The readings this week champion similar methods. They are methods we have been discussing before: letting kids choose to read what interests them, accepting electronic literacies, expanding beyond the traditional canon.
The Farewell to A Farewell to Arms article suggests that we move beyond the class novel. They assert that there is a lack of enthusiasm for titles such as To Kill a Mocking Bird and Lord of the Flies. I believe this is true for some titles, but I would like to point out that in the reading Assessing adolescents’ motivation to read, the authors write “Two dislikers of reading said that the most interesting story or book they had read was in English class- Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby.” (Sorry I can’t see page numbers but it comes near the end of the article under the heading “teachers and instructional methods”). I found this to be an interesting conflict between the two articles. In the Farewell article, the authors provide no studies to support their assertion that hardly anyone likes these titles. I know I am being nit-picky here, so I will move on and get back to talking about what I learned from the articles.
I think we can all agree that moving beyond the canon is a good thing. As teachers we should be selective of what we choose from the canon, and we should look outside of it for novels that will capture the interest of our students. While I think “deemphasizing” the whole- class novel” (Fisher and Ivey 494) has merits, I do not think it should be abandoned all together. In the Assessing adolescents’ motivation to read article, I was struck by the student named Jason who “‘never’ likes to read” but read everything he could about hunting. Other students reported spending much time with internet literacies.
As I read about the failures of the whole-class novel, the students who only like to read what they are interested in, and the students who enjoy the internet, I thought perhaps we could use the best aspects of tradition and combine them with the best aspects of new methods. What if we had students read a whole-class novel (which could be from the canon OR outside of it), and we had them read something of their choice simultaneously. Their “choice” reading could be a novel, magazine, newspaper, internet blog, fanfiction, pod-cast, etc. Teachers could assess the student’s “choice” work by their resposes to the text. For example, if it’s a newspaper, maybe they write a letter. They mail in a copy to the editor and hand in a copy to the teacher. Maybe they respond in a comment to the internet blog that they like to read. Maybe they create their own fanfiction in response to other fanfictions that they have read. I think this is an exciting way to get kids involved outside of the whole-class novel. I don’t think the whole-class novel should be disregarded, though. Perhaps the whole-class novel and the choice text are equally weighted. What does everyone else think of this method?