Transformations creates another context for reading and discussing the study passage.
It involves writing part of the text on strips of card and displaying them on a board so that they can be cut into words, phrases or clauses and manipulated. This creates a range of activities from word recognition games for early readers to high level, analytic discussion of the effect of the writer’s language choices on readers’ emotions.
Transformations allows for discussions about grammar and punctuation as well as the development of the meta-language shared by all literate users of English.
It invokes intersubjectivity, described by James Wertsch (1985) for its potential to create a special world in which all participants (in this case students and teachers) share negotiated understandings. Although they may bring different backgrounds and understanding to a particular text, Wertsch says through ‘…semiotically mediated “negotiation” they create a temporarily shared social world, a state of intersubjectivity’.
Each participant in a lesson brings knowledge from his or her experience that has the potential to add to the richness of discussion about a reading text. There is then potential for all to learn from each other as well as from the author of the text and the teacher.
Transformations means students and teachers analyse a writer’s craft as if they were writers themselves, providing the context for analysing the writer’s technique and discussing the effect on readers of the way he or she used words. The passage they are analysing could be, for instance, a character description that influences readers to dislike that character.
At this point in a teaching sequence, participants are developing common knowledge about the study text that leads to a high level of comprehension and familiarity with the wording. Students with low levels of reading achievement would, by now, be able to draw on meaning and their memory for the text to read it.
While this achievement is heartening and interesting for students, they are still fragile readers in that they may not be able to decode text they have not been taught to read. While they can now work on interesting and challenging text at a level much nearer age-appropriate, they would not necessarily be able to pick up any book at an age-appropriate level and read it at 90 per cent accuracy or more. Most students in this situation have problems with decoding at an automatic level that makes both reading and writing difficult for them.
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