In 2014 at the University of New Hampshire Literacy Institute Penny Kittle had the class read Making Meaning with Texts, Selected Essays by Louise Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt’s research spans decades and is just as applicable today as when she wrote it years ago. I challenge every English educator to read the whole of Rosenblatt’s essay “The Acid Test for Literature Teaching,” published in 1956. Or, at least to respond honestly to Rosenblatt’s conclusion. Odds are you will make the shift to choice in readers writers workshop as your pedagogy, if you haven’t already:
“As we review our current high school programs in literature, we need to hold on to the essentials, or take the opportunity as re-adjustments come about, to create the practice that will meet the acid test:
Does this practice or approach hinder or foster a sense that literature exists as a form of personally meaningful experiences?
Is the pupil’s interaction with the literary work itself the center from which all else radiates?
Is the student being helped to grow into a relationship of integrity to language and literature?
Is he building a lifetime habit of significant reading?”
“Talk is one of the most powerful tools at work in my classroom. Now, I’m talking about talk–not discussion, sharing, peer editing, Socratic seminars, think-pair-share, or any other structured form of communication that might occur. The simple act of letting our students just talk is invaluable, and we must create spaces in our curriculum for it to take place.”
~Shana Karnes, “The Value of Talk”
“So where is the balance that we, as English teachers, can bring to our classrooms when it comes to teaching the books we love (or the books we think students “should” read), and our understanding that choice fosters a connection to what we read? A connection that can far outweigh the legitimate literary merit of works we would choose for our students? Where do cultural literacy and passion for literature meet? Well…I don’t really know. Yet.
What I do know, is that I need to provide opportunities for my students to choose texts that appeal to them. But my job can’t end there. I then need to help them move to more complex and challenging works. Classics included. How to do that…I don’t really know. Yet. But I am learning.
Here is what I do know – If I am going to build a community of readers, I need to be a reader. If I am going to build a community of writers, I need to be a writer. Lead by example and beautiful things are sure to follow.”
~ Lisa Dennis, “Teacher Readers Share the Love”
“Here is where I sit back and start listening; very intently. I am becoming quieter and quieter as the room gets more and more animated. (I was hoping to become invisible, truth be told.) Because, this is what happens when students are invested. They challenge each other. They hold each other accountable. They start discussing their level of comfort or lack there of. They express their inner feelings. They question motives. And yes, sometimes their word choices can be a bit crass, but isn’t that authenticity at its best?
They give me exactly what I need as their educator.”
~Erika Bogdany, “An Important Invitation”
“Our students are going to college arguably without knowing or understanding the importance of voice, formality, and audience. To prepare them for life beyond high school, we must strive to incorporate real-life writing assignments into our classrooms. While some of my students may never write a research paper after they graduate from high school, I know that nearly all of them will use e-mail, apply for jobs, and engage on social media.
My role as an educator is to help mold and train productive and intelligent citizens and while giving them lifelong skills that translate beyond the classroom. Part of this is continuing to develop and adapt my classroom to better fit the needs of 21st century students.”
~Jackie Catcher, “Students Need Real-Life Writing”
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