The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

November 14, 2010

Ch. 8- What Facts Does This Poem Teach You?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 7:35 pm

Those of you who have been following my blog have a pretty good idea what Louise Rosenblatt would have to say about that question. Not being one who enjoys poetry, I was interested to read what Rosenblatt had to say about the literary form. Essentially, Roseblatt compares poetry to other literary forms–that they can be read both aesthetically and efferently. However, the aesthetic form of the poem is more complex than other forms of writing, because not only is there the meaning involved, but also the placement of text on the page, the use of capital or lower-case letters, and the rhythm and rhyme of a poem.

“The parent’s and the teacher’s concern about helping the youngster to acquire the referential language code may contribute to a stifling or at least a weakening of the child’s initial awareness of the sensuous, affective, and associational aspects of the experience towards which words point,” (p. 101). This sentence sums up the meat of this chapter. Here Rosenblatt argues that adults, teachers and parent, place higher value on efferent reading. The result is something as seemingly aesthetic as poetry becomes an efferent exercise. Rosenblatt shares a classroom observation, where her eye catches a workbook page with a poem. She states that she was happy to see that students were reading poetry, until she stepped closer and saw the directions, “What facts does this poem teach you?” The entire assignment based on finding absolute truths in poetry.

Rosenblatt argues that teachers do not need to go back to school or to change their teaching techniques in order to be more inclusive of the aesthetic stance of reading. Instead, she suggests that adults, teachers and parents, keeping the following things in mind:

1. Do not generate an efferent stance when presenting texts as poems or stories or plays.

2. Do not use the texts being read aesthetically for the explicit teaching of reading skills.

3. Do not preface aesthetic reading with requests for information or analysis that require predominately efferent reading.

4. Do not hurry the young reader away from the lived-through aesthetic experience by too quickly demanding summaries, paraphrases, character analyses, or explanations of broad themes.

5. Do not hurry the young reader into substituting literary terminology or definitions for the lived through work.

As I type these suggestions, I flash back to my own teaching experiences. I have made many of these mistakes myself–requiring my students to read efferently when they should have been enjoying the aesthetic experience. It seems silly now that I made those mistakes. I am an avid reader, and I never do any of those things that I asked my students to do in the classroom!


See definition 2




1 Comment »

  1. I think we all can remember times when we went directly into an efferent approach when teaching our students. Most of us learned to use the efferent stance in our own schooling, so it seems natural to go that route as an instructor. I have taught creative writing and I found that students really liked poetry, including both reading and writing poetry – I think it’s really important to allow the aesthetic connection students can have for poetry as an art form, but I, too, found myself sometimes going straight toward the efferent stance. I like the list of “don’t’s” that you include in this posting. These suggestions are really helpful and they remind me of how important it is to take that time for the aesthetic enjoyment of poetry.

    Comment by Pam Herrington — November 30, 2010 @ 4:00 am | Reply

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