If you’ve ever been to a museum, you may have noticed that items on display are organized in specific ways. Displays, by design, pique interest, evoke emotion, or urge action unique to each individual’s experiences. The way items are grouped together, the exhibit label, the space between items and use of white space–all are part of the curation process.
To a novice, it might seem that the biggest job of a curator is the time it takes to create a visual that the end-user will see and experience. On the contrary, museum curators’ responsibilities are multi-faceted, including taking good care of the items, restoring and/or replacing items when needed, and being immersed in the topic/subject so that they can serve as an expert. In addition, a curator makes sure that consumers have access to the museum’s collections–whether it be online or in person.
Teachers can serve as curators of texts in much the same way. We can make deliberate moves to pique interest, evoke emotion, and urge action in readers. And we can invite our students to be curators, too. Here’s how.
Kidwatching & Surveys to Guide Curation
Stoking students’ interests in reading starts by putting together texts or texts sets that give kids inspiration and motivation to keep reading–not because someone tells them to, but because they want to read on, find out what happens next, or learn more. Students’ engagement and motivation increase when we re-define the word text. A text can be anything a student reads, views, listens to, or experiences. For example, students might read texts that are in the form of a poem, a book, an infographic, or a video. By widening our definition, we open up new possibilities of resources that students can explore, often bolstering their interest in reading more.
Curating is fun and easy when we know our students well because when we understand our students’ likes and dislikes, we save time and go right after matching texts with students’ wants and needs. Here are 7 steps that streamline text curation.
- Kidwatch so that you can learn about your students’ reading interests by surveying them, playing get-to-know-you games, and conferring with them one-to-one.
- Select texts that match students’ wants and needs.
- Decide how you will use the texts, considering whether the biggest impact will be during whole group, small group, or one-to-one.
- Spark interest in the texts by sharing them with students.
- Read and construct meaning of the texts, either with students or by asking students to read them independently.
- Invite students to curate texts for themselves and others.
- Reflect on the process so you can determine if you need to curate more texts now or in the future.
To illustrate some of these steps, let’s meet Matt. This fourth grader, interested in the world around him, can’t put a book down. He’s a soccer-playing people person, a conversationalist. Through a survey, Matt shared that his favorite YouTubers are the Ireland Boys, two brothers who create entertaining videos about 24 Hour Overnight Challenges, Food Challenges, Hide and Seek, Epic Forts, Dare or Dare, and more. Knowing this information gives me a leg-up when curating texts for Matt because behind their funny, dare-devilish videos lies a key message — “believe in yourself and your dreams.” With a small group or independently, Matt could:
- Read about the history of The Ireland Boys
- Learn about their first live concert
- Investigate where they get the ideas for their videos and content
- Explore how they make their videos
Each video is a short text–one that is read through viewing–and provides new opportunities for learning. Through video, readers like Matt can:
- Take note, think about, and discuss what they know about the beginning, middle and end of the video
- Explore how music, narration, and intentional pausing contributes to the meaning of the text
- Use the video as a mentor text for future learning opportunities
For more on these steps, see pages 186-196 in What Are You Grouping For? How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers–Not the Book.
Students as Curators for Self and Others
Teachers aren’t the only ones who can curate texts. Kids are excellent curators for themselves and others because they are often in-the-know of hot topics, new ideas, and exciting entry points to learn about the world around them. They are the consumers of text so why wouldn’t we get them involved? There isn’t one right way to curate, so let’s explore a few ways to jump-start student curation.
- Create partnerships and give pairs a chance to brainstorm a bunch of topics they are interested in learning more about. As a follow-up, ask partners to narrow the focus of their list to 3-4 ideas, then each spend some time finding texts that they could read.
Hint: Encourage students to think beyond the book when curating–videos, poems, news articles, images.
- During a whole group minilesson, do an article chat about 5-6 different short articles that you find interesting. Hold the articles up, give a little ditty about each, and then ask students to select 1-2 articles to read in a small group or independently. At the end of workshop, gather students to debrief and reflect on what they learned, what they liked, what they disliked, and what they’d like to know more about. If there are students who have an interest, invite them to curate a few more texts around a hot topic that was discussed that could be read by some or all in the days to come.
Hint: When you are gathering articles for the minilesson, select a wide-range of topics so that you are able to appeal to many different readers’ interests.
- Give students a quick survey with a list of topics. For example, ask students to pick topics in the list below expressing their top 2 topics that sound the most interesting. Form small groups around each high-interest topic. Then, give students the task of curating some texts for themselves and others related to their topic. Finally, give students lots of time to read, collect ideas, talk, share, and curate some more.
- Famous Musicians [past and present]
- History of Football
- What do we really need to know about Dav Pilkey?
- Unsung Heroes
- Citronella–does it really work and if so, how?
- Who are the characters in our books that are worth knowing?
- All About Shoes…
Hint: Have students co-create a list of topic choices with you.
Just like museum curators, teachers are curators too–collectors and organizers of beautiful, engaging texts that make kids want to jump out of bed each day and read. Imagine classroom bookshelves, reading nooks filled with magazines, videos linked on students’ laptops, files of interesting infographics, and tubs filled with inviting texts that kids have trouble putting down. And, just as museum curators take care of their collections, teachers work to weed through classroom resources, pruning and tidying in order to keep things fresh and up to date. In addition, teachers immerse themselves in texts because being an avid reader is key to book matching– matching the interests of students with titles that will create fires in their bellies and fill up their reading appetite.