I still have one whole school year before I will be in my classroom again, but I think about what will be different every day. This post is a list of promises to myself and my students about how reading will work in my classroom.
1. My students will read. A lot.
2. I will read. A lot. My new found love of audiobooks should make this easier. It makes the commute to work and household chores much more interesting!
3. What I read will be diverse and representative of the students in my community. By community, I mean something more extensive than just the school. After all, the students who have been the center of the narratives we so often teach and the students who have been marginalized by those narratives, both need books and stories for different reasons. I will read for them to help them discover representations of themselves in literature, and to help them discover other voices that have been absent or silenced in their world. And I will also love those stories because that matters too. For more about representation in literature read Nic Stone’s “A Word for the Reluctant”and Benjamin Doxtdator’s “Beyond Champions and Pirates”. Side promise: Buy all of Nic Stone’s books. Students will love them.
4. I will continue to question and experiment with which texts I will teach as whole class texts. As an English department, if we are going to mandate eight novels (out of hopefully 100s they read on their own), do those eight selections represent a range of voices and stories? Whose voice is missing? How might this text be problematic? Follow @triciaebarvia and #DisruptTexts for more guidance on this.
5. I will not dispense my knowledge and insight about a book like a “gift” that I am bestowing on my students. Instead, I will coach them to discover their ideas by showing them how I make discoveries about the text and then give them time and space (with guidance and encouragement) to feel the thrill of discovery themselves.
6. I will use a whole class novel, book clubs, and independent reading. We can do all of this and must to do it, I think, for our students to encounter a range of reading experiences. What do I do when I find a text difficult? How can I have a conversation about this book? How can I choose a book that I will like? Read @teachkate’s book A Novel Approach for more guidance on this topic.
7. I will not teach the essay form and analysis at the same time. Students need to be able to analyze first before they can tackle this complicated form. If students are introduced to both simultaneously, the writing and the thinking suffer. I think this promise means there will be another post about my writing promises.
8. I will find a way for students to meaningfully reflect on and track their reading as a part of their learning. So often when I ask for their tracking and reflection, it is purely for me because I need to assess their progress, but there has to be a way to do this better. I think it’s my next research project.
9. As an English department head I will spend as much money as I can on books, and then I will find more money! I will write grant applications, appeal to my community, spend a lot of time in used bookstores, and beg my principal for just a little more funding. I know this won’t always work, but it definitely won’t work if I accept the status quo.
10. As an English department head, I will spend money not only on whole class texts but also on helping my teachers build their classroom libraries. Let’s buy the independent reading books our students want. I may only be able to make small contributions, but I think my budget spending needs to reflect the reading experiences I want our students to have: reading as a class, reading as a group, and independent reading.
So that’s my list. I’m sure I will think of more as the year begins. Feel free to comment with your own additions. Promises to keep.