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Reading in the perfect English class

favicon It’s Spring Break, which means I get to think about bigger things.

The past few days, as I procrastinate on some of my library school assignments, I’ve been rereading some of my favorite English teacher books: The Reading Zone, Readicide, The Book Whisperer, Lifers, and With Rigor for All.

The books run the gamut. On one side, Nancie Atwell argues for a total reading workshop, where students spend nearly all their time reading fiction of their choice. On the other side, Carol Jago says that English classes should involve the close study of teacher-assigned classics. Then in the middle, there’s Kelly Gallagher, my personal hero, who advocates a 50-50 hybrid model, where students read what they want half the time and what the teacher wants the other half.

Gallagher’s approach sounds the best, but it’s tough to pull off, especially when you consider that he’s a fan of non-fiction as well. He says students should read newspapers and magazines (online and in print), and I agree with him. He also assigns an Article of the Week, geared to build background knowledge and a better understanding of the world. I like that idea, too.

In my perfect class, we’d be doing all of that: a workshop where students read independently and voluminously, a whole-class study of a novel, a current-events component, and a series of mini-lessons devoted to developing reading skills in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

I’d like to think it’s all possible, but I’m not sure it is — especially because I haven’t even considered writing and projects yet.

Still, by the end of my English class, I want my students to see themselves as readers of a variety of texts and to know how to handle different genres. I want them not to be afraid of reading a book in full. I want them to be able to read their way through a newspaper or magazine. And I want them to read online content, too.

I’m just not sure how to pull it off. favicon

One comment

  1. John at TestSoup

    I think the main point here is that you’re trying to make up for too many years of failed education here.

    You shouldn’t have to get high school AP English students into reading. The school system should have been grooming these kids to be readers for years.

    Your specific role in that class should be to refine their analytic reading and writing skills.

    Of course, accepting reality as it is… one must ask which is the nobler goal to pursue with these students right now.

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