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CS 000 338 Bracken, Dorothy Kendall The Theme Approach fQ~~ng Literature Critically. 68 12p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Reading Association (Boston, 1968) MF-$O.65 HC-$3.29 *Childhood Attitudes; *Childrens Books; Cognitive Objectives; *Critical Thinking; *Elementary Education; English; Literary Analysis; *Lit(y~ture Appreciation; Reading Comprehension; Readin~ Interests




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. This essay discusses why the tl:temeapproach to the teaching of literature to elementary school students is an effective way to focus attention on concepts related to pupils' l~ves. The author argue~ that this approach is better than organizing children's literature according to either subject or type because the teacher can more easily guide his students toward the goals of critical thinking. While various students may read different books (depending on their reading level and interests), the class as a whole can meaningfully share ideas focusing on one theme. The author asserts that teachers often become preoccupied with the problems of word recognition and literal comprehension and consequently fail to raise the level of comprehension or to encourage interpretation, evaluation, and application of ideas gained from reading. A theme approach to literature may serve to personalize the reading experience and to develop critical thinking. (Author/DI)

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TO ERIC ANO ORGANIZATIONS O~ERAfING UNDER AGREEMENTS WITH THE US OFFICE OF EDUCATION FURTHER REPRODUCTION OUTSIDE THE ERIC SYSTEM REQUIRES PER MISSION OF THE CQPVRIGHT OWNER 1'HE TlIE.ITICALLY Sea8lon 16A . to encourage cr1 t1cal read1ng-thinklng .FILMED FROM BEST AVAILABLE COPY ~ ! I DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH.The Role of Ll tera ture Introduction In the W1nter laBue ot the Delta Xappa Gamma Bulletin."'. Maranl expressed two wlde17 separated ideas which might serve to introduce the llDPo. .S Dorothy Kendall Br~cken Southern Methodist Univ. (1) Aa Gabriel Doted troa b18 heayeolJ perch in liaranl.B APPROACH R>R READING LITEP. expressed bl Jean v. Dallas. Tcxao 75222 PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS COpy RIGHTED MATERIAL HAS BEEN GRANTED BY D1rector. WELFARE OFFICE OF EDUCATION THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN REPRO· DUCED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED FROM THE PERSON OR ORGANIZATION ORIG INATING IT POINTS OF VIEW OR OPIN IONS STATED DO NOT NECESSARILY R~PRESENT OFFICIAL OFFICE OF EDU CATION POSITION OR POLICY U." ~he Delta Ka}'lpa Gamma Bulletin. Maranl (1). EDUCATION.. XXXIV (Wlnter 1968). "Seee~ed. aight be organized. ot Ohan.. with opportunities skllls.rtance of uslng a theme approach thU8 arounlJ whioh the literature program providing teacher. frances Ross Hlcks and Jean V. no ODe can hlde in ~\. ' The f1rst ot theae ldeaa was. ·SWeeping lnto every corner ot America are the torce~ of change • Nothing 18 1mmune..ATUBE C:'. RC3d1ng Cl1n10 Dorothy Kendall Bracker. comforting to1da of tamil1ar waye. Jean v.e. 29.

. . with the further internalIze those tested values and make them their own. ~IV (Winter 196d). 1. 11.aro Connely's plaT." fo place our top1c in proper perspectIve we need to consIder an addit10nal between Idea. Gamma BUlletin. . prosram tor th~ elementarl ohildren ot Amerioa.eople must know tomorrow. quotationa serving as & baokdrop tor conSidering the what l1t~ratur.. of reasonIng. <a) Hicks. ot the mak1ng ethical between distllled students of us1ng tore-thought. . • satletaotorT organizational in crlt10al thinking 10 4 •• irable' plan and what t7pe ot guidanoe . "Seedbede of Ohange·. ~ltb tbeae thre. then. The Dalta lapp. Franoea Rosa. Hlcko. of d1scrimInat1ng task ot helping 'old say1ngs' and those· tradItIons whioh represent wIsdom ot the agel. ~tudents or thInking. and the era ot chang~ ~argaret Mead (3) haa done thi8 whioh Dr.. as expressed Dr. best b1 sal1ngs people Perbaps "~e are nov at the polDt where we must educate and prepare 1n what Dobodr knew . XXXIV (Winter 1963). ¥. "what Are W. the element of chaDge and the momentoua taat v.aran1 deflnea. have.Iorothy Kendall Bracken Pege 2 Y. DoIng to Iaprove Personal Values?"' ~he Delta xa~pa Gamma BulletlD. 110 1n our schools tr for vbat one know. 35. ot Gtvelo~ing crit1cal thlnkers tor a world we know not ot.88terd&1. Grpen PastureSJ 'Everything nailed down is coming loose.'n From the Game magazIne Re8s Hicks involvo comes the second Idea by frances the task ot the educator ~ ••• to (~) when she defined 1n the business Judgments. Jean V. (J) Maranl. yet. but what some . that ot the probleM by ot educatIon as it is oaught lta al.

.Jhe JlCAd ly. A great deal ot guidance specialist 1n ways of 11nding that 'only the r~rcot k1nd ot best 1s given to teachers and curr1culum bOoks ot excellence.. in the in1tIal art1cle ln the L1terature . literature Children's books. (Je~n 3etzner used to say everT teacher should have a refresher course 1n children'. In a"reoeat ~tud1 Paul Andereon ~olled 296 teachers 1n w1del.. Be§~lng TqacheE. book reviews of chlldreu's books.'!etal of the Catholic Librar1 A3soo1at1on. separated schools.\C7.I:!LtUaUngllsh.::: DA. S14dle Joe.. Johnson (~).iLL E~.£N I PAGE. and f regula:rly-otter seotions on literature. 20 (-NOv. therefore. help in abundanee in .eh. ask1ng (!) Johnson. _"ea. as though the1 were graven on our hearts 8S llell as on the Reg1na . Professional lu aD1tblng can be good enou~h tor the yeung.tare's words. ls to rccember the poet llal ter de la . ofter coursee on Children's ~~nn1 newspapers feature Departments ot educat10n L1terature and Adolescence Literature. wrotel Siddle Joe Section of "••• all we have to do. OrganIrlng the Literature Frogram ~&sic to a sequent1nl ~13n tor l1terary experiences of el~$ent~r1 sc~ool children ere books ot excellence. . like lllLUSA. "Excellence For a Beginn1ng.DOROTHY TG. and revlews of There ls.'" lournals.dl." %hI. 1966).matlng visl choipel of ch11dren's books at all age levels. whloh represented 24 states.· 179.o..!l: lls. 9verl 11ve learsa) to The Horn Book 11 • magazine devoted exolusivelT new.S&. ':'c~chertwo years ago.

argare·tenry H good books. Plggle-W1etilo 'lbe Shadow ot a i3ull ~ight1 bea~~ of the Grand Oanyon l'. that in many Bobools children . however.~e It does not always tallow.? Oan book. ot l1terarl value be organized 10 the total school curriculum? . It •• organize aocordlng to type.iperry i1acml11an Eleanor Estes Laura I. th.tive B. organized? IUbJeot matter? 801' It so. •• ma7 encoura8e 0017 literal ... 1. We know. Brace Harper Brothers Houghton Viking Crowell Lippincott Atheneum Rand or the Blue Dolphins Scott O'Dell Boia Josc~h Krumgold Betty MoDonald wo~o1echovska ~_entl-0ne Ealloons And £jaw M1guel .lX}~OT3Y K:zWALL BRACKEN PAGE 4 them-to list the book3 read aloud to the1r classes.1 type. tro~ the chlldren'8 literature b. ~l'hle t Call It Coura~e The Hundred nresses The "Little House" 'Books Island Armstrong . that skills when fle14 curriculums are orgaDlzed for or teachers give guidance 1D development and 1mprove~ent of read1ng-thinklng the children themselves read.? 97 relatioD to II Dot the latter ODe of the If •• organi •• va. Should the book. follow1ng ten books were ment10ned most fraquent11: . hov? B7 theme. ~11der ~lll1am Du Harcourt.. B. more or le ••• echanioal. of oourse. b.ttra.ula of organlzatlon aocording to sub3eot matter. ~Z8.Tille The I: Author i1cb rub11~het Harper C'narlotte'n :B.

Walt tOt William." from three points of view: and "achievlng.elf wag cons1dered up. &8 1n an7 other plan. The StorY about Plnih !~adelln" s Rescue." slvon tOI When this themewas dominant. Lo.ughter and Beal~":'y. Wlt 1. Too L1ttle Ros!. sign1fIcant If we organ1ze according Bracken PageS to theme. Islagd of th~ Blue ]plphlu§. the teacher encouraged of such books as !ioboaX L!§tens to . purposes. we prov1de the teacher w1th orportun1t1es for gu1ding hor pupils toward ideas and the evaluation of theM. . of yar10ul ." "being. (5) Robinson. Little Pear. Alan. B. and Klng ot the Wln4._courageous.M 11 (April 1968). Alan RoblDlOn (S) hal said. grow Boy. others" theme dealt with "understanding One part of the "un~erstand1ng people 1n different was oountr1es. Accept1ng ot La.An4re!.l of Rjad1QS.' s be Enemies. a of :.. The Therapy Understanding "growlci3 the reading around' tbe iollov1ng the:nes: UnderWhat themes might be cons1dered? llrganlze her curriculum stand1ng Ourselves and Others. 549. GllbertQ the AfrO!..nd Secur1t1 ot Knowledge. books tor organizational In uslog the theme of children'. ~rm! . po ••lble tor student. and §eoret ot $he And~. to learD so•• thing of the art of JogED. Ihl Apple and §OX." During the time that "ach1eving" was 1n focus. ot the 01a8a.~mber. H. oonslderat1on ~at T1me 10 1t Jeanne Marlel. of maDf reading levels are ne.ded 1n order for the teaoher to meet readlag need.Dorothy Kend~l Comprehens1on.' !n4 tbe ~l1nd. One teacher chose to Challenge. bOot. "Develop1ng Litet1me Reader.

a wnat Time another 1n the same class may read Secr~t Yet. 1n reading achievement. read orally to share or to prove a polnt (1n real audienoe situations) one of the most de~irable uses ot oral reading. the 1. we often become preoocupied w1th the problems of mere word I8cogn1tion and literal comprehension. all pupils 1n the olass about them. proceeding to the hi~rt of the read1ng process. Stlmulatlng Critical Thinking Although you ~nd I as teachers recognize the comprehensiveness of the reading prooeso as one whioh includes recogn1tion.'#e1 of comprehenslon. and discuss ways of applying 1deas ga1ned trom their reading. encouraging 1nterpretatlon. . oomprehens1on.-- ----------- -- ---- ------ Dorothy Kendall Bracken Page 6 literature without requir1ng allot them to read the same book. the theme ties together the reading experiences of the pupils. 18 to begin the task ot toach1ns pupils to read.11 raising and 14ea8. evaluat1on. and app11cat1on of Fallure. think critically !P~." In the lists enumerated above.___. in organiz1ng focusing attention on share 1deas. wh1le the raading levdls oftered by the-various books. tnkes care ot individual differences Althoueh one child may read by and mB)' . interpretation. Students have various needs at different stages ot development &nd the literature ~rogrn~ s~ould be reflec~1ve ot such needo. but Dot to complete it. that 1s evaluating and appl)'1ng 1dea8. 1s it Je~p~~1 of the Andes.

"Books That Reveal Ethical Values.g ideas. ot oharaoters. V1rgin1a Reid haa said. the evil. (g) Blshop. Instr~~. "Books That Reveal Eth1cal Value. an adult c1t1zen." JeaD BiShOP~~hildren's L1brarian o~ the Public Library at Richmond. The Black:Cauldron (Holt. and speeohee." »urlng the last decade. adventure. He beglne to love the good and bate A8 He ident1ties with the slde of good. "Thical valu~s develop through books when the r~ader identifles with another ch1ld faced with 11ke situations and evaluates his solut10DS. instruction which fosters lnterpretir. 1966. which have romance. ment10ns "Lloyd Alexander who has wrltte~ a chronicle 1n three booke.Book ot Three. Jean. and The Castle of L1Xl. The." Nov. magio spells. : 1 . evaluating them and applying the~ i8 the ultimate goal. . part of his respon81bl11t1 wl11 be to evaluate 1ssues and 811gh himself on the side whioh: seems nearest r1ght. William Durr in ~!adiRg %he.K In discussing the topio.-~rothy Kendall Bracken Page 7 ~~11e it 1s necessary to deal w1th detailed ways and means of improving instruction 1n the areas of word recognition aDd certain types of comprehens10n trom the pOint of view of many types of learners. or1t1oal read1ng bas been the aub3eot ot numerOU8 article. Inherent in that goal is the basic aim of all instruct1on--that ot developing character tra1ts whicll st1mulate desirable thinking and action tor oit1zens ln B changlng soclety. 1965). humor. M1ght1 confliots between foroes ot good and evil ln these books toroe the reader to evaluate the cauaes ot eaoh cast..

~adlng Ingtij9l10DI X. frequentl1 writes and apeake in relation to orit1cal reading." Far (~) has sa1d. RU9sell Stauffer. often'quoted. D1mSDalo. D~yeloping the Abl~~ty to ~ea4 Crl~lcal~~. tt:·!anl children wll1 not do cr1t1cal surely oritical reading by children calls tor teachers Leo reed1n~ or thlnkln~ unleao the teacher directs or challenGos vho are critical thinkers themselves. 19 7. Ohioago: Llona and CBrnahan.41D8 Promot1on Bullei1n.au ••. "Actually oh1ldren at ages well before those at whloh they enter sohool are able to make val1d Judgments in relation to their experience." For the past several lears Sara Lundsteen and Charlotte Huok have been involved in reading research studies deter~lD1ng critioal ab11itJ and va18 ot improving critloal thinking 1n elementary school pupils. tormer ed1tor of ~he Rending OD tOlchlt.lielen it.DOROTHY lendsll Bracken Page 8 ~truct1on: nl~~n~io~~ ~nd Ig~ues (1) reprints an article trom In the %he Re~dlng Teacher." tbem. fmy 1964. the oognitive processes Thf: artiole b1 Helen Huus. Pain ter vrl tes. Leo. Lator she addD. -OrltlLsl and Creative Reading" 1n Readlns aDd JC9uirx 18 (1) Durr. same volu!'l8. BoatoDI Boughton Miftlln. an~ (§) 'a1. i t t . Wll11am. le.. and tb~1r matur1tl levels. Ennis 1n which he delineaten nine major aspects of critioal thinking. by Robert H. ff Children ot pr1mary grades w111 be able to th1nk critically about those situat10ns whioh are a part ot their own exper1ences or can be related to them.

pas8age. research vas to teet the. the value.eadlng skills are defined dltferentl1 by var10us readlo3 experts. making generalizations I speculating on what happened between events. of excellence. Sm1th 1&1.atlng reasoning cause and effect. the acouracT." fbe uee4. passe. detecting the 8ign1tloance of a statement. ant1ci~at1ng what will happeu next. 19 . ct1t12a\ teadln~ goes further "••• in that the reader evaluates.~roth1~end8ll A blgh11 s1~nltleant research study. torming senBor1 images. covering a period ot three years and 1nvolv1ng 30me 600 students in the elementary grades. such as drawing inferences. I i p i . be tra1ned to read and think cr1t1cally? - Bxacken P~." ~11a B. Dr. ident1fying the purassociating p08e of the writer and the motives ot the charactersr perso nal experienoe.. the61u: unequlvoogl. aeanlngs not statod directly In·the text. Readlng Inst~uct10R tor ~Oda~" Pren~lce Hall. and the truthfulness of what 11 read. was completed at Oh10 State Un1versity. Hew Jerse7' (2) Smith. to gather together book. ~udgment OD the quallt. ~'ld£eo.. that le." v with reading oontent. theD 1. inglewoo4 011ft3. Bowever. experlenclng emotional reactioDI. Nila Banton.or .9 The aim ot the Can ele~entar1 school ch1ldren Zhe answer was an Critical r. "Yes. ~~1th (~) likes to th1nk ot cr1t1cal interpretation.eleotlQnl making oompariuons. reading as lnclud1ng literal co~prehen81on ~ She def1nes Interpretive skills as "•••supplying or ant1cl.

and "read" pictures. for pupils must be lead to ~pDII · i I I the results ot their evaluation of Ideas to the1r own 11ye~.ad. (1) First Step--Read1neas Bettlng the stage tor the themo. (2) second chapter bead1Dg. vbile reading tro~ Vurl0U8 -I I! I books related to that th~me.re do Hav.. (a pre-readIng (.) Third step--Pre-DlscussloD imen did thor llve2 Perlod: euppoa. guldance cust go further. PerIods in which the readers 80aD lts meanlng to renders (ot this particular age group). charaoters act the. Is lt r~al or fanciful? tho c~araote~G live? goln~ to bappen in lour bobk? . _hO do lOU iIh.' WDr do lOU think 80? bDat do lOU th1nk is theee thlng.. Jour book 18 about.our Wh1 414 the.Dorothy ~ondall B~acken Page 10 oluster the!lJ" about 1l0rthllh1le thallee. any ot guIded b7 what reads a llttle here and there. Vb1' (5) ~ Fltth Step--Post-DiscussioD . Its unlversality.val I 10U tbought ther voul47 i < r . ever happeoed to 10u1 Rov do lOU think fOur . From a pract1cal point of view. and so b~lde pupl'. 70U 1"1ght about vbat 10U tbouzht ~a8 golul to happen' . one way to enoourage pupils to thInk crltically about a theme. crit1cal thinkers. 1s for the teacher to tollow a procedure such as the following: Introduotions Step--Browslng actlvit1). feel' Or acted the saae va1' Sbould thel' Perloell WeI"' Dld .-renders The that ther wlll develop into mature.~o are tbe people 1n toe story? happens' firlt' Aott Would 1~u have telt that v8lf 110" do the oharaoter.) A fourth Step--~he Reading Periods ~l1at else happens' questlons suoh asa . Qpuld the characters have reaoted dltferentl" It· eo.tort WbJ' (.

&n7 othe~ make-believe SUtlllDa.18 able to lead pupils Dot only 1n . related to pupil'.oang group ot children.~. lives. the.the Wild %blngs Are. Charlotte Huok. . thue. aD organ1zat. recentl. U.lonal pattern alao otler.r1 !be theme approach provldea the teacher with an excellent .ve you ever felt that way? 1fuy? ~~at ldea from your story 1s worth rememberinG? Can you think ot a tl$e you m1ght UBe this ldea or need to reme~ber it? Do you teel d1fferently about some people and some places as a result ~t reading your story? allthor wrote the book? How? ~hy7 uhy do you think the Did he succeed 1n his purpose? appropriate? The illustrator? How dId he tell you about the charncters7 1s It? Are the Ulustratloos anyth1ng about the author? What t1Pe ot l1terature fihy? :Co you knoll B1 using questions.! I wUd bea.Dorothy Kendall Bracken Page 11 act that way'? How did they tcel? Ha.rves to locus attention :00 oonoept. of organizing literature into uu1ts eacb of wbich e.e color8? tao.at' Was Mas BapPl' lOU bo1 alter h1s dream'l notice about the colors in the book' Do lOU WhY did the artist us. aSked these aMong other questions: vere the wl1d things' What kind ot storr 18 it? Washe the Where do to the Could It reall. POr example.eao. 1n demonstrating bow to read a picture book to a . Max I I happen? What did stories' Why' What kind ot bot was Max'l What cUd 8811.lng themes a. teaohers can encourage cr1tical thlnkln~. using ~ere . 'the teacher an o~po~tuDltl tor guiding critical thinking through quest10no aDd d1scusslons.

Dorothy Kendall Bracken Faee 12 lnter?retat1oo. Boyo and cirls may internalize and ~ersona11ze to the point where they actually become dl~ret£nt peaRle.nt ch1ldren' ".' . as a re~ult ot baviD~ had oon tact with gr<!at thomes in r· _.... but also 1n evaluation Bnd appl1cation of ideas gained trom rending. • .'. books and because ot exa1tins reading exper1ences. B .

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