Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Well-Balanced Times Article on Choice vs. Single Text

For a well-written and balanced look at how English teachers are engaging choice vs. single text considerations, you can't beat Motoko Rich's recent article in The New York Times. Everyone will find something they agree with and something they can ponder. I especially enjoyed this quote from a Harvard GSE professor:

“If what we’re trying to get to is, everybody has read ‘Ethan Frome’ and Henry James and Shakespeare, then the challenge for the teacher is how do you make that stuff accessible and interesting enough that kids will stick with it,” said Catherine E. Snow, a professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. “But if the goal is, how do you make kids lifelong readers, then it seems to me that there’s a lot to be said for the choice approach. As adults, as good readers, we don’t all read the same thing, and we revel in our idiosyncrasies as adult readers, so kids should have some of the same freedom.”


  • Articles like this remind how much about my own education I took for granted. From kindergarten through 11th grade I was in schools that used the hybrid system of assigning some books but have us choose the rest.

    But then I moved into an American public high school in 12th grade. Wow! What a difference? Not only were the books we read dictated, but the teacher held a very stern "This is how you interpret the literature" attitude. Needless to say, we butted heads that whole year.

    At least part of her problem, and the one with most of these resistant teachers, is the emphasis on teaching to the tests :-/

    By Blogger Ben Villarreal, at 12:07 PM  

  • I taught a senior-level lit elective in a suburban high school for over 30 years, and the course still exists tho' my "successors" have been able to tinker with it making it more restrictive. However, there are 6 or 7 sections (l semester) each year.

    In the English Journal archives, read "Well, what do you think of it?" by Bruce Appleby and John Connors, then at U of Iowa. Both Bruce and I did research about this in the 60's and early 70's.

    Read my chapter "Untracking" in BJ Wagner's "Situations."

    And look up G. Robert Carlsen and Louise Rosenblatt for context and inspiration -- and a history lesson which Atwell and Calkins fail to cite in an uncharitable reach for credit for inventing the wheel.

    By Anonymous mj hollman, at 10:31 AM  

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