Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Conversations in Literature
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

Individual Program

1. Responding
as Readers

2. Envisioning

3. Stepping In

4. Moving Through

5. Rethinking

6. Objectifying
the Text

7. The Stances
in Action

8. Returning to the

Support Materials

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Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection

Ongoing Activity
Additional Reading

Key Points

  Effective readers engage in a close transaction with text, totally immersing themselves in the text world.

  Envisionments are text worlds in your mind full of a vast horizon of possibilities. Successful readers actively live in these text worlds during their reading experience and through it build rich literary understandings.

  While all readers create meaning by unconsciously utilizing the envisionment-building process, less successful readers have difficulties applying these skills to what they read in order to create a rich interaction with the text.

  The term stance refers to a mental process that readers employ in order to make meaning out of what they read, no matter what reading ability they have achieved. Stances reflect the way readers stand in relationship to the text at any given point in reading. Effective readers adapt four basic stances as needed, creating their own unified understanding of the text.

  Envisionment building is not a teaching method imposed on readers, but rather it describes how successful readers interact with texts and suggests ways to help students build competence.

  Research demonstrates that many language arts instructional practices are based on the premise that literary texts are seen as sources of information to be mined, rather than as text worlds that invite interaction and reflection. Many teachers have been taught this way and trained to teach this way. Thus, techniques such as gathering plot summaries and searching for the best interpretation of the text have often been ingrained in their pedagogical practices. Yet, teachers want their students to have rich literary experiences, and they need to find new ways to accomplish that.

   Teachers can help students grow as envisionment builders by creating literary communities that allow for thoughtful discussions by providing opportunities for students to think about text in multiple ways, from a wide assortment of perspectives.

The Four Stances:

Being Out and Stepping Into an Envisionment
When readers step into the text world, they search for clues in order to form initial impressions about the literature and their journey through it. Readers stand in this position from the first moment they pick up the book. This relationship to the text also occurs when readers are confounded by new information in the text, and are then forced to return to this stance to clarify or adjust an envisionment.

Being In and Moving Through an Envisionment
Being In and Moving Through text allows readers to connect personal experiences and background knowledge to the text world. Here, readers move through the text world, observing the lives of the characters, breathing in the setting, conflicts and dilemmas, and wondering what they might do if they were in the characters' situations. Readers become part of the text world through their own cognitive journey. As they take multiple perspectives and consider possibilities, their understandings deepen.

Stepping Out and Rethinking What One Knows
When readers Step Out and Rethink, they use the text as an opportunity to reconsider aspects of their own lives, reflecting upon decisions, experiences, and dilemmas. This is one of the most powerful reasons we read literature — to understand ourselves and the world around us better. In this stance, readers have an opportunity to examine their past lives, their present lives, and the lives that lie ahead of them.

Stepping Out and Objectifying the Experience
This stance provides readers with the opportunities to critique the text as a literary work, analyzing the author's craft, use of imagery, language, structure and allusions and objectifying their interpretations of the text. In this position, readers have the opportunity to see how the literary elements relate to the whole work's meaning, as well as how the work relates to other texts.

Principles of an Envisionment-Building Classroom:
  • Students are treated as life-long envisionment builders.
  • Questions are treated as part of the literary experience.
  • Class meetings are a time to develop understandings.
  • Multiple perspectives are used to enrich interpretation.
Teachers can offer support to students as they grow as envisionment builders by:
  • Providing framed questions that provoke students to respond to text in multiple ways.
  • Building a literary community of engaged readers where mutual respect is the basis. Here, students have respect for the text, for one another, and for the unique perspectives that each community member offers, and for well-developed and well-explained interpretations.

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