Reading the Same Book
Well, this chapter I found very interesting. In English 11 we do read the same books as a class during the course of the year. The reading comes complete with an assigned number of pages for the day along with questions to answer. Now, I’ve been enlightened to think that there is a better way to do this. As I read I started thinking about changes I might want to make, but I also have two of my colleagues taking this class so I plan to chat with them and get their thoughts.
I’m wonder, since we have a number of books we read, if we really need to read them all and consequently read the same ones. If I did the little group conferences rather than go over questions in class, would it be necessary that we all read the same book at the same time? Could I not give thr class a little bit of choice by selecting two book at a time and giving them the option of which one they wanted to read? Thus, I would have two “required” books going on at the same time. As I’m writing this it seems like that might work. I’ll look forward to hearing from anybody who may have tried this.
I love that you are really thinking about your teaching and ways to change what you're doing. I don't have any answers for you, but I love your idea of giving the students two choices. Even having two choices would probably engage your students much more effectively than just telling them what to read!
I just chatted with my ELA teaching partner. She said, "my kids always have a choice except Shakespeare." Each theme has a trio of novels from which kids can choose, and the activities she assigns are based on theme as opposed to specifics of the novel. She knows all three novels well and can determine if students grasped the curricular concepts through the same assignment(s) regardless of the novel chosen.
Once...many years ago, I decided to have multiple book groups going on at one time. In theory, it was fantastic. In reality, it was a nightmare for me. I had to keep up with all of the different books that were being read in order to facilitate the conversations. (To be perfectly honest, there were times that I "faked" it and hoped that the students wouldn't catch me!) I still struggle with conferencing...even after 13 years in the classroom .I hate to be distracting to others in the room...but if I take it in the hallway, who KNOWS what is occurring in my room!?! I feel like it is such a good tool, but I just can't figure out how to do it...aside from setting aside time outside of the school day!!
I am with you Tracy- it took A LOT of trial and error for me to figure out how book clubs would work in a 55 minute period with 100+ students in a day.
Jen - Would you be willing to share some of the things that have worked for you? I have 50 minute periods with 100+ students a day, too!
Heather- I shared some ideas on another comment below, but here are some other things I've thought of:
~I usually offer about 6 book choices for all of my classes combined. I occasionally offer 1 or 2 additional choices for a class that has a varied population (gifted, ESL, etc), but I do typically choose a range of books around a similar theme or genre. I do not offer books that I have not read previously.
~I preview and do book talks before students choose. I found that helps students choose books that are best for them, without having to worry about if it is too difficult for them to read. If students have chosen a book they find to be challenging, I try to get them an audio version to use while reading.
~Most reading is done during independent reading time.
~I give the students a calendar, some sticky notes, a ziplock bag (if they want it), and they have a reader's notebook. They determine their reading schedule based on the end date of the book club and our scheduled meeting dates that I have indicated on the calendar.
It doesn't go perfectly every time. I've had some book clubs flop and we discuss as a group what happened and what to improve for next time. My students have been pretty open about what worked and what didn't so that helped me figure it out!
Ditto to everything you mentioned, Tracy!! These are my biggest areas of struggle as well. I'm always looking for suggestions on how teachers do this successfully!!
Thank you Jen Z. for your input on how your do reading groups. We had a fifth grade teacher in our building that did this same way. She did it very well. I think for myself I just need to not be scared of failure.
When I taught we used thematic units and were not tied to anthologies so it was really easy to offer kids choices of books to read. I would have 3 or 4 different books going on at the same time. I wish I had the signposts and BHH back then. I know I would have had deeper comprehension and better discussion. I also read aloud to my class every day after lunch.
Hi Bob! I agree...there is definitely some brainstorming that can be done for our department when it comes to students to reading the same book at the same time. I'm very torn on this subject...just like I am on the silent reading. Ugh, separating my personal feelings and what research shows is very difficult!
I think one of the biggest struggles is trying to find books that accomplish the same goal. I teach a book partially because I like it, but also because it's a vehicle to get to a particular destination (I want to teach about plot progression, I want to teach about characterization, etc). If I do multiple books in one class, I need to find books that both accomplish that goal.Challenge two is having enough copies of that book so students can read it. Having the books in hands is always a struggle! Where are our money trees?
I think it is great that you are contemplating how this new learning impacts your teaching practice. I am too! One thing that helped me move from whole class reading together to book club style reading was modeling how to notice important details in a story and tracking that as the story continued- this made students come to discussion group with something to talk about. I also found that meeting every other day or every third day (depending on how much time students have to finish the book) allowed them to come to discussion with some rich conversation topics. When I first started, students were meeting daily and ran out of topics that were deeper and they fell back on literal level conversations that just weren't exciting. I hope as you try some new approaches or ideas with your colleagues that you find some success and ways to make it your own!
Very curious - how did you model what you wanted your students to do? (I'm thinking logistics here.)
Did you model to the class using a short story, article, etc, or did you model to each book club?
Thanks in advance for additional insights. I am struggling with some of the logistics.
Hi Lisa! I do a lot of modeling and 'seed planting' during Interactive Read Aloud or during shared reading of a text. For example, strong conversations are extremely important to the success of book clubs so I begin modeling and teaching how to build a conversation around a text during read aloud. I also start reader's notebooks at the beginning of the year and use my demonstration notebook in my mini lessons as a way to model the writing about reading and thinking I want the students to be doing. We do a lot of sharing with the writing about reading the students do because that is what sparks conversations during book clubs. I also will start with a short book club with strong picture books that help students understand the responsibilities of a successful book club and then build up to novels. For every reading unit (I switch back and forth between reading and writing units every 3-4 weeks), we have some shared texts that I model and use in mini lessons and I am intentional with my mini lessons so that the work I want students to do in book club is something that we do as a whole class first. I hope that helps!
While students are in book clubs my mini lessons usually extend learning that we did with the shared text, deepening their understanding of a standard or concept. I also work in word work mini lessons during book clubs.
Well...I can say I have "tried" it...I am not sure if it was the most successful model.
In my resource room I split my class (16 max being resource room) and I gave them one of 2 books (Old Yeller or The Pigman). I had the students read the books together in their groups at the same time. I did have guided questions and activities for them to do.
I am excited to possibly try this another way after reading these chapters!
I do not teach ELA, so I've been reading this as someone who works solely with informational text. My students will always be reading the same thing, but perhaps it could be paced differently for different students. I may experiment with that a bit this year.
One approach my ELA partner takes is allowing students to choose different novels that explore the same themes. We teach 8th grade. One group of novels is: My Brother Sam is Dead, Marika, and Blood on the River. The kids love it and naturally assemble into their own little book clubs for discussions. She loves it because it's very student driven and empowers them to take ownership.
She allows kids to select Cast Two Shadows during that unit, as well!
Jenn, the colleague you are referring to also CHECKS in with each student. This makes a big difference if the kids know they will be held accountable. That's why you two are the "dream team!"
The thematic approach sounds ideal for using book clubs - glad to hear that students like it! Do you know if your colleague has them read in class, outside or class or both? I put in an order for 5 different books - 12 of each novel - in hopes of doing literature circles/book clubs, but now, I need to figure out details.
And, Debbie, thank you for sharing that the teacher checks in with each student -- and how that holds them accountable! A great tip that I will put to use!
I have always tried to make my instructional novel the same or three different novels like youre saying here, but then their SSR book is their choice novel. That seems to work. I got this idea from Laura Robb.
I also teach 11th grade, and at our school teach certain texts yearly. (Next year is only my second year at this high school, and my 23rd year teaching.) My impression from last year is that we should all teach a few common texts (a couple in the department call them sacred texts) across the grade levels. (That is not to say that it what is happening exclusively.) I have not encountered this previously at other buildings and districts where I have worked so I am struggling with this.
However, I really like your idea of giving students two choices of books, and I am thinking that might work for me as well. Last school year, I had my students focus on the theme of "Is the American Dream alive or dead?" We read A Raisin in the Sun, The Great Gatsby and The Things That They Carried. I'm wondering if I could allow my students to choose one of those titles, create groups and give them "The American Dream" as a talking point (as well as what surprised you, what changed, challenged, or confirmed your thinkibg, etc.) as questions for discussion. Then, maybe the final project would be a presentation by the groups on their "findings/discoveries."
Do you follow a certain approach to teaching 11th grade? We (another teacher and I) also taught the course (ours is American Literature) chronologically last school year. My colleague is not teaching it this year so I struggling with how to approach it as chronologically (and historically) -- as I don't feel passionately about this approach.
How would you approach teaching the two novels at the same time?
Thank you for your insights! You have me thinking.
I do go chronoloigically. Our literature book flows like that. I work the book choices into that scheme. Last year we did Henry Douglass and The Great Gatsby. (I thew in several week of grammar so my class didn't read all of the book the other English 11 classes did.) Actually, by far the majority of the class liked both of these books, so I think i will continue that format. If I do the book club/choice route I will do it with the other selections.
I see you mentioned The Things That They Carried. I've had several kids in my Teen Lit class select that book to read. It leads to good book club discussion.
I haven't tried this personally in my role as the ELA curriculum leader k-12, but really plan to share the information from this chapter with my high school ENGLISH department. It our high poverty urban setting I see so many high school students disengaged as I do walk throughs in ELA classes and yet the teachers insist on continuing to do whole group novels with no student choice. The student don't make any connections to the text and therefore don't perform well in the classeoom. How do I get high school teachers set in their ways and teaching their content as "content experts" in the same manner they always have to make a change? This has been my struggle in my position as my background classroom teaching is 1-8 and also special education.
I use to think the same thing. I taught 5th grade ELA previously in a private school and we all read the same book, at the same time. I think you could totally give choice to your students. Midway through the year I felt like I was ineffective and decided to give choice to the students. they all read at different paces, and I conferenced with them weekly to check in and teach a strategy or skill. It was easy, worked great, and the students were much more into what they were reading because they chose it! Good luck:)
While I agreed with many of the points in "Reading the Same Book," I didn't feel like it changed my thinking at all as a third grade teacher. However, in "The Power of Talk," I was really struck by the idea that conversations in the classroom are so different than conversations anywhere else. It's so true! One thing I would really like to change in my classroom in the coming year is giving students the opportunity to discuss texts in meaningful ways with their peers. However, I often have a hard time posing questions that will really get my students to have dialogue. My goal is to be more intentional with my questioning and to allow my students more opportunities to share their thinking. Although it is hard to give up the control, I think it will be worth it in the end if it gets students thinking more critically about the text, and thus engaging them more effectively!
Angela I totally agree. Giving third graders more opportunities to discuss texts with their peers would be ideal. It is often hard to get more then the usual 5 students to express their thoughts. I do believe that if I try to implement this in my room the conversations will be more powerful and effective.
When I was reading your thoughts I remembered a quick write activity I observed in a 4th grade classroom last year that lends itself to helping students talk in meaningful ways about a text. The teacher asked students to have 3 post its and a pencil available during her read aloud and she posted 3 open ended questions on the board for students to respond to while she read. (One of them was "What surprised you?") She told them they could respond to any of the questions when they felt compelled to do so but that she did expect them to respond 3 times during the reading. She paused a couple of times when she saw a lot of students writing a thought down. After the reading she asked students to work in triads to discuss the reading and to use their thoughts as launch points for their discussion.
I thought it was a good balance between keeping the conversations focused around the text with allowing open dialogue that is authentic to their reactions and thoughts.
I definitely agree that it is hard to give up control but it is so worth it to build their independence in how to think and respond to a text.
I love the idea of using three post it notes in order to put three post it notes in their novels with the open ended questions.
This would work perfect in my resource room because only asking for 3 post-its is so attainable. Also - you aren't asking them to necessarily answer each of these questions (yet) but just come up with the questions. This is going to make some of them feel like the teacher.
I TOTALLY love the idea of the three post-its as it let's one quickly note a specific quote or phrase without having to "get outside the book" and write anything down. I will use this strategy-thanks!
Angela - I agree that "The Power of Talk" chapter made me think of the conversations/discussions that occur in my classroom. I was especially struck by the comment about how you may not remember the name of the main character of a book, but you remember how the book made you feel. :)
I am fortunate enough to co-teach for two of my classes. I love that my co-teacher and I can model good examples of book discussions with the class. We have the most fun modeling nonexamples! The students get a kick out of it, but it also helps them show the same good discussion behaviors.
I agree, Angela. I think I will need to reread and continue to ponder the "Reading the Same Book" section. However, I will say "The Power of Talk" resonated more with me as well. I started to use "what surprised you?" with both fiction and nonfiction texts this past year and it really changed the way my kids talked about their reading.
i totally agree - I am looking forward to teaching the kids how to have a grand conversation as I truly believe that communication will raise the level of their understanding of a text. I plan to model, model, model, then sit back and let the students run the conversation. Hopefully with a little prompting, I will begin to see growth!
The conversation may take some prompting. Think about how many years they have been 'trained' to show what they know in a monologue manner.
I agree with your Angela. Sometimes I create open questions for the students and then they answer the questions and are finished discussing in five minutes, even when we do a fish bowl example.
So, Chapter 14 was probably the first chapter that I really did not agree with. In theory it sounds fantastic...if they choose it...they will read it... Obviously kids are more engaged when they have a vested interest in what they are reading. I get that--I truly do.
However, I think there having discussions based on ONE novel is still a much needed aspect of the high school ELA classroom. I can't imagine doing away with the whole-class novels. I guess I try to combat some of the negatives that Beers and Probst bring up by already using the guidelines they set forth at the end of the chapter. I make it very clear that not all of the students will love the book...I tell them it is fine if they HATE it (as long as they can support their hatred of said book!!). I try to make the questions that are asked very open-ended and up for interpretation (and that they must have support for).
I cannot see myself every doing away with the whole class novels. Personally, I see a lot of value in having discussions about the same work...or seeing that piece in a different light b/c of how a student read it.
100% agree...I just can't get on board with students all reading whatever they want. Nightmare for students, teachers, curriculum mapping, lesson planning--I could go on. I think between silent reading and reading all the same book I tend to respectfully disagree with Beers & Probst. What I do plan to implement is a day where students may choose to read whatever they want(magazine, newspaper, novel, etc) silently. It takes both concepts and that's about as much as I'm willing to do at this point. I teach Juniors and there are far too many variables to consider before I get too crazy and completely give up novel units.
I currently have Fridays set aside as silent/free read days. For the most part, my kids really love it. Typically, I have said that they have to read a book. But I am wondering if I should maybe open it up to reading ANYTHING...newspaper, book, magazine, etc. It still gets sticky as to whether they are actually reading. And then I have students that ask to read on their phones/devices...and I have no idea if that is what they are actually doing. A few years ago, I said that they had to read ONE book a quarter. After they finished that book, then they could read whatever they wanted on Fridays. I might bring that back this year...only a few weeks until school starts and my head is spinning!
(I am glad that someone else agrees with me about the "free choice."!!)
I also have a free choice reading day on Fridays. I am curious if I opened up the idea of reading anything like newspapers/magazines. I would worry that they are not really picking materials that would be challenging and all they would try to do is take the easy way out.
I would like to look more into how to hold kids accountable when reading text other than novels.
Jennie, I think informational text is often more difficult for most people. I think the more teachers include it...the better. By the time they get to high school....most of their text will be (or should be) non-fiction. In college almost all of it is.
Megan - I have to agree with you to some extent. I allow students to read whatever they want for silent reading; however, I'm still a fan of read-alouds and in some cases whole-class reading. So I struggled as well with some of the information in that section.
Tracy- I agree- I love the theory and am not necessarily "against" reviewing the work that is done with whole-class novels but I do think that some of the most amazing conversations we had in class came from whole class novels but then I also worked hard to build in accommodations for below-level readers and extensions for above-level readers. I do agree that my thinking has evolved about the questions and the assigned pages. I prefer telling kids to be at a certain place for a discussion on a certain day. That is still probably not right- but it felt like kids had more control over their reading habit. One year, I eliminated all of my required reading except one novel and instead did group choices. It seemed to be hit or miss for kids- some liked it, some didn't. You can never find the perfect solution. I think it is best for us to be reflective and open to new ideas/research. I say don't do away with them but keep on asking yourself about what's best and that is the best we can do. :)
Joan, I also have a policy of "be at this part of the book on this day." I know it's not perfect, but it works for me and my students. I make a bookmark with the schedule printed on one side so they always have that with them. It usually gets amended as we read, but it's there as a start! I also have tried to step away from the reading guide questions, especially for my advanced students. Instead, I have reading checks that function more like journals and ask more of those dialogic questions instead of "what happened when..." It definitely doesn't catch all of those who have pretended to read, but it encourages students to think more after they read a section.
Molly -- I love your bookmark idea with where students should be and when! I may need to steal this! :)
I can see your points, but am curious as to how you accommodate for different reading levels in your classroom. Are they all capable of reading the novel independently?
I love the idea of a bookmark as well. Maybe that will be a goal of mine instead of "fold your handout in half."
I also love how so much of this book dovetails with Jim Burke's timeline and positive and negative as well as other graphics.
Post-it notes are a must.
As an intervention specialist I have several ways to adapt the reading of a whole class book. I find this to be one of my more challenging tasks. Often my students are two instructional reading grade levels below their peers. When a teacher assigns the class the same book it can be very difficult for my students. I have had students listen to the book on tape and follow along with the actual book, I have used Learning Ally for students to listen to the book and have the words highlighted as it is read, I have reread the book in small group to my students and I have had my students read with a peer. Other times depending on the reading level I have retyped the book using words with visuals so the student has a better understanding. Usually during common reading the entire class will be reading the same book that the teacher has directed them to read. When it is common reading usually the teacher is reading and the students follow along. At times the students will be directed to read on their own. Since the book is usually way to hard for my students and on their frustration level I will do a small group with them. I really found it interesting that the book said to allow students to read books that are not on their instructional or independent level. I have found when kids are reading books on their frustration level that they chose the book to appear like they can read the same books as their peers and have very little comprehension of what they have read. On p. 146 it states, " Listening doesn't build reading stamina; listening doesn't allow the reader to decide what to reread, when to untangle confusion, when to mull over a favorite passage, when to stare at illustrations." This statement really gave me insight as a teacher to what my students may be feeling as they are listening. It really is just allowing the kids to experience the text together not all of the other things we hope they are gaining. I need to remember all kids do not read at the same pace, have the same interests and its important to give the students a choice in choosing the common book.
As I reflect on the Power of Talk I realize I often ask monologic questions to my students. My students would respond quickly and want to move on to other matters. I never really gave them time to enjoy conversations over what we have read, asked them what they like/disliked or what they would change. This is not how I want my classroom to be in three years. I want it to be like what I enjoyed in high school. Some of my favorite classes were where the teachers used dialogic questions. I loved the example in the book with Kylene talking to the teacher about the Bridges of Madison County. So often I can remember the story but not the characters names so this really hit home and once again disrupted my thinking.
I think that if you model for your students that as they listen (and follow along with the text), they can stop, muddle over and reread to themselves. Now with so many audiobooks being on phones, I often stop, hit the "back" button (which is set at 15 second increments) and re-listen to catch something I missed.
I'm glad you picked up on the monologic questions-I can never remember characters in books so have always focused on bigger issues, and I wish you luck as you have more B-H-H discussions your students!
I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to read and dialogue about this book with all of you this summer. Just the idea that so many of you are stopping and thinking about why you do what you do and that you are being reflective about your practice was worth it. In my position I can continue to message and encourage disruptive thinking. I can also offer opportunities to dialogue. I clearly understand the difference between dialogue and monologue after reading this chapter. Like Angie, when you are asked what do you remember about a book you read it is the things that touched your heart, or changed your thinking.
Your post made me think of something...didn't we just spend 8 weeks what Beers and Probst say isn't that effective? LOL!! How would this have worked if we all just came to the table with a different book? It wouldn't have...we would never have had the rich discussions and interactions that we have had...
Great point, Tracy! I wonder what would happen if, after reading this book together, we chose from three different follow-up books and then came back together to discuss. That could be very interesting.
Good point. However, we are not reading the book in the same way, which is a plus.Also, we all chose to read this book. I do see value in the shared reading experience.
I was thinking this same thought process when they said that if you ARE reading the same book, "you want to finish it in a week." I was thinking... I have read this book for 8 weeks and it has been beneficial and engaging! I don't think I could have thought about it as deeply had I sped through it in a week.
Some of you did - but I had a crazy busy summer and did most of it in 2 weeks :)
YAY! I agree that we have all practiced disruptive thinking and will change our practices based on this book so we have become a model class for the principles in this book. Thanks Heidi for setting it up in this fashion!
I think anytime a group of teachers get together with an open mindset and are willing to discuss, share, collaborate, etc....everyone walks away having been given the greatest gift....improvement. I never feel satisfied with my teaching. I always spend the summer rethinking, redoing, adding, taking away, etc.... this summer has been especially fulfilling. Learning communities have helped me tremendously. I have found a small one in my district (just me and one other teacher, but boy has it been powerful for both of us!), this group has insour d me and made me question and rethink some of my lessons, and I also belong to a group on Facebook. Each interaction has been positive, productive, and meaningful. I know my students will benefit from my having these experiences!
Chapter 14 is a tough one because as a high school English teacher (Juniors) I just can't agree that students shouldn't read the same novel at the same time. I don't take 8 weeks for my classes to read a novel...it usually takes around 3ish, so if the novel is hated by a percentage of students the pain is temporary, lol! At the Junior level, I'm preparing students for college and beyond. For the most part, colleges aren't letting students pick whatever they want to read and allowing silent reading days. I tend to be a realist--and I realize I'm in a profession where many people are idealist. The realist in me says, the kids are going to all read The Great Gatsby at the same time. Some won't like it, some will love it. Then, when we read The Catcher in the Rye, those who loved Gatsby will hate Catcher. Etc. etc. There are ways I can incorporate choice and students not all reading the same novel--independent novel projects for my honors classes, etc...but for the most part, I will continue to have class-wide novel units.
What a great point...I don't think I was ever given a choice in college as to what I was allowed to read. I guess that further affirms the need for whole-class novels. I teach college-prep, so my job is to prepare them for the rigorous demands of college.
I don't teach elementary, but maybe it is more feasible for the younger grades? I say this simply because the text is typically shorter (so much more accessible for the teacher to keep up with many different titles) and more "simplistic." (I use that term very loosely...couldn't think of a better one.) Again, I don't teach the young ones (those that do have a straight path to heaven IMO!),so maybe I am incorrect!
Megan- I agree- I believe that school is always about moderation. (Just like eating!) We need to do what is best but sometimes what is best is a variety of instructional practices and strategiesI think that cutting down the time to finish a novel is a step in the right direction. But, college and even real life (world of work) is about assigned reading, timelines, etc… So (personal opinion) I do feel their is value in high school and beyond being more focused on assigned reading to build meaning. But, we just have to work hard to build a love of reading so kids have time to practice strategies, etc… with books they want to read but part of growing up is learning how to complete tasks. Again, not until high school but sometimes we have to think about what we do and how we prepare kids for next steps. I also believe strongly in cultural literacy- as long as we are including diverse authors and perspectives, I think it is important for students to have those shared conversations.
Megan, Tracy & Joan,
Great points & you have me thinking again. Like a couple of you mentioned - preparing students for college (where they don't have a choice in what they read) and to vary instructional methods...maybe my teaching whole class novels does have a place?
In fact, the idea of everything in moderation is what I need to hear, too. I often learn new things & want to go "all out;" however, I need to be realistic and choose a couple of new things this school year and then, reevaluate.
Thanks, ladies, for "keeping me grounded" and helping me rethink what I should do next year...
Thanks for your insights, Megan. I definitely see value in having been exposed to some classic texts that I would never have personally chosen to read. There are a lot of cultural references to many classics, and I feel like I would be less culturally aware if I hadn't been required to read these texts.
It's funny how I feel the same way about third grade. In our district, kids start middle school in fifth grade, so I always feel like it is the responsibility of the third and fourth grade teachers to prepare the kids for middle school expectations. We always have to be mindful of future expectations so our kids are as prepared as possible!
Megan I agree with you that at a certain grade level all students should read have to read the same book. I believe it's important to expose students especially in highschool to some of the classic books that for the most part students would not pick on their own. I think reading the same book in highschool within three weeks allows plenty of time to read and a wonderful opportunity for great discussions.
I know this doesn't go with THESE chapters, but I'm guessing that a lot of you, like me, are thinking about how to start the school year. A colleague shared this poem and I immediately thought of the BHH framework and asking how this changed their thinking. (caution, it does have the word damn) https://spoonvision.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/how-was-your-summer/
My reply doesn't really go with this section either, but I am starting the year with a survey/questionnaire like the ones discussed in a previous thread. I've tried hard to avoid being the Establish My Presence Day One teacher. I think it'd be really refreshing to have the kids think about what it is that they care most about.
This is a beautiful poem. thanks for sharing.
As I read the chapter, Reading the Same Book, I knew there was going to be some debate about this chapter because I am having ongoing conversations with middle school teachers I work with about this same topic. It has taken time and practice, but I feel like the middle school teachers I work with have embraced student choice in reading by using book clubs and allowing students to choose what they read during workshop time, but they do still use shared reading experiences for their lessons. I do feel there is power and necessity in a whole class shared reading experience. I often use short stories for mentor texts, but if I use novels, we usually start them in class for a few days and then students will read them during independent reading time and I pull small groups of students for comprehension or fluency work. I used to feel very strongly about teaching specific novels. What changed my thinking was a combination of professional learning opportunities and trying something new and making adjustments. When a mentor in my building was supporting me in trying book clubs and moving from just whole class novels, she said to me, "Is your role to teach this book, or to teach the reader how to read and how to think about their reading so that they can apply that to anything they read?" And I guess my thought is that in grades K-8, and even into high school, teaching the reader is the prominent task, and I think that is where choice can be important. What I teach during my lessons needs to apply to anything the students read, not just one text. I can teach my students to analyze themes in many different stories, for example, and we may read a few short ones together for me to model and for my students to talk about together, but I want them to apply that in the texts they read on their own. I do understand that in high school there are some literature specific classes in which the answer would be, 'Yes, I need to teach novels X,Y,Z" so the choice aspect is more difficult. If the whole class shared reading texts are purposeful, short, and not analyzed to death, they are powerful as a resource to use in teaching. At the same time, in my experience, engagement and excitement increases when students frequently have choice in their reading.
"I do understand that in high school there are some literature specific classes in which the answer would be, 'Yes, I need to teach novels X,Y,Z" so the choice aspect is more difficult. If the whole class shared reading texts are purposeful, short, and not analyzed to death, they are powerful as a resource to use in teaching. At the same time, in my experience, engagement and excitement increases when students frequently have choice in their reading." --> THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS!!!
I teach high school and there are common novels that we are expected to teach depending on grade levels. I am just starting to think more and more about vague questions that are more open ended instead of novel specific.
I think students would love the idea of reading something different and not all being the same!
Our school is set up so that all incoming freshmen take the same Humanities class and read the same books at the same pace. I have issues with some of this. Not with the reading at the same pace but rather with the selection of the works, a reading list that has not changed in years. Having said that, it's fun to get these kids when they are seniors and how deeply they felt about those books, for good or ill, and how bonding that experience seems to be.
I so agree- I think we should always focus on the idea of teaching the reader not the reading, same principle applies in writing- teach the writer, not the writing. But, there are times/places for that shared conversations, I just think we have to be thoughtful about what books, what work, pacing, etc…
We also know that so much of the shared conversation about a shared text comes from the teacher's ability to encourage the students, etc… I was tasked with teaching Great Expectations to gifted 8th graders for years. The first year, I struggled. By then second year, I decided to change my tactics and from then on, my kids began reading hating the book and then loved it by the end. I worked on finding modern connections and showing them how many times Southpark/Simpsons/Family Guy had spoofed Great Expectations. When my attitude changed, so did our experience with the class novel. I think we all do a great job of reflecting and thinking of these things as we get ready to start another year.
Joan you are so right in saying that teacher attitude and approach can make a difference in student reaction! I love the blending of Great Expectations with modern spoofs!
I think student choice makes teachers nervous because you can't lesson plan for spontaneous student conversation over ten or more books! Choice can be successful if it is supervised. Asking basic questions if student is enjoying the book or understanding the book is an easy way to guide student choice. The ultimate goal is to avoid a student being a color or reading level. The idea of teaching kids it is okay to drop an unenjoyable book is a hard lesson to learn as you get older but why waste your time on dreadful stories.
"Is your role to teach this book, or to teach the reader how to read and how to think about their reading so that they can apply that to anything they read?" This is so thought-provoking. I need to reflect on this and adjust my teaching. Thank you for sharing your experience.
So these two chapters were great! I enjoyed the conversation around reading the same book and I agree with their logic and explanations around reading the same book but I also liked that they didn't definitively say NO! I agree that it shouldn't be the total experience of students in middle and high school. But, I do strongly believe that some whole class novels are fantastic for conversations and for building some basic ideas that can be used all year for building connections and overarching themes.
I also enjoyed the chapter on the role of talking and the different types of questions. I loved the dictated conversation between the teacher and author. So true that I've remembered the most poignant points in a book and not remembered a single character's name. I would like to work on continuing to develop dialogic questions to use with our text-dependent questions. As with an earlier post, I do believe that we need a healthy mix of strategies and work. Moderation is what is best for teaching and learning too!
What I liked about the conversation on one class novel was it discussed how in all the authors time researching they couldn't find a strong study supporting one novel over weeks of study. I had an internal gut feeling that weeks long study of the same book was tedious if not unnatural in everyday life. One class novel kiss choices, takes too long, creates more negative emotions than positive, and uniformity of reading is unnatural. Listening does have a place in the classroom though it is different than reading which one class novel really doesn't work well for either teaching method.
Chapter 14 was difficult for me to wrap my mind around and I had a discussion with my boyfriend (an ESL teacher) about this for over an hour.
I an thrown off by the quote, "Listening is not reading. There is value in listening, but listening uses and hones different skills from reading." (pg. 143). Although I agree with this I have a hard time as a teacher NOT reading out loud to my students. I teach high school special education and my students read at a 1st-4th grade level. If I want my students to read any of the material that interests them/or is on the AIR test (which doesn't interest them lol) I HAVE to read it out loud. Since I have to read everything - it is hard not to read the same book at the same time.
I wish I could find a way to make this work. I have tried graphic novels and/or low level readers but it is hard to still find something that they can read independently.
Professionally I think it is better for my students to try to engage in higher level thinking/discussion questions than read materials independently.
Jennie, thanks for your thoughts from the special education perspective. I agree that there are times you just need to read the same book so you don't go crazy! I have experience as an intervention specialist, as well, and I think that we have to remember that generalizations will not necessary fit the needs of those special kids. I would also hope your group is smaller than a typical classroom, which also makes a difference in this discussion.
I commend you for pushing your kids to think and discuss texts that are higher than what they can read independently. I think that's a big part of what we have to do when working with students who have special needs.
Thank you Angela -
It is definitely challenging but worth it!
As a huge proponent of audiobooks, I really disagreed with what Beers and Probst said about listening not being reading. Students can read at significantly higher levels when they listen to a book, and if they are following along with the actual book, they are making huge strides. They are learning vocabulary, hearing it pronounced, understanding how words fit together in speech patterns and by making oral and written connections together, they really do grow.
If students have to read what their peers are reading but have significantly lower reading levels-audiobooks paired with the actual text is the ABSOLUTE way to go. I would recommend getting a copy for each student individually so that they can go at their own pace.
THEN for their own independent reading, they can either read at their level or pair with an audiobook again. Your librarian -both at your school and at the public library -can help you get copies for everyone!
I would agree that audio books paired with the book are great ideas. I allow it, but I didn't used to. I see that our students are changing and some NEED that in order to stay on task, which is ok with me. They still get practice with smaller texts.
If the tools are there, the students are going to use them... just like they are going to use Google to find the answers to their homework if possible. Our job is to hold them accountable for the learning. The vehicle they take to get there doesn't really matter to me.
I love the idea of the dialogic instead of monologic conversations. There are many days when I sit at my chair in my classroom and I start off my class with "What surprised you in this section" and then I don't really ask another question for the entire 50 minutes. There are certainly some days where I have some prepared questions to discuss, but I find that these dialogic conversations with the class are so much more rich. As an aside, these whole class conversations would be few and far between if we didn't have a whole class novel.
A mainstay of our Humanities program is the Socratic seminar. Some argue that it is not a "real" Socratic seminar, but I don 't care because the kids like it and it seems effective. It's also great for me because a rule is that I have to keep out of it, which is difficult for me (as it is for all of us who simply have to heave our voice heard lol). It also gives a safe, structured setting for students to speak. Nearly every seminar over the last 15 years has had for me a moment when I am listening to kids talk, usually about a work i have taught many times, and I think "How come I never thought of that?"
I agree about Socratic Seminars and AHA moments and insights from students. I love learning from them and seeing things from their perspectives. It's really fun and humbling. I also love doing follow-up short, choice responses afterward, preferably in a setting such as this.
After reading last week's material, I was feeling really good about the independent reading happening in my classroom. I was doing something right! Then. . . I read chapter 14. . .
"Intensive study of a novel does result in more negative attitudes toward reading." "Listening is not reading." My students do engage in reading the same novel as a class. (Usually 2-3 times per year.) Most of the reading in my English I classes is done aloud, together, in class. Reading outside of class just doesn't get done. Am I failing my students??? While I love the idea of conferencing with students, I just don't see how I can do this effectively in a room of 30 teenagers.
I have to disagree with the statement that listening is not reading. (Books on tape, anyone???) If my students are following along with the text as they are hearing it read, that is reading!
I think you've identified a fair point in saying that IF your students are following along with text as they hear it, then they are reading. The problem is that many kids don't do that, and they end up behind. My students (8th grade science) often cite having been read to as one of the reasons they struggle with informational text I assign. They are unable to decode efficiently, which leads to lack of comprehension. They crave the challenge of reading on their own. I know it doesn't always get finished if expected outside class, but maybe that's why Beers & Probst strongly advocate for silent reading during class.
I am intrigued by the use of monologic and dialogic questioning. To me, basic comprehension is assessed through monologics, whereas dialogics encourage students to delve into conversations with each other and with me. I can imagine how awesome this would be in an ELA environment, and even in a science environment. I envision more deliberate use dialogic questioning to motivate outside the box thinking among my kids during inquiry projects!
Dialogic questions stood out to me too as a unique name for a misused strategy in today's classrooms. I could see most teachers finding dialogic questions burdensome to have on tests due to grading or in class because they take precious time to answer. These questions also are much harder to prepare for as a teacher and can lead to tangents. Though I find in my life if I am not filling out paperwork like a passport renewal or medical information I much more encounter dialogic questions in everyday life. I believe dialogic questions are the goal of lifelong learners because life's problems have no simple answers!
For my elementary students, I taught it as thick and thin questions - the thin questions the answers are right there, but thick ones you have to think about more and come up with your reasoning/evidence. It comes in handy across the subjects!
Part of this reading for Week 9 made me feel like this was not something intended for my students. I work in an urban school (never confused with the Orange School District in northern Ohio). I don't know where my students would have access to a wide enough variety of books to read individual works And please don't suggest the school library; you'd have to see it to believe it. And to ask kids to go out and but their own is not practical; it's not even legal to assign them to do so if they are on free or reduced meals, with the majority are. Also, there are many students who can be self-directed enough to read a book independently, but there are many who are not.And for many urban kids the teacher is the "educated" person who is going to guide them through a work. And by our guiding them, they are often accumulating the cultural capital that they so need and that so many kids who live in less challenging circumstances have already internalized just by virtue of their day to day lives. I also think the Eudora Welty described "reader's ear" doe not develop for all children before secondary school.In households that have reading materials, quiet spaces, and reading role models, that ear probably does develop early. That is not all students... I did however take to heart the section about teachers like me who, although wanting to be "dialogic" too frequently slip into "monologic" mode when that inner clock starts harping "You need to move on..You need to finish..There is too much wait time." Been at this a long time and it remains a challenge.
I totally agree with what you are saying. I am in an urban district also, but have moved around within the district and have seen different levels of poverty and wealth. But you have to teach differently and model more for sure.
I am finding that I am reading chapter 14 (Reading the Same Book) very defensively, so perhaps I'm missing some of their point. I taught at the middle school level for many years where many teachers taught their classes the same novel. I received a lot of eye-rolls from teachers for having multiple books going (book groups) with a common theme. I differentiated a lot. So I thought this chapter would support that...but I feel like even that is frowned upon by Beers & Probst...who I think are saying kids should ALWAYS choose their own book. I can't agree to that. From my experience, free choice is good SOME of the time. But, some kids choose crap to read, some choose to fake/not read and I find that when I conference or question or discuss a book they have chosen that I haven't read...it's just not as good of a discussion. How am I to know if they choose a good example, of say, contrast and contradiction. Sure, they may have proven to me in conferencing that they get the concept, but maybe they missed a very subtle one that would be good to point out and discuss...but I won't know to do that if I haven't read the book. Furthermore, I have ALWAYS had a couple books that the whole class reads as an "anchor text". Middle school was The Giver and Mr. Was. I assigned deadlines for reading and so we could talk as a class. And sure, some read ahead...I didn't punish them but they often found out it makes it harder to discuss without ruining parts. (they never think I'm right about that :)) -- I have now co-taught in 3 different classrooms for the past 6 years as in intervention specialist in 5th and 6th grades. At these grade levels, they read at least 2 novels a year aloud as a class -- and I LOVE it...feel like 95% of the kids do also (at least 3% would hate even a book of their own choosing). We have rich discussions and reactions and...I often think it's some of our best teaching! I am sad Kylene and Bob would disagree. One of my three teachers has a different "style" for her classroom that has grown on me. First, she is very FAST -- I tend to be more methodical and go deep. She covers a lot quickly. Pros and cons to both, but I will say that most days she gives kids time to read independently (books of their choosing -- a couple of book clubs meet during this time or one of us will conference with students); she also finds the time to do a couple of chapters of a novel read aloud (I think maybe she does 6 or so a year). And yes, her class is 95 minutes long so that helps. But I can't imagine ONLY having the choice books and conferences...that is, in my opinion, by far, the LEAST effective of the 3 types of reading we get in (book groups being the most effective in my opinion). Please tell me I am misinterpreting Bob and Kylene's philosophy of all self select books being what's best for growing a students' reading???
Overall, I go back to Penny Kittle's formula 25% all-class texts, 50% independent reading and 25% mentor writing texts (I believe that is the last 25%-feel free to correct me someone).
There is a place for all-class reads-both for discussion and for stamina reasons -and then a bulk of our reading should be independent reading with some small measure of accountability (it can be tiny).
Ultimately, the more kids practice reading, the better readers they will become, and if they aren't reading the texts, they aren't practicing. It's again about that relevance piece too :)
I've been wanting to read Penny Kittle's Book Love. Is that where she discusses that formula?
I really like what you mentioned about her formula and your arguments for it. There needs to be variety but also a balance, too, that promotes reading. My challenge for this school year is incorporating more independent reading. I know that last year it was not 50% of what my students did...
Thanks for the insights! I will definitely read Penny Kittle's book!
These chapters finally gave me a satisfying answer on what to do in my classroom to support readers. Active steps that can be taken were mind changing for me was making a distinct difference between listening to a book and reading a book. They are two very different tools to support different reading goals and should be treated as such. What a powerful message on varying reading techniques to work on different necessary reading skills. I appreciated the discussion on having listening as part of the classroom though with the goal of decoding for students.
My big take away from these chapters was whole group reading should be short pieces not novels. By picking smaller text those that love it can devour it and those who can't stand it don't suffer. I always used my homeroom time for reading a novel with time and I realized reading the short novel over 4 months(!) was probably a terrible experience for some. I love how this book allowed me to grow in my profession actively this year even though I don't teach reading!
Amy, I was surprised too with the difference between reading a book and listening to a book. I have never thought of them as different tools. When my students could not decode text I just assumed the best answer was to have them listen to the book. However, it is very insightful to have a better understanding that reading a book and listening to a book has two different goals depending on the reader.
Amy and Angie, I too never really thought of the differnence beteeen reading and listening to a text read aloud. My wheels are turning now in how to share this with intervention specialists who often read aloud much of a text so students have the same access to the informafion as their peers. Do they really?
I don't think I've taken 4 months to get through something, but reading the 6-8 weeks in the text made me think of some instances where that has happened in my class (or where we decided just to abandon it because it was taking so long and we didn't love it!) Guilty as charged, but I'll be more mindful in the future of that time.
The section on The Power of Talk casued me some moments of introspection. I flashed back to my beginning years of teaching in the early 1980s. I've often felt bad about those years...like I "cheated" the kids because my teaching methods were so crude compared to now. That's probably true with most teachers. The longer we teach, the more we learn (from classes like this), and better we get.
I'm really getting excited to beging classes in two weeks. I want to put some of these concepts into action.:-)
The school librarian in me loved chapter 14! When students used to come to the library and had to find an independent reading book at their Lexile level, it discouraged many students. It discouraged readers with high Lexile reading levels...the library didn't have many choices at the 1000+ range or the lower Lexile range. So, my interpretation of choice reading for students might be different than others. For those students who were frustrated, I would encourage their teachers to let them check out another book - one that they wanted to read but didn't fit their "Lexile." Most teachers allowed this. (I was in the middle school library for 8 years...in the beginning, this wasn't the requirement for any of the students.) It was difficult to watch students who were initially excited to come to the library -- leave with disappointment and frustration.
Like other teachers have posted, I think that there needs to be a variety of reading in the classroom. For my part, I need to incorporate more time for my students to read a book of their choice in class. My classes are 50 minutes so I am intrigued and considering using an entire class period for FSR. I think that this would be better than the 15 or 20 minutes that I have done in the past. My students could get more immersed in their reading, and I could conference with more students. I think that I am going to give this a try this year.
The chapter about the power of talking makes me realize that I need to employ more dialogic questions in my classes. I also liked how someone posted in this thread about a teacher who had students use post-its to respond to 3 questions about a text. It made me recall a Shakespeare college class where the professor had us read for homework, but we also had to come up with one dialogue question about that reading and a possible answer -- with textual evidence. It was challenging. It makes me think that I could model & then have my students come up with 2 or 3 dialogic questions for a short story or an article. Wouldn't that make for some interesting conversation?
This chapter was a tough read for me, because I currently do whole class novels with my students. I agree that there needs to be more choice, but I also appreciated the strategies included for the ties when a whole class novel is implemented. I have a questions: On page 146, there is a section about whole class novels as read alouds. Beers and Probst state to finish the book in a week. Is this true for all whole class novels or just read alouds?
I pondered this as well - for me to finish some chapter books in a week, it has to be because we're so hooked we read "past" our time to see what's next.
I loved this section, and I did not come away with the impression that reading whole-class novels is bad practice: I came away with the notion that spending several weeks or drawing out the duration of a novel does little good. I'm considering that maybe the authors refer to the practice of spending an entire nine weeks focusing mostly on one novel, assigning a chapter or so per night with corresponding blackline masters and vocabulary lists, etc. One practice that has worked well (certainly nor perfect) for me is to give the students a calendar with due date checkpoints and focus areas for annotation. Students like to be able to work ahead, and they also like being able to time manage more efficiently. I admittedly do a better job of this at the junior level, trying to mimic college syllabi.
If and when your goal is more about community rather than creating an enthusiastic reader, then whole-class novels is an excellent avenue. I liked the point that we "need some common experiences to unite us" and that from "time to time, we ought to come together to read the same novel" (144).
The part I'm trying to wrap my mind around is more of their guidelines for reading the same book regarding pacing, conferencing, and choice. With anything, I'm just going to do my best with this, using the ideas to reshape and reflect on possible improvements. For instance, the calendar provides a little more leeway for pacing nightly. When a student falls behind, they see me for a one on one conference. Each student may not get a conference in class since many of us see over 100 students per day, but small group conferences are certainly an alternative. Lastly, choice. Easier said than done in a school with few class sets, but worthy of consideration.
As for The Power of Talk section: here's what I intend to add to my lesson plans from page 154:
How has this book given me an opportunity to change and improve who I am?
How has this book disrupted, if only slightly, my conception of myself and my thinking about the world?
These are great reminders that it's ultimately about growth of the human, and since it's not measured on a test, we might lose sight of it.
When a student falls behind, *they see me for a one on one conference.
*he or she, not they.
Wow. I need to go to bed.
I found the turn and talk questions on page 156 interesting and a good place for me to respond.
I love teaching my kids about "Thick (dialogic) and Thin (monologic) questions and it helps them realize they need to go back and find the evidence for those thick question. Additionally, I've learned more about a book when asking these questions and students going a different way than I was thinking and able to ask "why do you think that" and then we can share our different thoughts and come to realize we read it differently, but can understand both viewpoints. Depending on my readers, I try not to ask my lower level students mroe monolgic questions, but I bet if I recorded myself, I do....much like the conversation about Bridges of Madison County, it took that converation for the teacher to recognize she answered her own question.
It's funny to ponder who my students look at in a conversation. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's a peer. Sometimes a peer asked a question and the student answering looks at me. I'll often point out "I'm not the one who asked, you need to look at your friend who asked."
Were most of these ideas for individual conferences/book talks or more whole class. Sometimes I feel, even when I'm quiet, that conferencing can distract other readers. Suggestions?
I'm happy to see so many are still considering the importance/struggling with giving up whole-class reads like I am.
Because I would like to sit on that section a little longer, I wanted to mention how excited "The Power of Talk" made me for this school year. Last school year I really embraced the "what surprised you?" and "what did you notice?" questioning stances and I could not believe or get over how much deeper my students' discussions became. I also loved that it changed the classroom dynamic from me talking to the kids eager to share the surprising facts/pieces of information that resonated with them. Every time I was thrilled at how my students picked great pieces of evidence to support their thinking. Because they knew there was no right or wrong answer, even my most reluctant students were more than willing to participate with these questions as well! The section on monologic and dialogic questions just made me excited to continue using these types of questions to enrich my students' daily discussions. I felt this was a great, inspiring topic to end the book!
Was anyone else shocked by the suggestion of doing a read-aloud in a week???!!! P. 146 What grade level and WHY? Just found it to be a bold suggestion without a lot of support. Yes, they clearly don't like teachers reading a book aloud, but wondering about the
I took cannot see doing an entire book in one week... unless it is a picture book :0)
This school year I really want to focus on the power of talk in my class. I definitely think the students rely on my to lead the conversation and then lead their thinking and then lead them to how it connects with their life. I know students learn by going deeper and asking their own questions.
So I am going to shift my thinking and the way I ask questions this year. I am going to make them dialogic vs monologic. I think if I had this conversation with my students about conversations that happen in the hallway verses in the classroom, they would get it. I think this is definitely a great place to start getting the students to go deeper into their reading and connecting with their emotions and what is in the book.
Reading the same book makes management easier for teachers. We are able to hold students accountable with less effort of the teacher's part. It is easier for students to "fake" their reading. However, this doesn't mean it's best practice. After reading this section, I'm re-evaluating how to incorporate choice into my instruction.
I LOVE the picture of the child on page 139 holding the sign saying "I'm not an H." This spoke volumes to me as I rely heavily on F and P assessments to guide my teaching. And those same assessments are used by administration in evaluating my teaching skills at times. This really opened my eyes to the damage we are causing when we label our students. While it is imperative that kiddos read 'just right' books, teaching them how to chose those books is critical. Giving up the control in my classroom has been a challenge for me. When all of the students are reading the same book, I felt like I was a better teacher because I knew said book inside and out. I knew what skills I could teach using that one book, and I had one assessment for all the kiddos based on the book. As my teaching has evolved, I have come to realize, and this chapter completely supports my decision to allow students choice during reading workshop time. Although it is a little tricky trying to make sure students truly understand what they are reading, especially when I haven't read every book in my classroom library. I'm slowly but surely coming to terms with the idea of choice and how this single idea could be a huge motivator for readers. Last year, students were told to pick books from book baskets that were at their independent level. I think that this year I will do a better job of allowing them to pick books that aren't at their level as well. Children are not a level, and I'm ready to apply this train of thought in my classroom:)
Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts