The Three Reasons That Student Choice Matters in Literature

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Research has proven that student choice has a strong correlation to student motivation.  In fact, the latest trends with ‘Genius Hour’ is now driving change in how we use our classroom time.  According to Tina Grotzer and Harvard GSE:

“The goal . . . is to provide opportunities for students to learn that inquiry and their own experiences can help them achieve a deeper understanding of their world. It aims to foster a spirit of inquiry in all students. These goals promise to help students grow into life-long learners who are curious and set out to seek and achieve deep understanding of the world that they live in.”

I have had this epiphany in my Literature classroom with the inclusion of an “Independent Reading Program” or IRP this year. Using the guidance from Nancie Atwell in her popular book, In the Middle, New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning, she recommended teachers provide opportunities for students to read their own books in the classroom.  She discovered this helped create a compelling literate environment because “students taught me that they loved to read. . . . I learned that selecting one’s own books and reading them in school is not a luxury. It is the wellspring of student literacy and literary appreciation.”

In this epiphany, I have learned the three reasons that student choice matters in literature:

Reason #1) My students are motivated to read, in the classroom and in their free time, because they can choose their favorite book and author!  In the first week of school, almost one-third of my students checked out books from my library and the list continues to grow.  I get to guide them to great stories written by great authors!

Reason #2) As a teacher, I got to know my students better, and quicker, at the beginning of the year by tapping into their interests and having ‘book talks’ in the hallways, at recess, and in the cafeteria!

Reason #3)  My classroom is an interesting and relaxing place for all of us. I provide time in each class period, either at the beginning or the end, for students to escape into a book.

Genius Hour - Students Love Reading!

These three reasons are creating an engagement level in Literature that my Common Core curriculum does not.  If you want to create life-long readers, then give them the “Genius Hour” time to pursue their passions to read!

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Getting Ready for a New School Year

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It is exciting to prepare for a new school year!  The room has been cleaned, the new books stacked on desks, and orientation has been set for Monday.  The classroom is ready for my students!

Classroom Picture 2015

But beginning a new year requires more than just aligning desks and hanging posters.  It is really looking at that ‘teaching space’ for classroom management.  According to Harry Wong in The First Days of School, classroom management refers to all of the things that a teacher does to organize students, space, and materials so that student learning can take place.

Wong compares it to running a department store.  You must consider the layout of the store and the accessibility & availability of the merchandise.  In addition, you must have hired help that knows their product, and are efficient and friendly.  That makes customers want to buy things and return for additional purchases.

As I set up my classroom, I think about the “layout for learning” and consider the availability and accessibility of learning tools in the classroom.  In a 21st Century classroom, I need to consider the space for collaboration with and among students.  I need to provide workspace for individuals as well as groups.  And I need to create an environment where students WANT to learn.  Since I teach Literature, I have provided a rich library of book genres for independent reading.  I have placed reading chairs and lamps throughout the room for this quiet time of enrichment. And I arranged the room with paper, writing utensils, clipboards, desks and composition books for reflections on their reading.

So, I am ready to teach Literature to ensure my students turn into interested and productive learners in a well-managed classroom.