Parting is such sweet sorrow

There may be nothing worse than reading the last sentence of a great book.

I know this is an experience that (hopefully) everyone has had at one time, or hopefully more than one time, in their life. You dread reading that last sentence because you know that this will be the last time you will be able to experience the life of characters who have become your, for lack of a better word, “friends.”

So, instead, you choose denial and turn back to page one and start reading again.

This made me think to myself, “Will our students be able to have that experience, at least once, as a product of their reading in my classroom?”

We all have our favorite texts, as do our students. While we might appreciate the classics or the most recent entry to Oprah’s Book Club, our students may be more interested in a young adult fiction title, which we may deem as “less than” due to its cover art or seemingly generic plot. Let’s be honest, we are all guilty of judging a book by its cover. Literally.

And these are the texts that are regulated as options to “read on your own time,” but not challenging enough to be considered as an academic text selection.

(Please don’t be offended by my use of “we.” I’m thinking about the majority, based on my experiences, but I may be projecting. It’s late.)

But, these are usually the same texts that they revisit time and time again, in order to have that “aha moment” or a few minutes of  introspection at the close of the flap. And when we choose the texts that are part of our class, we hope that they will have that same experience as we did. But it’s not a guarantee and can result in fostering a negative attitude towards reading.

I think part of the reason this comes up is part of a discussion I took part in this evening that was spurred by Mark Burnes advocacy for the elimination of guided reading in class, and also compounded by the hours of thought I have spent regarding freedom of student choice in regards to the Flipped Classroom and Project-Based Learning.

As teachers, we elicit a level of control with texts, sometimes due to personal choice, other times based on budgetary reasons, or because they are part of a canon that was decided upon years and years ago without anyone asking our opinion.

But, I think it’s time to allow the students the opportunity to read texts that will interest them, and hopefully allow them the experience of never wanting to read the last words of a text that has taught them about themselves and sparked their interest in either reading, or the human experience, or bettering themselves,or  whatever it may be. And it can still be challenging and academic.

If a text needs to fall within these parameters for the Common Core Standards:

Qualitative evaluation of the text

Levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands

Quantitative evaluation of the text

Readability measures and other scores of text complexity

Matching reader to text and task

Reader variables (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed)

then I think it can be done by allowing the students to choose their own larger (anchor) text. Yes, the Lexile level may not reach the identified expectation, but the supplementary materials sure can. And if the supplementary materials are utilized in class, then this would be the opportunity to really Flip or host a PBL that allows for discovery and collaboration.

Explore = Entry event for the theme
Flip = exposure to standards/skills/concepts that will appear for the following course
Apply = Utilize supplementary texts to make connections to chosen text

For example: If I wanted to conduct a unit with the theme of “Coming of Age,” the number of available novels is infinite. Then, the supplementary materials can all be the same and speak to that theme. That way, the novel choice is their own, but the supplementary material is mine.

Yes, I am still picking some of the texts, but I think that meeting them halfway is part of the equation. And I’m okay at this point with this mindshift/mindset/whateveryouwanttocallit change at this point. But I’m ready for that change.

And then, maybe I’ll start seeing some of that reflection that I just experienced reading the last lines of a great book.

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