The Exit model is an attempt at amending this flaw. It is a lot more interactive, backing up each process stage with an accompanying question. Its design is more along the lines of what Meek (1996) called for: “It depends on a conception of information that includes uncertainty, probability, hypothesis making, using information in the puzzling-out mode….Informative teaching and learning in this mode demand interpersonal dialogue, whether in the silence of reading and writing or in the exchange of classroom discussion.
” From its format, it could be suggested that it is too simplistic to assume that learning is so linear. However, Wray and Lewis forwarn about how its use is intended: “We do not intend to imply that this model has to be slavishly followed through in a linear fashion. All interactions with texts in order to learn will involve a much more complex amalgam of mental processes than a simple linear list of stages.”
With this in mind, I consider the Exit model as a means by which to classify the stages of learning from non-fiction texts.
Knowing where to begin with a non-fiction text depends upon the children. It has to start from where they currently are and progress from there. Wray and Lewis suggest the use of KWL grids (Ogle, 1989), as a teaching strategy for the research process: “It gives a logical structure for tackling research tasks in many areas of the curriculum.”
Before the work begins with a text, a topic needs to be established. A successful topic is one that captures the children’s interest.
If this is not established from the outset, then any learning it is hoped will be produced from engaging with texts, will be limited. A topic that is unfamiliar will hamper them from making meaning of it in the texts that they use. Meek (1996), argues that: “Primary school children are willing seekers after specific detail when they are imaginatively engaged in a topic that interests them.”
Perhaps a recent school visit, or a religious festival has raised a lot of interest in a particular subject. A successful topic is one that every child has had experience of. For example, on my previous teaching practice I worked with four and five year olds. The topic for the second half of term was the seaside, because everyone had been there and it proved popular in discussion time. I was taking the first literacy lesson and had to base it around the topic. I decided to base it over two sessions, with the outcome of producing a classbook. The first session involved a lot of discussion about their previous experience and lead to questions being raised.
They then spent the rest of the session looking at books that had been put on display by the teacher. The following session they had to write a few sentences on what they knew about the seaside and accompany this with an illustration. The results were thirty pieces of individual writing and some very interesting pictures. We discussed the classbook at the end, which went on to show that their knowledge on the subject had increased since using the information sources. The lesson was far from perfect and looking back I would change a lot of things, but the work they had produced showed that they were drawing on previous experience as well as the information that was being offered to them in the books.
After the topic is firmly established, the next stage is to elicit their existing knowledge as a basis for the activity. This would take the form of discussion and lead to raising questions as to which directions the enquiry might take. Thinking about the topic before you begin the research or ‘information retrieval’ is essential for teachers, so they can assess where the children are and where they want them to go. Mallett also points out that it gives teachers:
An insight to the kind of books the children would manage and find useful.” So far the first two stages of the Exit model have been covered. Non-fiction texts come in many different forms and more now than ever with the advancements in technology. This means that children have a wider range of sources to use, which can extend learning opportunities as well as hamper them. First of all, children must be made aware of what is on offer. If the research is being undertaken in a library, it is wrong to assume that they know how to use it. Most schools have a library, but they may not be being used to their full potential because children have not been shown how to access the information they require from them. Meek (1996) writes of their importance: “To consult books in a library is to join the learners, those who know how knowledge is gathered and what the gathering produces.”
So before children can be expected to use them effectively, time needs to be taken to show them the searching processes involved. We may want to select the texts that they use, perhaps out of concern about the quality and appropriateness. But there is a problem with selecting any text for a user that Meek points out: “All official selections come with a hidden curriculum of approved ideas, and a degree of censorship of books deliberately not chosen.
I think it is therefore important to consider how this can be avoided as far as possible. The co-ordinator ‘selects’ books for her subject and the classteacher ‘selects’ from this for her lesson or topic. Selection has to take place to a certain extent because of issues such as time and money. Although the most can be made of it by reviewing every text there is on the topic to help children search for and access those that are meaningful. This is why libraries are so important because the children make their selections as well as find them amongst other texts not related. This makes the information retrieval they carry out their own process, deeming it more significant. Although I have stated that they must ‘do the seeking’, the structure of the approach might vary. For example, in a case study by Mallett (1992), she uses a film as the initial text because she believed that it: “provided a sympathetic way of confronting the children with book learning.”