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by Bronwyn Mellor and Annette Patterson
Student book Year 8+
Investigating Texts is a book about texts and reading. It is designed for secondary school students in Years 8 and 9, and is intended to serve as a challenging yet accessible introduction to more sophisticated analyses of texts required in later years. Each of the four chapters, which suggest a sequenced course of study, contains a range of fiction and non-fiction texts accompanied by thought-provoking and enjoyable activities. Although the issues addressed are frequently complex, the approaches taken are activity-based and give students scope to investigate ideas about reading and to clarify their thinking through discussion and writing.
The first chapter called 'Investigating texts' asks students to investigate the concept of text and what it might mean to 'behave like a reader'. After reading and comparing two short stories, the question, 'what is a story?' is posed. Students are then asked to distinguish a fiction text from a number of non-fiction texts and to identify the sources of the latter. It is suggested that although it is quite easy to perform these tasks, it is not so easy to describe texts in terms only of their features or ingredients; that it is necessary to talk about how texts are read, and what is more, how they are read on particular occasions.
'Making texts', the second chapter, asks students via a series of activities to consider what they expect of texts, and to investigate the conventions of fiction and non-fiction. They are given the opportunity to manipulate the 'ingredients' of texts, to read in terms of commonalities and to speculate about the rules by which both the composition and consumption of texts are organised. The ways in which particular kinds of reading and writing activities assume the text as a certain kind of object - as a model, for example, or as an object of criticism or as an occasion for self-questioning - is made explicit, and students are encouraged to investigate a range of uses of texts and the implications of these for reading and writing.
Chapter three, 'Changing texts' asks students to consider, through a number of fascinating examples, how both fiction and non-fiction texts have changed over time, and how the ways in which readers read texts can change too. The 'retelling' of texts in terms of changing norms is considered via an 'updated' version of 'Scheherazade'; a student's feminist adaptation of her own text (initially written using a romance as a model), and an encyclopedia entry.
'Reading practices', the fourth chapter, poses further questions about different ways of reading. Through reading a number of didactic texts alongside three stories from a genre that is not usually read for morally improving lessons, students are asked to consider how different their reading practices can be.
Since many of the concepts presented in Investigating Texts are quite abstract, concrete activities such as predictions, chart building and comparative analyses have been developed to support students' investigations. The texts, from a range of sources, are strong, and will engage students, as will the imaginative and carefully planned activities that accompany them.
A4 96pp ISBN 1 875136 19 3
A Chalkface Press original
Cover details: Symmetry Drawing E 21 (1938) M.C. Escher © 1996 Cordon Art – Baarn – Holland. All rights reserved.
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