This spring in my Latin American literature class, I conducted my first experiment with adding some choice/independent reading in my classroom when I brought in a pile of books from my own shelves and tasked each of my seniors with reading one along with our study of Neruda’s poetry. We had two in-class discussions as they read, once around the middle of their books and another once they had finished, and in our conversations, they discussed what they thought of their texts, how they connected to other work we had, and how they expanded our knowledge of Latin America and its literature. One student read The House of the Spirits, enjoyed it more than she expected, and found it a helpful experience to have as a reader once we encountered One Hundred Years of Solitude. Another read Love in the Time of Cholera, which I adore, and sparked an interesting conversation on how to read novels asking us to sympathize or identify with characters we find distasteful or repugnant (my book club recently tackled this question in connection to Lolita). I think the experiment went well, though I wish I had offered even more choices and am still thinking about ways to make the discussions richer, possibly more structured. I’m considering practicing with short stories first, but definitely continuing to evolve the activity with my seniors next spring who will be reading Middle Eastern literature. I also talked with a colleague about how she used student choice in her unit on American poets, which I’ll be teaching this year in one section of juniors.
This week, I realized that this blog officially has over one thousand followers! While I know not all of my followers are teachers, professionally, connecting with so many other educators has helped me grow as a teacher, feel part of a wonderful educational community, and consider how I can best contribute to the lives of other teachers, as they have to mine. Towards that end, I’ll be continuing to post book reviews, stories, and thoughts about teaching, and education, and looking for new ways to grow as a teacher and writer.
One revision: I think instead of making grammar videos, I’m going to experiment with using individualized sites like Quill and IXL to more accurately assess where my ninth grade students are in their grammar skills and how to move them towards becoming better writers. Rest assured, I’ll post about how these efforts go during the upcoming year.
Three out of ten goals tackled in three months feels pretty good. This summer, I’ll be thinking of how to test a portfolio project leading up to midterms with my ninth graders, and perhaps my eleventh graders as well.