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Student Choice in AP English–It’s Working

Our Compass Shifts 2-1My friend Matt is leaving teaching. I’ll miss him. I started teaching a year before he did, and we’ve kind of grown up as educators together. But with him leaving, I’m thinking–maybe I can get his AP Literature classes. That idea’s sinking in, and we aren’t even done with January.

AP Language has been my sweet spot for a lot of years now, and I don’t want to give it up–I’m a little possessive, but I would love a split with Lang and Lit.

I know, I might be crazy. The prep. The workload. The grading.

Although I have heard of other teachers doing it– just not at my school. We have 6 of AP English teachers, but we all have a split with some other English prep. (Right now I have my own vertical alignment with PreAP English I and II.)

Here’s the thing:  I’ve done readers/writers workshop in AP Language for several years now, and the format fosters confident readers, accomplished writers, AND higher exam scores. Mine jumped 12% the first year I trusted a whole move to workshop and student choice. I know readers/writers workshop will work with AP Lit. I know it.

So, I am planting seeds.

Today I spent hours compiling lists of award-winning books. I should have been planning a presentation I’m doing Monday or grading timed writing essays from Wednesday or tidying my classroom. I couldn’t seem to help myself once I got reading these lists of compelling titles. These are the complex and richly written books I want weighing down my classroom shelves and the minds of my advanced students. I already have a lot. (I made a list of those, too.) I shop thrift stores and bargain bins, and as long as I know the titles I’m looking for, I often strike gold. Gold Pulitzer stickers anyway. I found Tinkers by Paul Harding not too long ago.

Every day my students read during the first 10 minutes of class. I quickly take attendance and then try to talk quietly to a few kids each day about their reading. I use passages from books for mini-lessons– grammar and analysis, and I model what a reader’s life looks like. Not many of my colleagues do this.

I sat in a department meeting with Matt and others this week. We listened to advice on lessons that would get our students prepared for their end-of-course exams, and the topic of independent reading came up. Matt shrugged, defeated, and said, talking about his AP seniors and his on-level sophomores: “My students won’t read. They just won’t.”  Without question, I know why.

He isn’t doing workshop.

But Tess is. She’s doing it with her G/T sophomores and surprising herself with the results. Her guest post will run on Monday.

We have to get students reading. We want to get them reading, don’t we? If we want, not just to develop critical readers so they can pass a test, but if we really want to instill empathy and compassion and knowledge into kids’ heads and hearts, we have to get them reading. Allowing them free choice, drowning them in book choices, and giving them time–time to read, well, that’s what’s making mine into READERS.

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3 thoughts on “Student Choice in AP English–It’s Working

  1. shanakarnes January 22, 2014 at 11:01 am Reply

    I love this!! How amazing would your students have it if they had YOU for the one-two punch of Lit and Lang!??! When you make them readERS not only will they ace those AP tests, but they’ll gain all of the valuable tools they need to make it through college successfully. You rock!!!!!!!!!

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  2. AMS January 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm Reply

    my son used to read a lot, then the high school homework load hit; he doesn’t read for leisure anymore- just textbooks and standardize test prep.

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  3. […] this terrific conversation happening in my Facebook feed inspired by Amy’s recent post on threeteacherstalk.com on free-choice reading in the AP classroom.  Friends of mine who are teachers themselves, parents […]

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