Take a quick look at this video:

It may be contrived, it may be produced by a major publisher, but notice they didn’t try to sell anything.  Also notice that the students were honest in their assessment of their reading habits before and after choice.

Do we underestimate the power of choice in student reading?  Do we accept that students must read certain books regardless of whether or not they are ready for them or want to read them?

Look, I understand the Broccoli Effect, but if you asked me whether or not these students learned more about the skills they will need to become lifelong critical readers through a teacher-paced dissection of TKAM, or what they did through reading books of choice, I am going to say that the choice ruled.

This is perfect timing for me as we have been analyzing where we lose our students when it comes to reading, and how we can correct this.


4 thoughts on “Aha!

  1. I love this, but I have to think maybe we aren’t doing a good enough job as teachers to engage students in the books we think are important and assessing them in ways that they can’t cheat or use Spark Notes (or whatever that is, I thought they were Cliff’s?). Also, I think we need to look at how society is changing and redefine what are considered “classics”.

    1. Steve,

      I agree, but that’s why I couched my remarks in terms of whether or not the students are ready for the “classics” or not. I think we have need to do a better job of creating readers as they come up to high school. Somewhere in the middle and high school we tend to lose our readers, especially the males. Our high level English classes are predominantly female. I don’t think that is by accident.

      If we look at the classics, what about them is appealing to students of this age? It would be great to hear from someone who teaches this age level about how they motivate their students to grab onto the books that the students in this video did not read, even though they were assigned.

      1. Patrick,

        This is so timely for me. As a school committee member, I’ve been trying to facilitate a dialogue about the educational rationale behind our required summer reading program. This video echoes the experiences of my own three children with different learning styles who have all graduated from high school. Whatever we ask of our students, we must have a sound educational rationale behind it. There are always unintended consequences to discover and understand.
        Thank you.

      2. Karen,

        It’s great to hear from you. When I watched this, I’ll admit I was skeptical because it was via Heinemann’s account, but the content speaks for itself. Looking at it, I can compare it to what we did with our PE classes at our high school this year. Essentially we asked the students what they wanted, and they answered very simply: choice. They wanted to do something physical, but at the level they were comfortable with. For some that was going all out, others just normal gym, and for a growing segment, some alternative fitness measures. So we created three gym classes they could choose from: gym warrior, traditional gym, and, for lack of a better term, “last chance” gym. We went out and completely trained our staff in yoga and pilates, bought new stationary bikes for spinning, and four huge screens and Wii’s for Wii Fit and other digital fitness measures.

        The results? Happy students and happy teachers. We need to look at what we do in the case of high school students as more a “last chance” situation. If we don’t hook them on reading, at any cost, we really have failed in helping them learn the skills they will need to teach themselves.

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