kitchen table math, the sequel: children choosing books

Saturday, June 2, 2012

children choosing books

It goes without saying that when children choose their own reading material, they don't select "Charge of the Light Brigade."


AmyP said...

I did when I was somewhere in intermediate school (4th-6th), but I suspect that it might be difficult to even find it in a contemporary middle school library.

SATVerbalTutor. said...

Wow, most of the CC stuff listed is stuff that I read in ninth grade, and even then it was pretty challenging. I'm not sure seventh graders are quite ready for it. Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde? In seventh grade? Really? I'm all for ramping up the difficulty level, but there's a difference between giving challenging material and giving material that's beyond what kids are intellectually ready to handle. There has to be a middle ground.

kcab said...

Well, my daughter chose to read Charge of the Light Brigade, and memorize it, sometime around then, probably 6th grade. She particularly likes poetry, but also read several of the items on that list prior to 7th grade. Still, it's a good selection and I'll have to look to see if they publish anything similar for high school.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've never read it!
Although I did hear it read in The Blind Side.
Growing up in rural IL, I pioneered the concept of content-light schools...
(I don't know what all the schools were like, but I read very little literature at all.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde? In seventh grade? Really?

I think the list is a bit advanced (true of the other grades, too, I think).

Ed says he would delay Diary of a Young Girl (which I did read in high school) 'til high school; ditto "Shooting and Elephant."

Catherine Johnson said...

Core Knowledge is K-8.

Catherine Johnson said...

My district has just hired a new superintendent who is an accountability person (uses professional learning communities) .... but all of his training is in elementary ed, and he's never been head of a district with a high school.

AND the board asked him nothing about curriculum or teaching methods.

They were interested strictly in accountability (I believe).

Catherine Johnson said...

I just found this:

"I found myself back in a fourth grade classroom last year. The work was incredibly satisfying, although the elementary classroom is a laboratory for just about every educational and social initiative: inclusive learning, hands-on science, differentiated instruction, writer’s workshop, deeply conceptual math, etc. Trying to manage all of the content and being sensitive to the real needs of kids living in the 21st century is exhausting, even for an old pro like me."


It seems to me that most of the mishegoss comes from K-6 precincts. I keep hearing about "curriculum directors" who are certified to teach only elementary ed.

kcab said...

CK may be using excerpts and modified versions for some of the items on the list. At least, that option appears to exist for some things on the lower grade level lists. (I was looking at 5th grade, which includes episodes from Don Quixote.)

Good grief, I need better glasses or something. Either that or I am a robot.

palisadesk said...

..the board asked him nothing about curriculum or teaching methods...They were interested strictly in accountability (I believe).

Yikes, curriculum-free and teaching-free accountability? What kind of "accountability" is that?

Catherine Johnson said...

I think you should tell us!

(I'm betting you have plenty to say on that subject...)

Catherine Johnson said...

Offhand, I find the idea of accountability mixed with Fountas & Pinnell, Trailblazers, Reading Workshop etc. to be horrifying.

Teachers CAN'T assign whole-class books, but CAN be held accountability for reading scores?

Of course, in this town that may well mean that ELA teachers can set up profitable sidelines tutoring students at home (a business that has been more or less limited to math/science teachers to date, I think).

Catherine Johnson said...

The semi-incredible thing to me is that I have two really quite close friends on the board ---- these are terrific people who get accountability - and who get curriculum, too - and yet no one asked any of the candidates about curriculum.

The group forces operating on boards are fantastically strong.

I've experienced it myself. I served on the site committee for two years, and I found myself, at times, nodding along as the h.s. principal said things I flatly disagree with AND HAVE SPENT YEARS WRITING ABOUT TO BOOT.

The instant I left the principal's presence I would think: ***What was that?***

Face-to-face relationships are unbelievably powerful; it is VERY difficult to maintain - and act on - and independent POV when you like the people you are working with.

What happened this year was that an Interim superintendent came in who the dissidents on the board (my two friends) liked enormously. Ed and I met him and felt the same way -- we thought the guy was great (and still feel that way).

The interim super was widely heralded for "uniting the board," which he did - and this was a very badly divided board - but, in the end, a united board did not serve the reform camp well.

(I'm still processing all this, obviously.)

The one thing I accomplished in my 6 (is it 7?) years of dissent is the end of the superintendent's regime here and the hiring of a new superintendent who is an accountability person.

No, that's not all: we also have a new assistant super for business who is amazing.

BUT...the new guy comes from elementary education. That's his background, that's his training, and the district he oversaw was K-8; it had no high school.

Accountability connected with differentiated instruction etc. --- how is that going to work?

Eowyn said...

The funny thing (and I may be late to this part of the comments) is that I always loved "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Just as I loved Waletr de la Mare's "The Traveler' and a host of other poems. The oldfashioned poems were meant to be spoken, not read, and it shows. (Ok; it could beclearly heard?)

Jen said...

"Teachers CAN'T assign whole-class books, but CAN be held accountability for reading scores?"

That sums up why I won't teach in my district now. I can either teach the kids the concepts needed for their grade OR I can follow your curriculum script in the way you want it followed.

They do not lead to the same outcomes, however. And to require the script and then say it must not have been followed assiduously enough if your scores don't go up is a no-win situation for a teacher, especially a newer teacher who hasn't had years of experience in subverting the requirements!

I'd be careful though of referring to yourself as "reform-minded" -- the word reform itself has been co-opted by larger forces than yourself (not in suburbia, but in urban areas) -- and they too are pushing policies like you want to change. Content free understanding, knowledge not something you need to impart, they can google it, etc.

Anonymous said...

From the fine link:

"Below is a partial list of books, provided by IMS principal David Sottile, that Irvington 7th graders read during Fall 2011: these are the books individual children chose to read. By March, students were on track to read approximately 25 books in total during the school year, all but 2 of their own choosing."

It sounds like a total of 25 *different* books would be read by the Irvington 7th graders during the school year. But how many *each* student read is left unspecified. Each student had to read at least two books, but probably read more.

Is this correct?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Mark, not my district, but ours also has a 25 book policy and it's per kid.

Glen said...

I've been having some success with our "kids choose their own books" policy by telling my older son what to choose. ;-)

No, I'm not kidding, but I do interleave my choices with his, and I buy him books of his own choosing as rewards for reading my choices. I also read parts of the more challenging material to him. Even though he's now a "big guy," about to enter middle school, he and I were both surprised at how much he still enjoys and benefits from having challenging material read to him.

Bostonian said...

There used to be "basal readers" in elementary school, collections of stories for a class of children to read. They are less common now, but I see them sometimes at used book sales. Are there any sets of basal readers that people recommend?

Catherine Johnson said...

It's 25 books per kid. I should copy edit that line ....

Catherine Johnson said...

UT...the new guy comes from elementary education.

OK, so speaking of the new guy .... his very first act as superintendent - announced today - was to promote the constructivist principle of the 4-5 school to the position of curriculum director AND to announce that we will have a 21st century curriculum.

The curriculum wars cannot be won.


There aren't enough troops, there are too many enemies (many of them other parents), and there are ed schools.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'd be careful though of referring to yourself as "reform-minded" -- the word reform itself has been co-opted by larger forces than yourself

I have no doubt .....

Speaking of reform, I have a couple of emails from a friend telling me what "PLCs" are when you don't focus on student learning .... he says I can rewrite them and post.

OK, here's an irony.

I spent years pushing the idea of "professional learning communities," with everyone thinking I was crazy (if they listened to me at all) ... and now, in the end, we're getting a fantastically expensive new superintendent (with a 5-year contract!) who is going to set up professional learning communities ... and they're probably going to be the opposite of what they were when Richard DuFour invented them.

Catherine Johnson said...

But we'll see.

Catherine Johnson said...

Either that or I am a robot.

I'm pretty sure you're not a robot.

Crimson Wife said...

I was the weird kid who chose to read classics that were not assigned. However, I didn't just pick them blindly. I was encouraged to read these books by adults- parents, other relatives, teachers, librarians, family friends, etc. It was a lot of "if you enjoyed ___, try ____" or "when I was your age, I really liked _____".

Taking the Hunger Games example, I would've been encouraged by these adults to read titles like Huxley's Brave New World, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Golding's Lord of the Flies, etc.

I allow my daughter a lot of choice in the literature she reads for our homeschool, but it's not total freedom. A pop novel would not cut it, unless it were paired with a classic in a deliberate way. The Percy Jackson series paired with D'Aulaire's Greek Myths for example.