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Navigating the news with SOAR


WORLD Radio - Navigating the news with SOAR

What does cooking pasta have to do with the discipling kids through the news? Today we’re taking a step back to explore a helpful tool you can use to navigate any sort of media: SOAR.

JONATHAN BOES: You’re listening to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast, from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News.

KELSEY REED: When a child is first born, we look into those eyes and we ask ourselves two major questions: Who are you? And what do you need from me in order to thrive?

This week, I spoke to moms around the WORLD offices, and every one of them asked some form of those two questions. As parents and educators, we’re not only interested in knowing strengths or weaknesses of the little learners across from us. We want to know how to equip them for greater growth. One tool to stretch them, a tool we talk about often on our podcast, is SOAR. It’s a method to help draw out the learning of any experience. You could even apply it to cooking.

[Home cooking noises]

I love to use the metaphor of cooking because it’s so tangible. It involves all of our senses.

I have two very different teenage girls. One focuses on the concrete. What do I need to know? In cooking, this might be the recipe, the list of ingredients, or the methods that it involves.

DAUGHTER 1: I was already working on making it, just doing the prep work and stuff. And I was like, “Oh no, I forgot what mom said about the green onion.”

The learner type this is related to is the common sense learner. Give me the facts. Give me the recipe. She’s also a practical learner, in that she wants to know, how does this work? How does it come together?

KELSEY: Those chiles smell good. Did you taste them to see if they were spicy?

DAUGHTER 1: Uh, no. I put a little bit in and didn’t want to overdo it . . .

If the recipe says sauté, how do I sauté? What temperature am I supposed to use?

My other daughter though, she’s more artistic in nature. She loves to think backwards from the outcome. What is the final product she’s trying to create? And how does she achieve the feeling and the flavors that she wants?

DAUGHTER 2: It’s like, nutty.

KELSEY: It’s because of the burn.

Maybe this is thinking of someone she wants to serve the meal to. Or maybe she’s looking for a specific feeling for herself: comfort or tantalized taste buds.

DAUGHTER 2: I don’t know how I would live without butter . . .

Why does this particular flavor come out? Why do basil and tomato taste so good together? Why do onions taste so sweet?

DAUGHTER 2: Like, I’m sure if I didn’t ever know it existed I’d be fine . . .

That is related to what’s called the connective learner, the person who asks “Why?” and who needs some connection to other things they know in order to make sense of what they’re doing.

She also likes to ask, “What can I do with this next?” That’s a dynamic learner. She’s learned the why behind tomato, basil, and garlic working. Now she can make pasta with all this knowledge.

But for each of my girls—or for any learner—to learn and grow, they need to stretch beyond these areas of their comfort, of their preference. When we stretch our kids and students to think outside of those preferences, or strengths, or comfort zones, we equip them to engage with other, more challenging learning, or even with people—people who think differently than them, who have different preferences, strengths, limitations, or even cultural backgrounds. Learning to think in a different way equips us for future relationship and future learning.

We’ve been using the metaphor of cooking because, well, we can grasp it so easily. But this tool works for anything we’re learning, any media we’re experiencing. It helps us map out different places. What do I need to know about this story? How was the story told? What techniques, like literary tools, were used? And then it takes us on into deeper analysis. What should I challenge through my Christian framework? Or what can I affirm, and why? Here we are connecting to that previous knowledge we have from knowing scripture, and from our understanding of the world. And then that very final question of How do we respond? What do we do with this next? What does it mean for our work in the world? How do I bring this into acts of service or making disciples? How does this inform how I love my neighbor? What does it mean for future action?

JONATHAN: So today, we’re taking a step back from the news. We’re going to pause and take a deep dive into a specific educational tool that you can use with your kids, teens, and students to talk about any news story or any cultural trend.

KELSEY: SOAR stands for Survey, Observe, Analyze, and Respond. Each of these terms aligns with a different type of learner. And there are questions that align with each of those different learners.

Survey: What do I need to know?

Observe: How does this work? How can I make it work now? What do I need to know now?

Analyze: Why does this work? Why do I need to know this? And what other pieces of my learning connect to it?

And then Respond: What can I do with this next? Or also the “So what?” question.

JONATHAN: So let’s take this step by step and start with that very first letter, the letter S of SOAR, for Survey. What do we mean by survey? And what type of learning does this connect to? And how do we encourage this sort of thinking in kids who don’t naturally connect with a survey type of learning?

KELSEY: Right? So we kind of automatically assume that every child is going to want to know what. What is the main message? What is the story about? Survey—that’s what it connects with. It’s the basics, the central or big picture. But if you’re a child like my seven-year-old, you’re not so much interested in the what. You want to be convinced first. Motivation is prominent in her life. And if she’s not motivated to learn the what, she’s going to argue with you all day long. So if we take it back to cooking, I might start with her by saying, “Hey, you wanted to have mac and cheese for dinner. Let’s go figure out how we might make this. Let’s go talk about what’s next.”

JONATHAN: So you’re using that motivation—she wanted to have the mac and cheese. That’s your motivational springboard into the what.

KELSEY: Yes. So it shows, right here, that even though we’ve started in a linear fashion, this is a circle in nature. And you might engage at any point of the circle. Maybe your child, the way to connect her with the other pieces of this learning cycle, maybe she needs to be connected with on the heart level first. And then you try to trace it the rest of the way around the other letters.

JONATHAN: So when we’re talking about Survey, we’re talking about the big picture, the “What is this?” So what might that look like when you’re trying to engage with something in the news, or a cultural trend, with your kids?

KELSEY: So you recently covered a story in WORLDteen that was talking about the drone that was taken down by a Russian jet. So that right there, even the title of that story is kind of the main message. Particularly in journalism, we’re often trying to avoid burying the lede. So right off the bat, we’re going to tell, “This is what the story is about.”

JONATHAN: So, Survey: the big picture, the facts. You’ve also been talking about how each of these different terms—Survey, Observe, Analyze, Respond—connects with a different learning style. So when we’re in this place of surveying—wanting to get the basics, the facts, the big picture—what learning type does that connect with?

KELSEY: Very much the common sense learner, who asks, “What do I need to know?” Again, to bring this back to that picture of maybe the motivated learner, or the one who is motivation-based. They may not want to even read the story, because it’s not in their field of interest. Maybe my artist daughter is not going to be super excited about reading about Russian jets and American drones.

JONATHAN: Survey: Looking at the big picture, common sense learning. Give me the facts, give me the basis, give me the main point. That takes us to the next letter in SOAR: the letter O for Observe.

KELSEY: It’s interesting. When we think of learner types, it’s easy for me to start thinking of personality types, too. So if we think of the Myers-Briggs temperament inventory, we have people whose preference is to get that big picture. And then we have others who really want to get into the nitty gritty details. Details are their forte. They are excellent at keeping track of those things and doing it with a high degree of aptitude.

Often, the learner who is motivated to know all those details is the one who is very good at managing all of those details. So they’re asking, how did this story come together? What made this story work? If you’re looking at a book, you’re going to be asking the questions: What literary techniques were used? Where do I see metaphor, imagery, all of the things that make the story actually work, that convey the information? And so then, you pull out all those little details. Maybe we’re looking at a film: What was the lighting like? What kind of music was played underneath certain scenes? You’re getting into those little tiny pieces that help to convey the story. With news media, we’re kind of limited in terms of our journalism, if we’re doing strict journalistic practices to following those major questions, that the little details come out, and those five W’s and an H of journalism.

JONATHAN: Let me see if I can remember them all: What, Where, Why, When—I’m missing a w—Who, and How. There’s the H.

KELSEY: That’s right. So when we are doing some of our compare and contrast work, all of our observation work really lines up for that. Because if we look and see how a story is being told, for example, by one media outlet versus another one, we can see the choices that were made to try to convey that particular story.

JONATHAN: So Observe is the how, the techniques. Not just the ingredients list, but what temperature were these things cooked at? Were they stirred or shaken? So we’re going a level deeper than Survey.

We said with Survey, we were looking at the common sense learner. But what kind of learning would be related to observation?

KELSEY: So this is aligned most closely with what’s called the practical learner. They’re the ones who really want to understand the mechanics of something. I tend to think of a bicycle, when I think of the practical learner. They’re wanting to know all the different parts and pieces in order to make the bike work right now.

JONATHAN: So I can see how, for kids who are—I say kids, but really, for anybody who is more focused on the end result—they kind of know what they want the thing to look like. I can see how there could be a tension, maybe not wanting to take the time to observe all the little techniques and steps it takes to get there.

KELSEY: And even though I oversimplified earlier and talked about my artist as a connective learner, or a dynamic learner, really she needs to be able to get engaged with the technique of her art, to build those outcomes we talked about. So it’s important to recognize that there’s a certain amount of flexibility in each of these things. And that, even when one of these types floats to the surface of your child’s preferences, they’re always combining it with other types. They’re never a pure type. They always have different pieces of the different ones they use together in their areas of passion and expression.

JONATHAN: So what is the benefit of pausing to observe the techniques used in a news article, especially when we’re talking about engaging it with kids or teens?

KELSEY: That is such a good question. When we slow down to make our observation work, we’re being really careful to not just have a knee-jerk reaction. We often lean into our intuition or our gut responses to things. And sometimes we do need to have a good intuitive response, if there’s something that’s not sitting right with us. But when we’re diligent to do our observation work, we can explain why. We can really get into those analysis-type questions which are related to the why and ground them in, “This is what I saw,” not merely resorting to “I like, I don’t like,” or “This makes me feel bad, this makes me feel good.”

JONATHAN: That’s good. It feels like today, in the world of social media, we are so constantly inundated with the Survey level. You can scroll past 50 headlines in two minutes and get a bunch of different people telling you what the big picture is. But like you were saying, observation requires a slowdown and an attention to detail that seem really valuable in a “TL;DR, too-long-didn’t-read” world.

KELSEY: Right? It’s true. And we really need to unpack more of those things, not merely for not having those quick reactions. But again, we talked about, this gives us the fuel we need for making better relationships. It’s giving us what we need to learn more deeply, to be primed for learning the next challenging thing. There’s this concept in classical education, it’s called scholē, and that’s that idea of the slow, reflective learning process. So it definitely affirms that idea.

JONATHAN: So, Survey: the big picture, the common sense learner, give me the facts. Observe: We’re slowing down, we’re looking at the details, the practical learner, how does this work? That brings us to the letter A, Analyze.

KELSEY: So Analyze is where we have camped out a lot in Concurrently, where we’re talking about this very specific piece of analysis that is through that biblical framework. What can we affirm? What can we challenge? We’re connecting the dots between previous learning. We are asking, why were these different details chosen, these different techniques chosen? You know, what are they trying to get us to think or to feel by using those specific details? So we’re going even deeper than we were with observation, but we’re grounding all of our analysis in those observations. And we’re also somehow engaging at that heart level. We are shepherding the heart so that it’s not merely reacting but having a more nuanced emotional reaction. So if Shakespeare has chosen to kill off a main character—

JONATHAN: That never happens in Shakespeare.

KELSEY: No, ha ha. We’re wondering why we’re grieving a particular character, versus maybe rejoicing over the death of one of the villains.

JONATHAN: So it seems to me that, once we hit the analysis level, we have to start looking outside of the thing we’re looking at. Because we’re always analyzing something against something, against a framework we’re bringing to it, or against another standard that is outside of this news story or this article.

KELSEY: That’s a great way to put it. We develop our thinking more by having more things that we’ve read. We’re informing our knowledge through scripture, through fiction, through media, whether that be news media or film media. We’re constantly seeing how all of those things synthesize or integrate.

JONATHAN: And of course, as Christians living in this world, probably the most important framework we bring to the picture is scripture—a Christian worldview, what we know to be ultimately true.

KELSEY: So this is where we also lean into the redemptive narrative again. You’re going to hear so many of these things repeated. They are so worthwhile to apply to everything. They slow us down. They allow us to bring greater category and depth into our learning. So the Christian framework, with that redemptive narrative, leads us into our final letter. Because when we think of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, we start pushing into that work that is ours as believers.

JONATHAN: And before we get to that final letter—when we’re talking about Analyze, what learning style would we associate with this analytical posture?

KELSEY: So the analytical learner is what we would call that connective learner, the one who connects the dots between the different areas of learning, and also really needs to understand the why before they’re motivated to engage. They want to kind of say, “Wait a minute, why are we doing this?” You know, make this important to me. Show me why this is important.

JONATHAN: And for somebody who is not this type of learner, who isn’t innately drawn to figure out the why—you know, some people just need to know the why, some people just want to know, okay, what do I need to know to get this done? If you have a student, a kid, a teen who isn’t motivated to move into this analytical place, into the question of why—how do we work to shepherd them into that place?

KELSEY: That is such a good question, but most challenging for me, because this is actually the area of my own preference. I am very concerned with the why. I do match that up with some of the practical learning and some of the dynamic learning we’ll talk about in a minute. But when I automatically engage from that motivated place, it’s harder for me to recognize how to build a bridge to that learner who does not share my preferences. So I would say, a part of how one can do that is by coaching the heart. And I find that fiction has this tendency of coaching the heart. It really nurtures our imagination, which is most closely tied to our affective, or emotional, dimension of our being. So when we have a learner—and again, I think of one of my daughters here—we have a learner who is very practically minded, nurturing her heart and nurturing her imagination to the point where she is more inclined to ask that why question, and to go deeper in analysis—fiction is the best roadway, the highway into her heart.

JONATHAN: So then, as you were saying, that brings us into our final letter of SOAR. We’ve looked at Survey, we’ve looked at Observe, we’ve looked at Analyze. Now we get to Respond.

KELSEY: Respond is something we can think of in a number of different ways as well. It is the what can I do with this next, or the “So what?” Sometimes that is very vocationally bound, and you’re learning something, and you want to create based on what you have learned. In the kitchen—this is a great place to give an example again—you’ve learned all the techniques. You’ve learned why certain flavors work together. You’ve learned how to use the stove, the iron skillet, the grill. And now you’re ready to make something of your own.

JONATHAN: So when we’re talking about response, about getting into the what can I do with this next, what type of learning style does this relate to?

KELSEY: So to be very clear on it: It is called the dynamic learner. So you think about the ways you engage with something and find its flexibilities, and you find the ways you can apply it. There’s a sense of a dynamic nature to it, so the dynamic learner. In the Christian walk—or as we relate this to news media—some of the ways that we might understand this question, where this has traction for us is, how do we respond to this piece of the news, this thing that’s going on in the world? What is a faithful Christian response to this? Or how do we live out the tension of this aspect of culture, while we are believers in the world?

JONATHAN: And sometimes it’s odd to think about that in terms of the news, because often, it’s hard to see how exactly a news story about something going on across the ocean somewhere is calling me, here, sitting in Asheville, North Carolina, to respond. You know, something we try to do now and then with our WORLDkids and WORLDteen articles, sometimes we have an encouragement to pray for something, or even to do something, drawing out some sort of spiritual application from a story in terms of—this crazy thing is going on in the world, these people in this government are failing to respect the image-bearers in their charge, but we in our ordinary lives, wherever we are, we can choose to respect and love our neighbors. And so we try here at God’s WORLD News, I think, to draw out some of that godly response, even to news stories that might seem somewhat disconnected from our situation.

KELSEY: It’s another opportunity for us to employ imagination. And what I mean by this—and this is a term I learned in seminary, and grew to really love—is engaging with a redeemed imagination. When we read a story, and it informs our thinking, our feeling, our action—which is another way to look at that learning cycle we’ve been talking about. Mind: What do I need to know? Heart: Why do I need to know this. and how does it motivate me? And then action: How do I respond? We engage with a more and more redeemed imagination as we mature in Christ, as we grow to understand how He has engaged with us and what He asks us to do as His agents in the world.

So again, for the person who doesn’t automatically or naturally think as a dynamic learner might, this is the opportunity for us to be informed, and to stretch into this thinking. And that, when we read the news, and we read good writers who say, “Hey, this is what’s going on at this other side of the world,” and then we go before the Lord in prayer as our first response, He actually equips our hearts for greater response.

JONATHAN: You were talking about how this tool helps us engage with people who are different than us. And to me, it seems like with this sort of tool like SOAR in your pocket, you can even look at a news story written from a perspective you disagree with and glean something. Because, I can look at a news article about a topic like abortion, right? And there is no shortage of articles that are very anti-life. But I could look at those articles and the perspective they’re coming from and see, what are these people fearing? What are these people desiring, these people I disagree with? And understanding their fears and desires might actually help me to know how to love them better, to understand where they’re coming from, and even how to better present the gospel to them.

KELSEY: This very much affirms and provides those frameworks, in this methodology, for growing towards those ends. Learning and growth, it has to do with greater and greater maturity. We want to grow beyond that baby stage that we talked about at the beginning, into young adulthood and even adulthood. And what that looks like in Christ is being His hands and feet, is being those who build bridges for the gospel to run across—being those who build bridges for the gospel to run across, for us to run across with the gospel.

JONATHAN: Beautiful are the feet of those bringing good news. And yeah, just the idea that with the right tool in your pocket, something as simple as reading the news can become something that helps us carry the message of the gospel and helps us equip our kids to do that.

KELSEY: Yes. Inspiration and provision for these thoughts can be found in Psalm 139, starting in verse 13: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

JONATHAN: God has created the kids and students in our lives with such incredible care. I know, I’m just looking at my kids every day, and every parent says this, but it’s true. You’re amazed by the way God made them. You brought up those questions at the very beginning: Who are you? What do you need from me in order to thrive? Parents, teachers, I hope what we’ve provided today can help you answer those questions.

KELSEY: Yes. Parents, teachers, mentors of kids and teens: You are uniquely placed to see that child across from you, to rejoice in the wonderful work of the Lord’s hands, and to engage the Lord along with Him, in His work in their lives. He has equipped you for that work.

DAUGHTER 2: That’s so tasty.

KELSEY: That’s delicious. So you decide if you want these toasted or . . .

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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