Jan 16, 2014
Comments Off on Can She Choose Nothing?

Can She Choose Nothing?

I’m an advocate for choice in education. I think the more we can personalize the experience, the more relevant we become, especially in a knowledge-rich, democratized culture.

And so I proposed the idea that next semester in English class, I would have no “required” reading; meaning no “core” text, no “class novel”, nothing that isn’t chosen specifically by the individual student. Sure, I’d make recommendations, nudge students to challenge themselves with great books, etc., but nothing would be something everyone in the class had to read.

That’s not to say they didn’t have to read. I just wouldn’t compel them to read any one specific thing.

The logistics of the idea aren’t fully worked out in my head and I’m not sure if I’m actually ready to jump into it, but the idea is percolating.

no-thank-youThe biggest pushback to the idea is what if a student chooses to read nothing. What if she doesn’t like reading and so unless she is compelled, she won’t do it? My first instinct is to assume that she is probably not reading a compulsory text, anyway.

Sarah Le (@sarle83) wrote a great post about the reality of students pretending to read. (http://leslearning.blogspot.ca/2013/11/i-feel-duped-by-student.html)

My more thoughtful response is to use my relationship with the student, along with her understanding of the requirements of the course (curriculum expectations) to help her find/choose texts that she’ll enjoy. It could serve multiple purposes, obviously get a student who wouldn’t read to read something, but more importantly, building the personal relationship. It is a way for me to demonstrate to that student that I value them as an individual.

The other big pushback I got for this idea was around class discussions. How do you hold a class discussion when everyone hasn’t read the same source material? My response, you don’t. Instead you hold mini-discussion amongst people who have read texts that have similar themes. The class discussion model, although I love it, does often trend towards teacher-directed, with only select students participating.

Alas, it is an idea. It needs more development around how do you track reading? How do you keep students accountable? And, what if they still choose nothing?

But, there is a lesson in there too, isn’t there?


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