The old, the new, and the best of both worlds.

Hi everyone,

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?

Allison

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The old, the new, and the best of both worlds.

  1. sunyprof

    A, I agree that shared readings are important–thus your sequence of instruction (multiple texts) assignment. I wonder what else in the article, specifically, was interesting

    I question marginalizing students’ choice reading as the “extra” text and not the main event. If rigor is the goal in rolling out the canon (out of a concern that kids will read “junk” if left to their own devices), in my classes choices were often far more demanding, for example, selections than anything students would have been reading out of the book room.

    I also call into question assessing choice (or any) reading through activities. Your list of options here is very interesting and should be supported inititatives in any classroom, yes. Absolutely.

    Ideally our classrooms, we hope, are places where reading follows reading and more reading is the next “activity” when a student has finished a text.

    It’s the volume/frequency of reading that builds fluency/interest/empowerment.

    That’s one of my primary objections to discussios of whole class books as the determiner of a year’s curriculum. Students actually do very little reading in that scenario. And I know that’s not our goal. KES

  2. allison

    Karen, I am worried that you have misinterpreted the idea of my post. You said, “I question marginalizing students’ choice reading as the “extra” text and not the main event. ” I do not wish to make the choice learding any less important.
    One of my concluding thoughts in my post was “Perhaps the whole-class novel and the choice text are equally weighted.” I think it’s very important to have shared texts that everyone can learn from together AS WELL AS independent texts that students choose individually. I think they are equally important.

  3. sofiapenna

    Allison,
    I really agree with your ideas here, partially because I think that keeping a text like Gatsby is a classic that high school students should not miss out on. A text like this one teaches so much American history and society as well, even though it is fiction. However, I also agree that giving equal weight to a text chosen by the students is a must. The more we read about this in our articles for class, the more I see it as an integral part of developing good taste in our young readers.

    I think you raise great points here. -Sofia

  4. traverse02

    I also agree with Allison. If I hadn’t read Lord of the Flies in highschool, I’d probably be sitting in a cubicle right now. It’s a great story and it would be a shame if everyone stopped reading it. But I too feel students should be encouraged to pursue their own interests as far as reading goes. If they end up reading “junk” (which I find to be a problematic term because one person’s junk could very well be another person’s gold), have a meaningful discussion with them about it. Have them argue their point, let them learn to defend their interests. Ask: Why do you find it interesting? What is the content? Why would the content be labeled as junk as compared to something else?

    Say, for example, I were teaching a class on the Great Gatsby and a student were to come to me with a Batman comic (something many people would label as junk), I would ask what makes Bruce Wayne a legitimate character as compared to Jay Gatsby? What are their similarities/differences, etc.?

    I’m certain that Allison’s approach would allow for improved literacy, especially if we take advantage of the technology that we have access to (like she stated with blogging, podcasts, etc.). We have to work with literacies that are relevant to the students today to make our classes truly open and connect them with the past, show the students what came before and why it’s important. I think it would also spark some very interesting class discussions. Imagine, Bruce Wayne vs. Jay Gatsby…

    -Raph

  5. mandygrl101

    Raph Alison Sofia: I think this is such an interesting conversation!! I was most interested in how the kids in the “Assessing Adolescents Motivation to Read” article defined reading and how limited their definitions were. As Alison mentioned, Jason didn’t consider his hunting magazines to be quality reading material, nor did some of his peers, who were also reading a variety of different texts. As Raph points out, it is a shame that someone has given these kids the impression that this is junk or that they aren’t really reading. In my opinion, Jason’s hunting magazine represents an opportunity for this kid to develop into a reader of adventure stories! By simply asking him what he liked or what interests him about the hunting stories, teachers gain insight into their student preferences, and can provide them with appropriate suggestions, or at the very least, continue to encourage their kids to read whatever it is they currently are reading. I think something is better than nothing. I also am disturbed with this limited definition of reading that kids have. Why are we giving them this impression?? (I very clearly remember being in a class and everyone had to say the last book they read. When the boys in the class said sports magazines, the teacher scoffed!) Kids need to understand that reading isn’t limited to literary texts, but that it includes a variety of different genres.

  6. jexter1

    Your idea for implementing whole-class novels and literature chosen by the individual student, not necessarily a novel or classic canon piece, is a fantastic one. This would help in getting the required curriculum done, as well as giving the students the feeling that they have a choice and influence in their learning experiences. Students will be more compelled to read when they know that their voices are being heard. Writing to the newspaper editor after reading an article, or writing a critique on a novel of choice gives a sense of ownership and purpose to the student. The teacher should serve merely as a mediator and guide through the choosing and reading of the text that the students pick out. I hope to use this method in my classroom one day…
    ~Jess

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