Lessons in Critical Literacy: What's Your Opinion

Critical reading Can students really have an opinion? Many students feel that, having only done a few hours of reading on a topic, they can't argue against an author who has spent many years writing a book. Yet, one of the main purposes of teaching critical literacy is to enable students to read , analyze, evaluate, and take action on what they read.

Critical readers and learners:

  • resist manipulation
  • ask powerful questions
  • base judgments on evidence
  • look for connections between subjects
  • are honest with themselves
  • are intellectually independent

All text/arguments are written from a someones perspective and are driven by the authors background and experiences. Critical reading requires readers to consider not only what is being said about the topic ( the content) but also who is doing the speaking ( the writer). I call this READING WITH THE WRITER IN MIND.The following questions help students develop these attributes and come to understand that no author has total authority and their opinions do matter:

  • What is the topic of the book or reading?
  • What issues are being addressed?
  • What conclusion does the author reach about the issue(s)?
  • What is the writers Big Idea?
  • What are the author's reasons for his or her statements or belief?
  • Is the author using facts, theory, or faith? Facts can be proven. Theory is to be proved and should not be confused with fact. Opinions may or may not be based on sound reasoning. Faith is not subject to proof by its nature.
  • Does the author seem neutral? What words or emotions are conveyed about the topic through the authors choice of word?
  • What do other writers say/think about the topic?
  • Do you agree?
  • What support do you have for your thoughts/opinions?

So, the next time your are talking to students about what they are reading, be sure to ask them this questions: What's your opinion? Just imagine where this conversation can take you!
Photo on Flickr by Felipe Morin

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  • http://www.readingyear.blogspot.com Franki

    Great post–kids being critical readers and thinkers is what it’s all about. I would argue, too, that changing your opinion–based on new information, is also part of all of critical literacy. I have found that once kids have an opinion, they think it has to stay that way. Being open to new ideas and information that might help you grow or change your thinking is part of the fun!

  • http://www.talkworthy.blogspot.com Karen Szymusiak

    I agree with you, and Franki’s comment confirms that line of thinking. I worry that we aren’t creating enough opportunities for kids to even have an opinion or to have an opportunity to talk about their opninion. We need to think about how can we encourage teachers to use time and routines to help our students feel like their opinions are valued?

    Kids spend too much time trying to figure out what teachers want to hear (playing the game of school) instead of generating their own thoughts and opinions.

    This post encourages all of us to create a culture that nurtures opinions.

  • http://www.mrstg.com mrstg

    This is EXACTLY what I need to spark our current unit on “Inferring Author’s Purpose” Angela! Getting to the heart of that unit is difficult, and you’ve just nailed it for me.

    Thanks AGAIN for sharing.

  • http://www.angelamaiers.com AngelaMaiers

    Franki – Great point about changing your opinion. In a world where information is being added 24/7, we have to be open minded and ready for out thought to continually be challenged and developed. This is definitely a needed addition to our critical literacy conversations. Thanks for pushing my thinking!

  • http://www.angelamaiers.com AngelaMaiers

    Karen- exactly! Kids have become great at answering our questions and sharing with us what they think we may want to hear. It is important to really make time for their voices to be heard, and to create an environment free of risk where multiple perspectives are valued.

    If we start that conversations young, think of how good they will be when they are grown up! Imagine how the tone of meetings will change!

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