- I’ve been frustrated for years with trying to force books on kids.
- This Fall I got an indirect nod to try something new.
- My kids are reading whatever they like.
- It has changed reading in my classroom.
The Whole Story:
I taught Cam when he was in 9th grade.
Cam is back in my class as a G11 student this year. I watched him trudge piece meal through
Coming back from Winter Break, I changed the way we do things in my classroom. I’ve always moved from activity to activity to mix things up and keep things interesting.
Now, though, at least three times a week, my students are reading whatever they like for 20
minutes. I intend no hyperbole when I say it’s amazing to watch.
At the time, I found the reaction to the article quite humorous. It’s not a new idea.
I’m not running things according to Atwell’s program. Well, not on purpose.
In trying to describe what’s going on to people, the most frequent question is “How do you hold them accountable for what they’re reading?”
At once, this question seems logical and sad.
The answer is two-fold.
Students are required to write a review of any book they read and post it two places. If the book they’ve read is available in our school library catalog, they are to post their review online via Koha. Without exception, they must also post their reviews somewhere public like bn.com, amazon.com, borders.com, etc. and then send me the link to their published review.
This has led to some great discussions of writing for a specific audience. To gear up for the task, we spent time reading reviews from the NYTimes and read this post from UK freelance journalist Johnathan Deamer on the secrets to writing good reviews.
The general consensus was that the NYTimes writers use too many words.
The second bit of accountability is just coming online now. Through a partnership with UPenn’s Reading, Writing and Literacy Master’s program, I’m fortunate enough to have Hannah interning in G11 classes this semester.
Using information she gathered through a Google Form we pushed out to the kids, Hannah is breaking the class into genre groups and sitting down with them to discuss what they’re finding in their books, what they like and dislike and what they’ll be looking for in their next text.
Though Hannah won’t be with me forever, I’m planning on picking up where she leaves off when her time with us is done.
Some things I’ve noticed:
- They’re going to the library.
- They’re seeing our library in a new light.
- We’ve had to review Daniel Pennac’s “Reader’s Bill of Rights” – specifically #2.
- When I next ask them to read a common text, I’m going to have to totally rethink my approach.
Cam’s mom helped out with EduCon this year. We struck up one of those informal parent-teacher conferences as she was helping to clean up after Saturday’s dinner.
“Is Cam supposed to be reading every night for class?” she asked.
“Not as a requirement,” I said.
“Well, he is. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”
I hope so.