. I know I was guilty of that prior to reading this book.

Discussion and debate are a huge part of my class but there had always been a purely content focused goal and because of that, I was missing out on hearing what students really felt or thought, they were looking for the answer I wanted to hear.

This book also creates a framework to use in your classroom to encourage students to change their minds or at least remain open to the idea that they have more to learn and that their opinions might be wrong.

After reading this book, I used the strategies as a regular daily opener. Students read a short Newsela article related to the content we were studying and I asked them to use the strategies presented in the book. Discussion and conversations immediately became deeper and more meaningful. When I asked students at the end of the semester survey what three activities they enjoyed the most in class, an overwhelming amount of students mentioned discussions based on readings. When I asked them when they felt they learned the most, again  an overwhelming amount of students mentioned discussions based on readings.

This was one of my favorite reads for 2017. The strategies can be added to any content and you will immediately see a difference as more students engage with reading in meaningful ways.

Have you read it? What do you think?
Mrs. Kathryn Byars


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