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I am Not Assigning Books

Our Compass Shifts 2-1I love @professornana, the Goddess of YA Literature, and I learn a lot from reading her posts. This one got me thinking, and I opened and read every link she embedded in it.

This whole exile thing is crazy. Like Teri suggests, go take this little lexile quiz yourself. Then read the article she references, Teachers are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing it Yet. You’ll see what I mean.

CRAZY.

The article got me (and not in a good way) at the title with the word “assign.”

My students are reading more than they ever have before because I am talking books, and suggesting books, and showing off books more than I ever have before.

I am not assigning them.

Choice works. Allowing students to read what they want, high or low lexile, works.

Do I sometimes steer students into genres, or most recently into Prize winners? Do I meet with kids and challenge them into more difficult books? Yes, but I’ve learned to always include some element of choice.

The past several days I’ve spent conferring with students during the first 10 minutes of class. Ten minutes that we devote to independent reading. I’ve met with 2/3 of my 145 students so far. Every student but two has read more this year than they did last. Most have exceeded the goal they set during our first reading conferences at the beginning of the year.

That kind of data speaks louder than any kind of lexile level. (I need to just say that my auto-correct changes lexile to exile every single time. Do you think that’s telling?)

Recently, a colleague visited my classroom. He watched my students engage with literature while I sat at a back table and listened. Later he asked how I conduct my readers/writers workshops. I told him “You saw it.”

My task is to get students reading and to teach them to talk about a texts:  books, stories, articles, passages, poems. Once I do that, students can do most everything else when it comes to reading on their own.

There’s freedom here. Freedom for me and freedom for them.

Funny how my students learn more from each other than they do from me anyway. I wonder why it took me so long to realize that.

I’m reminded of a post Donalyn Miller wrote almost a year ago, and I echo her title:

Let My People Read.

 

P.S. Are you thinking about Summer Reading yet? It’s about to be a hot topic on my campus. To allow kids to choose or not to choose, that is the question.

P.S.S. I have to figure out how to allow student choice in AP Literature, which I am most likely teaching next year. Every experienced AP Lit teacher I’ve talked to “assigns” specific books. Still trying to think through this. Any suggestions?

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3 thoughts on “I am Not Assigning Books

  1. Monique Fausett April 12, 2014 at 11:18 am Reply

    I don’t teach high school, but here are some of my thoughts. Give them a list of the readings and let them choose so many to read. Have book clubs and let them have some choice in the book. Then as a group read and discuss the book…then as a group present the book to the class with a book trailer and then a round table discussion in front of the class, with a guided discussion of what all the students in the class should gain from the form or piece of literature. I know that there are a lot of things to cover for AP courses, but I’ve watched my son in his AP class and just over spring break he said…”I’m suppose to read this book and write about something from each chapter…could I just glance over it and pull out stuff”…of course I said that is a good strategy get started. Do they really need to read the whole book? Are we exposing them to classics? styles? authors? I think the discussion in front of the class and then let other students join in helps them all discover the book/author…and who knows some of them might just pick up that book to read between the lines of what wasn’t discussed.

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  2. asmaa khalaf April 12, 2014 at 9:38 am Reply

    hi dear
    i apply your way with additions. via my usual lecture i hint for other novel or drama that have identical link. i select the suspenseful event to tell briefly to arouse them to read it not as homework but for interesting. once i present part of the film of wuthering heights i am astonished to know many students read the text in spite of being loaded w ith works

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  3. motherofallreaders April 12, 2014 at 8:56 am Reply

    All I know is that my own daughter was so against reading the assigned reading for her AP class that I had to read one of the books aloud to her and read about half of the second one aloud to her before she actually went and finished the rest of it herself. She stalled all summer and waited until about two weeks before school started to even do this much. She hated it! This is my avid reader who reads constantly. She just hates being told that she has to read something (or do anything for that matter). Is there any way that you can give them a list of books to choose from? Her teacher this year allows them to choose from a list of books each six weeks to read as their choice read (the list is usually books that fit the genre or topic of the curriculum for that six weeks). She hasn’t minded doing that.

    I also think back to all the short cuts students try to take when they really don’t want to read something (cliff notes, etc.). If they really don’t want to read it, they won’t.

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