professornana (professornana) wrote,

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O Is for Options

I am beginning my search for a new car. The one I have is a bit too large for my needs now that College Girl is back at school. And with the soaring price of fuel, a smaller car makes sense. I do not have a set idea about the particular make and model but I do know some of the options I now deem necessary (automatic windows and locks chief among them). Other things are negotiable. And I wonder about the options we offer our own students.

If you were to look at my syllabus, you would see a list of required reading for both children's and YA literature. As graduate students who want to be school librarians, I think there are some touchstone books they need to know (and maybe a future post about T Is for Touchstone?); they need to see all the genres; they need to read books that have won awards for literary merit as well as those that won student votes. Along with the required books, though, are many other options they can have for additional reading for class. Assignments also carry options for completion. It took me a long time to get here, to trust students to come up with options on their own. Often I find their options are better than any I could have come up with on my own.

And so, what are the options we give kids in our classes? Is there choice in reading? Are there choices for assessment/evaluation? Too much of the curriculum is rigid; too many assessments involve tests. What can we do to move away from that rigidity? How can we assist kids in making choices of reading materials and evaluations/assessments?

For middle school kids, I used to begin with the unit on the short story. Instead of reading all of the selections in the text, I allowed choice: read 1 of the 10. I also permitted reading short stories from outside collections: Don Gallo's SIXTEEN, Yolen's collections on angels, vampires, or werewolves. Michael Cart's TOMORROWLAND, Jerry and Helen Weiss' DREAMS AND VISIONS and so many more. After each student had selected the short story he or she would read, we would meet and discuss how they would report to the class on the reading. What made sense given the story selected? This is an extension of Terry Ley's DIRECTED INDIVIDUALIZED READING (SEE THIS ARTICLE FOR MORE INFO: which put the student at the center of the learning. Did I do some presentations in class about the elements of the short story? Sure. But I was not the sole source of information about the short story form/format. Paul Hankins calls this being the lead learner (not the lead teacher, mind you), and I like that concept.

So, back to the question: how do we offer options? When are options the better way to go? Since I am not in your classrooms, I do not know the answers to these questions; you do. On this long weekend, as you labor over plans, think about the options you can offer.
Tags: choice, reading, short stories
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