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civil discourse lesson

Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors

How is what we read a window, mirror or a door? What other metaphors can be used to describe our connections to text? What metaphor can I use to relate to what I am reading?

By Stephanie Hasty


  • Getting to Know You

    How do we define who we are? What is culture and how do we express it? What topics/​ideas are significant to our lives? What topics are relevant and necessary to human relationships?

  • What Is Civil Discourse?

    What is civil discourse? How can we voice our opinions in productive and civil discussions in public social media arenas like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? What makes opinions worth sharing with the public?

  • Civil Discourse: An Activity

    Students will practice aspects of civil discourse with their peers, including how to communicate effectively with others whose opinions may differ from their own, and share about similarities and differences they have with their peers, family and community.

  • Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors

    How is what we read a window, mirror or a door? What other metaphors can be used to describe our connections to text? What metaphor can I use to relate to what I am reading?

  • Practicing Civil Discourse through Literature

    Centering around a Reader’s Writers Workshop idea, these lessons are paced for a 48‐​minute class period. Each day’s lesson has a daily plan. Suggestions for books, short stories, images, and poems are included, but use what you know works in your district, school, and classroom.


Common Core State Standards

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one on‐​one, in groups, and teacher‐​led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well reasoned exchange of ideas.
  • Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  • Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
  • Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Learning Objectives

  • Define windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors
  • Create other types of metaphors to discuss our relation to the texts we are reading.
  • Use what we have learned to self‐​reflect and relate a texts to own experiences

Essential Question

How is what we read a window, mirror or a door? What are other metaphors can be used to describe our connections to text? What metaphor can I use to relate to what I am reading?



Before starting, review norms from the 1st lesson in this unit or use that lesson to discuss and create norms before proceeding.

Some norm examples, although it is important to note that students should create these norms as a class.

  • Respect other people’s opinions.
  • Try to understand other people’s point of view; listen to understand not to respond.
  • Participate, participate, participate.
  • Respect all opinions.
  • Be rational in my response; attack ideas, not people.

Share with the class information about reading as a window, mirror or a sliding glass door. Important points:

  • What we read can be a window (to look into the world of others), mirror (a reflection of ourselves so we can see who we are) or a sliding glass door (giving us the ability to go into other worlds) in our lives.
  • Rudine Sims Bishop states that “books should be windows into the realities of others, not just imaginary worlds, and books can be mirrors that reflect the lives of readers. Sliding glass doors refers to how readers can walk into a story and become part of the world created by the author—readers become fully immersed in another experience.”
  • It’s important to see yourself and others in the media we consume, including in what we read.
  • Books can also be other metaphors besides sliding glass doors (see the image in the Wits: Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors article).
  • It is important to read diverse books.

Ask students to write down what they think these metaphors mean to them. After writing, ask them to reflect by talking to a partner. What do you learn from your partner about analyzing and experiencing a work of literature?

ASK: What metaphor do you most identify with and why? What are other metaphors that we can create to describe our experiences with a text?

Part I: Metaphors for reading

Make sure that each student has a copy of the text they are going to discuss. This copy can be digital as long as they can annotate or on paper where they can physically mark up the text.

Allow students to read the text and mark it up according to your normal class procedures of marking up a text such as close‐​reading strategies.

Take a few minutes to discuss with students the work they have read. Students need to understand its themes or claims as well as what is happening.

Questions that can be asked to create this type of knowledge base:

  • Did you like what you read? Why or why not?
  • What happened in the work that you read? Why did it happen and why did it happen that way?
  • Who are the main characters or people involved? What do they do to propel the plot?
  • What is the major theme/​claim of the work? How does the author show us this?

ASK: What metaphor would you choose to describe your experiences with this work? Explain why?

Part II: Using the metaphor to discuss

Use the rest of class time for discussion of the text through the lens of reading as a metaphor.

Closing the Lesson

These can be used at the end of class to bring the topics of today’s lessons together:

  • How can metaphors help us understand our reading experiences?
  • What does it mean when a text is a window, mirror or sliding glass door?
  • What other metaphors can you think of to describe your experiences with what you’ve read?