Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading with an eye for ideas

The last few weeks, we've been focusing on current events. Here's your chance to practice!

Using a Google News search for "Obama education speech", I pulled up a series of articles responding to the speech President Obama delivered to the nation's students Tuesday at a school in Philadelphia.

I chose a few recognizable names from the long list of sources -- USA Today, FOX News, The Washington Post, CNN -- and skimmed the pages to make sure there were no graphic images that might upset readers. If I were working with a young child, I might print just the article text and not the comments section.

Take a look at these completely different takes on the same speech (read the official text of the speech). See if you can pick out the ones that are opinion pieces.

Choose one or two articles to re-read.

Now look again, paying attention to the grammar, or building blocks, of the article. What first impression does the title of the article and the opening line (the "hook") give you? What quotes from the speech does each writer include? Does the article use judgment words like "good" "bad" "best" "unfortunately" or "inspiring"? What last impression do the final sentences leave?

Now look again, paying attention to the dialectic, or the connections the article makes. Does the author make comparisons to other speeches? If so, which ones? What other kinds of information does the article include? What background information on the topic does the article incorporate? How do the articles compare to one another? What do they have in common? What's different?

Look one more time, paying attention to the rhetoric, or the impact of the article. What is the article's focus? What is the mood or tone of the piece? What do you think is its purpose? How effectively does it convey its message? Is it persuasive? Why or why not? Which article on this topic would you be most likely to trust? Which news source would you go back to next time?

This exercise points out a couple of things: 1) It takes time to go from absorbing content blindly to learning to read critically on the idea level. 2) The "news" is a lot less straightforward than you might think. 3) Reading the news doesn't have to be boring and passive: it can be an exciting adventure for the whole family to share as you wrestle with big ideas that shape the world.

You can do it!


Just His Best said...


I noticed that tomorrow (7/20), Oprah will be tackling the educational system in America and the new documentary about it.

Please tell me that you were interviewed!!!

1 Smart Mama said...

Thanks for the reminder to check it out!