Classroom Caffeine

A Conversation with Gay Ivey

October 12, 2021 Lindsay Persohn Season 2 Episode 11
Classroom Caffeine
A Conversation with Gay Ivey
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Gay Ivey talks to us about motivation in reading, building relationships with kids around books, and what happens when we create circumstances in schools where students drive their own reading and learning.  Gay is known for her work in the areas of reading engagement as a tool for improving the academic and relational lives of children and adolescents. Dr. Ivey is the William E. Moran Distinguished Professor in Literacy at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Lindsay Persohn:

Education Research has a problem. The work of brilliant education researchers often doesn't reach the practice of brilliant teachers. But the questions and challenges from teachers' practice sometimes don't become the work of education researchers. Classroom Caffeine is here to help. In a new episode every other week, I talk with an education researcher or a classroom teacher about what they have learned from their work in education, and what questions they still pursue. In this episode, Dr. Gay Ivey talks to us about motivation and reading, building relationships with kids around books, and what happens when we create circumstances in schools where students drive their own reading and learning. Gay is known for her work in the areas of reading engagement as a tool for improving the academic and relational lives of children and adolescents. Dr. Ivey is the William E. Moran, Distinguished Professor in Literacy at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. For more information about our guest, stay tuned to the end of this episode. So pour a cup of your favorite morning drink and join me, your host, Lindsay Persohn for Classroom Caffeine, research to energize your teaching practice. Gay, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the show.

Gay Ivey:

Thanks, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much, Lindsay, for inviting me.

Lindsay Persohn:

From your own experiences and education. Will you share with us one or two moments that inform your thinking now?

Gay Ivey:

Okay, so I'm going to take this question quite literally, and give you actual moments. You know, I was, before I was a professor a long time ago, I was a middle school reading teacher. And I always said to my roommate at that time, when I was in my 20s, and had a roommate, that I and she agreed, you never come home at the end of the day without a really good story. And so I feel like my career and my thinking has been shaped by actual moments of stories with teachers and with kids in classrooms. And so if you don't mind, I have a couple of those to share that I think reflect how I've come to think about things the way that I do now. And and I do I, I've got tons to pick from. So this is hard. So the first one I'll share comes from just a few years ago, and my colleague, Peter Johnston, I were involved in some data collection for research that we were doing on kids in classrooms, eighth grade classrooms, where teachers prioritized reading engagement. And so we were doing end of year interviews after kids had had a whole year of these really engaging experiences. These were magnificent classrooms, and I'll talk about them a little later, probably, these are magnificent classrooms. And the kids had lots to say, and he had to come to where I live where we were doing the research and we had done a bunch of interviews. And then we had to go down to Orlando to a, to a conference where we're going to be for a few days and then we were going back to finish the interviews. So while we were in Orlando, you know, we didn't want to waste any time. And so I remember we were sitting in like a hotel lobby at a table and we were had her headphones on we were both, transcribing interviews that we had done like super nerds, transcribing the interviews. And at some point, you know, I'm doing an interview after interview and then I look at him and I said, "There's this weird thing..." Because we have asked kids things like, you know, have you read a book this year that can't stop thinking about or that you told somebody about. We asked things like, talk to anybody about what you've read, that kind of thing. But one thing that came up unprompted was that kids were telling us that they had made friends over books. And I said, "Are you getting that?" And he said, "I am." And we realized that we started going back through other interviews we had done and we kept looking for that in the interviews, we had completed to that point. And it was a thing that we hadn't been asking about but in the process of talking about their experiences, this would just come out of the kids. So we decided when we returned back to the school, we were going to ask that question. And we asked that question to kids. And it turns out, we hit the mother lode. I mean, and more of kids telling things that wouldn't have entered our minds at that time, about the kinds of things that would stick with kids about their... and the things that were important to them about their reading experiences. And so, you know, you'll see a little bit later as I talk a little more, a little more about my work of how that fits in. The second story is related and not related. I think it actually fits in the big scheme of things. But this one takes me way back to when I was involved in a team of researchers, led by Dick Allington and Peter Johnston back in the 90s. And we were studying fourth grade teachers around the country who were doing quite well in an unexpected environments with their classrooms and literacy. And I was studying this really lovely teacher named Kim Duhamel and I can name her because she's named in books. So, "Hi, Kim Duhamel, if you're out there in New Jersey!" Just truly one of the most skillful, kind, generous teachers that I've ever met. So we studied these teachers for a couple of years, during the first year that we spent some time in these fourth grade classes, we found out that they were well oiled machines. Like, you know, the kind of places where kids were happy. They loved reading and writing. They were kind to each other, you know, they were self regulated classrooms. You could leave not that you would and leave them by themselves. But if you left, you came back, they were still engaged. They were very much self regulating. And they were the kind of places where, when the days end came around, they they literally groaned because they didn't want to leave school. And so just great places to be. And so we had it in our minds that we wanted to figure out how they got that way. Because all of these classrooms seem to have this in common. And so you know, we can't ask the teachers and they were like, I don't know, you know, and we said, that's our job as researchers to try to distill some of this. So they let us come back and they said, it's something we do the first three weeks of school. So we went back in the second year, and we studied the, you know, from day one, first day of school, and the kids popped in and we studied... well, we were there more, but the especially that first three weeks of school, and we looked at what happened. And that actually explained to us a lot, because they spent a ton of time relationship building and getting to know each other. So and this is kind of a side point but I really think this is important.... I remember, like, you know, 10 o'clock in the morning, going out of classroom for a bathroom break or something and when I left, the kids were in a circle. And, you know, they were talking about things that make them nervous about being in fourth grade, and how important that was, you know, to have that time. And I was thinking about, you know, how many other fourth grade classes other places would have been sitting there with the fourth grade social studies book, like giving those out and getting signed. But the point that I wanted to get to, the moment that I wanted to get to and all of that, because I was in videotaping and so forth and collecting data. But there was a time when Kim gathered all the kids on the rug. And they she said it's time for us to sort of come up with our classroom principles-- how we're going to get along with each other and live together for a year. And she said something like, "Hey, you know, before we start talking about classrooms, let's just talk about some rules we have at home." And you know, you heard kids yell out things, the normal things like pick up after yourself, turn off the light switch when you leave a room, you know, that kind of thing. And then little boy said, don't ride your bike into the bedroom. And I laughed... I was five video camera and I laughed, and all the kids started giggling. And then I looked at Kim space. And she was just looking at him with curiosity, not laughing, not frowning but thought he was cutting up. And I think the other kids did, too. She's smarter than me. And I watched her and everything got quiet because the kids also noticed she wasn't laughing but she wasn't angry. She was just looking at them with curiosity. And she said, "That's a rule I'm not familiar with. Tell me more about that." Because by this time, he has gone pale. He looks mortified. That, you know, I look from her to him. And I went, uh oh, you know. He looked mortified. And she wisely said, "Tell me more about that rule. I don't know that rule." And he explained to everyone that he lives in an apartment complex on a busy road and the only place he could ride a bike was on the sidewalk in front of the apartment doors. His bedroom... and he would ride right into the apartment, which was hardwood, but his bedroom had carpet. So his mom said don't ride your bike into the bedroom because there's carpet there. That was an actual rule. And I was like, "Oh my goodness." I mean I was... it just it shook me. The, her wisdom shook me. And then she turned to the other kids who had all gotten quiet now they were attending very curiously to him. And she said, "You know... you know what? You've made me think you've made me think all of us have rules that are specific to our houses. Let's start with those. What a great idea." So then she invited the other kids to talk about rules that were specific to their houses, normalizing everything that that all kids could do. You can see how easy it was to see how it was that come February, or whenever it was later, those classrooms were engaged, well oiled machines, why the kids were kind to each other. Because she was teaching them that, and I guess, sort of pulling those two moments of many together, I think ways that shaped my thinking and other instances like that are that children often show us things that are in our blind spot, as adults and as teachers, and especially as researchers. And so I've learned a lot in my career, letting kids show me things that I didn't understand, or that I didn't see. And besides that, teachers who listen to kids, like Kim, like other wonderful teachers that I've known in my career, what we can learn from teachers who listen to children, and who respect children, and what they can help us learn about learning and teaching. So I'll stop there.

Lindsay Persohn:

I love those stories. And it certainly brings me back to many conversations I've had through this podcast about building relationships with kids, about being curious about what they already know, and what they're bringing to the classroom situation. And this idea of listening to kids, you know, it shouldn't be this groundbreaking, earth shattering kind of idea that that most often, I think our biggest successes in class, and classrooms come from listening to kids.

Gay Ivey:

That's been my experience, yeah.

Lindsay Persohn:

And I think in a lot of places, we've got to find ways to get back to doing that, rather than only listening to you know, the, the piece of paper, or the textbook that's in front of us, you know. It really is about the people, and it's about relationships with people. So thank you so much for sharing those. I love that not just through the rule that that child brought to class, but then the conversation around it that that really helps to humanize that classroom and I can totally see how that leads to a really productive, happy and healthy year for those kids. And for the teacher. Let's let's not forget that certainly that makes teaching a much more enjoyable journey.

Gay Ivey:

For sure, for sure. And it is I mean, that's I think one of the pieces is, you know, all of the things that make children happy in classes are the same things that make teachers happy. Absolutely. And that's that's been my experience across the board.

Lindsay Persohn:

That's a great point.

Gay Ivey:

I will also add researchers.

Lindsay Persohn:

Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. So speaking of researchers, what would you like listeners to know about your work?

Gay Ivey:

Oh, goodness, well, thank you so much for asking. You know, researchers just love being asked about their work. So you might have to stop me after a while. But you know, I'm what I'm really been interested in, I said before I was I was a middle school teacher, a middle school reading specialist years ago. And I am really interested in the experiences that kids have with the books that they like, and also their experiences with each other around those books. I'm going to say a little bit about what got me to that point, because it helps to shed some light on why I think that is so important. So and so I'm gonna go go back in history a little bit only because it's relevant to sort of what I do now. And I think it will resonate with other people, other teachers like me, you know, who think about these things as well. I was a Title One teacher, and I was from the very beginning that you know, I was in a middle school, I have poverty middle school, where we have lots of kids who, you know, started sixth grade who hadn't had many great school reading experiences. So I found early on that one of the keys, at least entry points for kids was just having the right books. And so my early interest was in looking at the whole context of how kids, particularly kids, whose best experiences were still in front of them with reading, you know, of having just the right books and what a difference that made. And so when I started doing research, I was very interested initially in, you know, motivation and other contextual factors and how we could change the classroom environment to make kids more inclined and happy about their reading. And for those to be more positive experiences. Because at the time in the 90s, when early 90s, when I started, you know, studying in my doctoral program, for sure, you know, most of the research on motivation, documented this downward spiral in dispositions toward reading. You know, so kids in the primary grades were generally positive towards reading and then as they move through the elementary and then middle, and then certainly the high school, there's this, this sharp drop. And, you know, I knew and lots of other people know, it's not because something clicks off from the kids. It's, it's about sort of probably the reading experience, but there wasn't a ton of research at that time that documented the opposite. You know, how do we raise that? It was all yep, here's the problem, we've got a problem. But first, there were some people at that time doing some really lovely work. Elizabeth Moje, Deborah Dillon, especially with older kids that really helped shape my thinking at the time, looking at the, you know, the text and the context. But I decided, because I'm not an incredibly deep thinker, I decided that, you know, soon after my doctoral program that I, there was no more time to wait around. You know we couldn't just continue to document this, this problem. And so I had this very simplistic idea that we just asked kids, what would motivate you? And so I did a pretty large scale survey study that, I guess that a lot of people have read by now, with the subtitle Just Plain Reading, where we ask about 1900 6th graders across, you know, over 100 classrooms, you know, what would make you read? And I wasn't that surprised by the overwhelming response and that was, give me time, because we don't have time at school to read, you know, make good books available, let me choose and, and have a teacher read to us because that seemed to be a very positive thing. That was, I think, somewhat gratifying, because those are the things that I kind of thought as a teacher. And I think that's an important thing. As a teacher, when you get these sort of hunches, boy this, this seems to be going well, there's probably something to it. But it soon became apparent to me that that was what the kids described was hard to find in practice, for various reasons. At the time, when I became really keen to that idea, it was because the thing that was happening, especially in middle school, since that time was strategy instruction units. This unit, we're going to learn to to make an inference and this unit we're going to learn to summarize and this unit... and so people thought that was the way to higher achievement. So we didn't really see lots of classrooms, except for things like Drop Everything and Read an SSR that was divorced from the curriculum. And so it doesn't have the same effect that you know, that doesn't have the same effect. And then there was Reading Workshop, which was still sort of governed a little by things like mini lessons. You practice the things in a Reading Workshop... in other words, you know, kids working on the reading, but I was interested in what would happen if you took kids at their word and you did these things. You know, you you inundated the classrooms with good books, you let them choose with no strings attached. No, no comprehension questions. No reading journal. No, pick your favorite scene and build a sand sculpture to represent it. You know, nothing like that. Just read, because that's what they said-- just read. And I found a group of teachers that were willing to go in on this. And I did have a relationship with a couple of teachers and so they, they, you know, there was a lot of trust back and forth there and a wonderful school district that said, you know, what, the other things that we're doing don't seem to be working. And so we're going to go all in. Well, one of the points I want to make here is that my thinking at the time, and the teachers and let's face it, lots of people was that the idea was, if you do what kids say, they'll want to read, they'll read more, and then their reading achievement will go up. And that was my somewhat tunnel vision at the time. And so I'm signaling there's going to be more to it here. So I work with the four eighth grade teachers, and lo and behold, it was just that easy. We can, we could take kids, you know, going back to my mantra of let kids show you. Well, they showed me that and more. So what happened when the teachers agreed to go in and study this with me across an entire eighth grade in one school, all the classes, kids with IEPs, kids in the Honors Program, it was everybody language learners, all of these things. This was their curriculum. This became the curriculum-- you choose what you want to read, no strings attached, you can abandon a book, you can go as fast or slow as you want to, and as it turns out, it's easy. Kids will do it. I mean, there there are some kids who take longer, and the processes are a little more complicated. But a lot of it was just getting out of kids way. So that ends up being just the starting point. So what happened is that yes, kids test scores went up. Yes, they read more. But those two outcomes ended up being I'm going to say it, the least interesting. Because what kids opened up our eyes to was that they don't read to get better at reading. They read for other reasons. And they don't even necessarily read because they just, quote, "love to read." And you know, we're always we've got the, you know, the posters that said, "Reading, you know, Just Read, Learn to Love Reading." It was about other phenomena that were, you know, that were happening in... and when you had a group, not just a group of 25 kids in one class, but 300 kids across four classes, who were interacting with each other, and teachers who were engaged, you have a collective community of engaged readers. So we had, we did have children who read 100 books in a year, and we had kids who read 10 books in a year, and they had never read books before. But it wasn't the volume of reading that mattered as much. It wasn't the volume, it was the fabric of their experiences around the books that mattered. So what happened was what started off, as you know, we've got an hour and a half a class, the teachers devoted, you know, the first half hour to their choices, the second half hour of the teacher reading aloud to them. And the last half an hour was writing time. What happened was that there was silent reading became loud, because the kids felt compelled to talk to each other about what they read. As the kids put it, they would have to "rage" to each other. And the reason that they wanted to talk to each other is that they chose books and narratives, and this was mainly narrative, fiction and narrative nonfiction. They chose books that kind of left them a loose ends that were a little bit disturbing. They were complicated. They were structurally complicated. Topic wise, they were complicated. And they wanted to think more about them, or they were left, you know, with with lots of questions, and they wanted to get another person's perspective on it, they needed to talk it out. So not only would they talk, and so so silent reading became read and talk. And these a lot of people ask me where these literature circles and I go, "No, no, no, no" because that's a misconception. They were not formal. They just sprouted up everywhere. And it wasn't just in class, it was on the bus, it was in the cafeteria, it was at home, it was on text overnight. It was all kinds of places, it was across classrooms. And they felt compelled to talk because they were still grappling with the information in it. And for the most part, it was them trying to figure out something about life, about their own lives, about the people in their lives, about the relationships and so forth. And so, so then you have a different situation... You know, when I was a teacher, and and this this has practical implications, and it has learning implications. So one of the practical implications that that we saw was that no longer is the teacher now a responsible person for seeing that everybody gets engaged. Now, when I was up when I was a middle school teacher, I think, the original Book Whisperer. No, no offense, to the wonderful Donalyn Miller but way back when, I mean, a lot of us felt that way. A lot of us were Book Whisperers way back in the day, you know, and I thought was my job to find the book for this kid. And when they finished it, I have to like find their next book and their next book and have another book on deck and another book on deck. And then I go to the next kid, you know, when you would work... well, when you have collective engagement in the classroom, and that's the priority, the kids do the work. So they are hound other kids, they hound teachers. Kids get involved in reading books. Sometimes, you know, we tend to think Well, what's the book you're interested in? What what are you interested, let me find you, let me find you a book that matches your interests. And that wasn't necessarily how kids came to want to read certain books. So for instance, you know, a girl wanted to read the Perfect Chemistry series, not because she was that interested in the Perfect Chemistry as a series but because it was a group of boys reading it, and she wanted to get in on their conversations. I don't care because she started reading, but in the midst of that reading, so our initial motivation was she wants to get in on a certain conversation. In the midst of reading that she found out that one of the characters, one of the things she was struggling with was that she didn't know Spanish, even though a number for family members only spoke Spanish. And this student in the class had the same thing going on. She only recognized that she was struggling with that when she saw the character struggling with that. When that happened, when she reached that point in the book, she actually separated herself from that group of boys and found a girl to talk to who she felt she can have that conversation with. And so motivations arise in unusual places. I went from practical to somewhat theoretical there, but but it's a nice mix. So and these were, this gets into some of the reasons why the kids read, because it helps them figure out relationships, it helped them decide who they were going to be, in terms of moral commitments. And so lots of kids talked about, you know, because I got to get inside characters heads, you know, "I never knew that people felt this way." And so knowing that, that then affect their relationships with people in the real world, like knowing "Oh, my goodness, if I say this, it might hurt a person's feelings," you know, who am I going to be in that situation. And so we saw kids reporting becoming kinder, but also we observe them becoming kinder and, and intellectually flexible, and all of those things. So it's a think about, like, where I started. And I think what I've learned from my research, I think is important to me in my own growth was how I've changed in my thinking, and how I'm glad that the kids forced me to be open to some things that I didn't see. And so we started with, let's make it so the kids will read, because then they'll read more, and they'll get better at it to, goodness gracious, let's look at why kids would read in the first place. And so you start to look at, I'm not just teaching kids, so they'll get better at reading. They're inseparably becoming, you know, little adults, and they're becoming as human beings. And so reading and literature is not separate from who you're becoming as a person. And oftentimes, we forget that when we think about all the skills, and strategies and things that come up in a curriculum, and by the way, the kids aced all of those things. And so I think that is, you know, you ask what you what I wanted people to know about my research. And and I think it's both of those things-- that research has helped broaden my perspective, and hopefully get a little smarter about reading, but also that reading itself can be a lot more for kids in school, and we can help them to see reasons for reading in school, other than getting the right answer, or just getting through the reading, which is a lot of what older kids experience. When when kids are engaged in reading, you know, they become more self regulated, they're more socially engaged, they have richer and more expansive relationships, they have greater moral commitments, there are shifts in them intellectually, you know, all of these things... they have more positive narratives about their futures, all of these things, and so we can't teach... In fact, if we just teach for more reading and reading achievement, our outcomes are going to be limited.

Lindsay Persohn:

Yep. And as you're describing these situations, Gay, I'm making so many connections, and particularly thinking about how the reading experiences you're describing.... there's nothing contrived about them, their authentic engagement with books, which should be so simple to achieve, right? Just put great books in your classroom and let kids have the time to explore them. You know, it doesn't take a million dollar prepackaged curriculum to get to that and to be that something that I feel like brings the magic back into a classroom whenever you do have kids who are... they're exploring these topics on their own, they're having conversations on their own without us sort of giving them that framework or that 'must do' kind of check off the boxes. Because when we boil reading down to checking off boxes, that's all we're really going to get back. But whenever we instead put the situation to create the atmosphere, where kids can have these authentic experiences with books, we do get so much more than that from them. So I love this message of, you know, making time, books, choice, and, and you know, and then also reading to our students, putting those four things into place and, and kind of watching the magic happen, because kids will, they'll take that up. And what you said earlier about getting out of kids way, and that kids never read to get better at reading, that really resonates with me, because I think so often we do turn reading in, at school, into this, you know, staunch learning activity, when really as you said, we just need to give them good things to read, and then get out of the way. Be ready to to engage with them kind of on their own time and in their own agenda, while of course, providing supports for them to to navigate those things, but really letting kids kind of take the reins. You know, in my mind, obviously that creates motivation and engagement, because we are turning it over to kids. Yeah, what a great message.

Gay Ivey:

May I add something, I failed to say because there's a parallel here, after a few years of working with a teacher is when we started to see, you know, things were sprouting off in directions that we didn't anticipate. That's when after being in the classrooms for several years, I invited my friend, Peter Johnson to come in and see what was going on, because it overlapped with some of the work that he was doing. And then he joined me in the research from then on out. But I think even that relationship of bringing another mind into what I was seeing, it parallels what the kids were doing. You know, they were like, there's something here, I don't quite understand it, I need to talk to somebody else about it. That's the very thing that was happening with me and the teachers is there's something going on here, it's kind of exciting, I'm not sure I quite understand it. Let me get somebody else in here. And so since that time, that first couple of years, this is these are projects that Peter Johnston and I have been working on together. And we're actually currently working on a book. And you know, it's not, it's not coming your way anytime soon, because we're a little slow. But it's hard to work in a silo. And it's for teachers, it's hard too, when you see something, and you're trying to, you know, sort of knock the edges off you're thinking, other people really help. And that's true across from children, to teachers, to researchers, everybody, other people matter.

Lindsay Persohn:

And that's really my hope with this podcast project is that it will give teachers people to think with and people to connect with. And yeah, I know you've mentioned Peter several times and just for listeners sake out there, there is a Classroom Caffeine episode with Peter Johnston, where he talks about some of these great ideas around reading and motivation and being human with kids, which I think is so very important and it's something that we've we've often lost sight of in education. Um, you also mentioned Elizabeth Moje, and her work around adolescent reading, and she also has a Classroom Caffeine episode. So thank you for helping to make those connections because I think that does, it does help to create a conversation and it does help us to, to think in multiple directions. And also it gives, it gives us all some connections to make and some routes for exploring these ideas through the work and the conversations of others. So thank you for those connections, too, Gay. One last question for you today. Given the challenges of today's educational climate, what message do you want teachers to hear?

Gay Ivey:

Well, depending on where you are, there are more challenges than than others. I know that I'm in North Carolina and there are a lot of people having a say right now from lots of different directions in what teachers do in their classrooms and what happens in schools. And I don't know what to do about that, from my perspective. And so I you know, I will say a couple of things that are relevant to the work that I've done, and because if it's if there are lots of fads, there are lots of trends. We know what they are right now there will be something else. But I think for me, I think the message that that I would want to emphasize really does have to do with the power of engagement. No matter what is being handed to you and I know some of the things handed to us make engagement seem hard to attain. But I have found that when we arrange first for kids to be engaged, it makes a lot of other things more possible. And when I say engagement, it's the kind of, I think the kinds of things that I was just describing, from the kids in the research where, you know, they would keep it up even if we left the room. They take it with them outside of school. If we said you can quit, they still keep going. So when I'm talking about engagement, it's something that can't be attained through a clever hook and a lesson or a hands on activity, where kids right, you know, have questions, I think that those are, those don't necessarily lead to deep engagement, I think engagement is a process. But if we can make engagement first the priority, and especially in a school year, I mean, if you do focus on first, getting kids engaged, and helping to build relationships, the rest of the year has been more productive. And if you think about collective engagement, that you're that we are, we're teaching, yes, we're teaching individuals, but we're also teaching 25 individuals together. And I think oftentimes that gets forgotten that we're also we're teaching individuals but we're also teaching individuals to live and work together, and the classroom makes that very convenient for us. Here we have sort of a microcosm, you know, to work with. And so collective engagement does a lot of things for us. So, you know, thinking about the I, my best advice for teachers or message for teachers comes from watching other teachers who do this a lot better than I ever learned to. And one of the things that I noticed, when kids are engaged, they make teaching the things that we think of conventionally as the concepts we need to be teaching, they make it so easy, because the kids find the concepts useful. So a good example would be one of the eighth grade teachers, you know, she, she was very mindful of the curriculum standards and the things that kids would be tested on, but she didn't let that sort of drive her instruction. She had it in her mind and when, when it was useful to bring those things up, she did. So putting engagement first. I mean, the kids that that I observed, were just as engaged in teacher read aloud of really good books, and with each other. And so I remember, for example, in the midst of a read aloud, it was this book called What Happened to Cast McBride, some of your listeners, some of you people know that book, it is an interesting and complex book, because it has, it's told from about four different perspectives. And so young adult literature is not easy. It's not necessarily easier. And so in the midst of the read aloud, the kids were really into it, they would beg for more chapters to be read every day. And, and even when lunch came next, they were often late to lunch, that just gives you a sense of what engagement means they're, they they miss lunch sometimes. So in the midst of reading aloud one day, one of the kids, the teacher read aloud, one of the kids goes, "Oh, man!" You know something like, "Oh, man, I'm so confused. I can't tell if this story is told in the past, or the present." And the teacher, not missing a beat, and because she is very aware of the kinds of concepts that somebody else thinks are important. And they are important said, "Oh, I can understand your confusion. Because the story is told in flashbacks. Let's go back and look at that." So in addition to having shifting perspectives, it was told in flashbacks. You know, and it's one conversation in a very short time, they talked about flashbacks, they talked about, you know, what shifting perspectives do for us, and what it does for the reader. And she didn't have to define them because they were experiencing that. She simply named them and then the kids would point them out as they came in other in other books that they were reading they were noticed these things. And that's because there was so much collective engagement. There were so many different kinds of books and circulations, so many and so many possibilities, and it didn't come up just that one time and that book, but across the school year, some of these same concepts came up, but they were I think equally not to get away from I think the the broader issues that I brought up before about the bigger reasons kids might read. You know kids don't don't read to identify literary concepts either. You know, she also in those same conversations, you know, would would say, you know, for instance in a in a read aloud of a book called Jumping off Swings, where a character gets pregnant, a teenage character gets pregnant and the school says you know, you you can come to school anymore, you can have to have homeschool. You know, she looks at them and says, "I don't know what what's the school's moral commitment? What do you think? Are you all struggling with this the way that I am?" And, you know, they all were like, "Oh, the school is horrible." And she said, "I don't know, play the other side." And so, you know, they came up with a host of perspectives on this very complicated issue. And the point was not to get to the right answer, but to help them to learn to be really flexible, morally grounded thinkers who were developing their own moral compass. And of course, the development of a moral compass necessitates being open to multiple perspectives. It's not separate from critical thinking. And so these opportunities, and I'm going to call it for explicit instruction. Some people would say well that's just a teachable moment, you know, it doesn't it came up, I would say this... Peter, and I've talked about this. This is the most explicit kind of instruction that's very explicit. This came up because the kids, I mean, she's reacting to the kids, you know. This came up because the kids were engaged. So the the possibilities for explicit teaching of all kinds, things are in the curriculum and things that probably should be in the curriculum, but are not, they make themselves, you know, available, when the kids are engaged, and the kids find out how much those things enrich their experiences with literacy. So engagement first is I think it is I know, that sounds difficult with the challenges that people face, but that this is my little corner of the universe, that I can I think I can speak to a little bit. So if that helps people, you know, chip away at some of the challenge is that they feel right now, and I do hope that's helpful.

Lindsay Persohn:

I think that's quite helpful. And, you know, I often sort of put myself back in the shoes of my former self as a classroom teacher, while I'm talking on the podcast and I can't imagine that putting this concept of engagement and those authentic experiences, putting those at the forefront of what we do in schools, it absolutely makes for happier environments, and happier people. And I think that's really hard to argue with, regardless of, you know, whatever the politics of the moment are saying, whatever the mandates of the moment are, but if you, you know, if you can walk into a school and find happy kids and happy teachers there, as you said earlier, that often does lead to all of those things that seems so elusive that we're always chasing after this higher test scores and, you know, the academic achievement and movement in school grades, those things. But I think if we get back to this human aspect of teaching, and what it really means to be... you know, to have a relationship with kids, and have a relationship with our colleagues, to have a relationship with the material that we're talking about, you know, like you're so you're you're talking about these books that have been read aloud in classrooms. When we have those things the rest of the pieces really do, I won't say it's as easy as fall into place, but we get a lot closer to that, a whole lot closer. So thank you for that.

Gay Ivey:

Thanks. And I just as an add on, relevant to what you're saying... and by the way, well said...

Lindsay Persohn:

Thank you.

Gay Ivey:

But I think the experiences that I've had in my research lately, it's the first time probably in my career in these situations where I have felt that children, teachers, children's parents, and the researchers, us are all on the same page, and really all happy about the way things are going.

Lindsay Persohn:

That's great. A little infusion of optimism is always a great thing, isn't it?

Gay Ivey:

Yes.

Lindsay Persohn:

I've so enjoyed talking with you today, Gay and I thank you so much for your time, and I thank you for your contributions to the field of education.

Gay Ivey:

Thank you so much, Lindsay. Thank you for this podcast. Thank you for what you're doing with it.

Lindsay Persohn:

Thanks so much. Dr. Gay Ivey is known for her work in the areas of reading engagement as a tool for improving the academic and relational lives of children and adolescents. She studies what it takes for children in K through 12 classrooms to become engaged rather than merely compliant in reading and writing, along with the positive consequences of that engagement for children's and young adults literacy development. In her most recent research among students in classrooms where engaged reading is prioritized, she has documented not only academic growth, but also inseparable improvements in their social, emotional, and intellectual lives. She's published her learning in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Language Arts, and Educational Leadership. She began her career as a middle school reading teacher and prior to her present position, she served at Rutgers University, the University of Maryland at College Park, James Madison University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Tashia F. Morgridge Chair in Reading. Gay is a Past President of the Literacy Research Association and an elected member of the Reading Hall of Fame. Dr. Ivey is the William E. Moran, Distinguished Professor in Literacy at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. For the good of all students, good research should inform good practice and vice versa. Listeners are invited to respond to an episode, learn more about our guests, search past episodes, or request a topic or conversation with a specific person through our website at ClassroomCaffeine.com. If you've learned something today, or just enjoyed listening, please be encouraged to talk about what you heard with your colleagues, and subscribe and review this podcast through your podcast provider. As always, I raise my mug to you teachers. Thanks for joining me.