Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just Read Some Books And Call It A Class

Today at lunch, several colleagues and I were discussing a unit in our freshman and sophomore English courses known as the limited free choice book project, which equates to varying levels of choice depending on the teacher. I like to think of the way I frame the project in my class as "guided" free choice. The book choices are not limited or governed by me, but I move the students through a process focusing on making an informed choice about the book they're going to read.

Anyway, what I want to post about today is what I offered to the group over teri-tofu and chicken long rice soup: a class that was simply independent reading and blogging. This idea comes after a very successful three weeks of guided free choice reading and blogging in my class (and a free choice project). After the process of choosing books, we studied facebook and came up with a protocol for leaving comments and expanding others' ideas with conversation. This led to some really impressive student blogs. In addition, we studied the elements of books: first chapters, centers of gravity, questions that authors seem to be trying to answer in their chapters, metaphorizing, amongst other things. It didn't matter that we weren't reading the same stories because we had a common language for talking about literature. Along the way, students get a sense of their reading interests, strengths, and challenges, monitored and guided by me when necessary. I used the metaphor of a book universe that they create and explore. And it was all about using brain research to scaffold activities offering students differing paths to literacy and expert reading.

So many heads in books.

So, for the course I'm imagining, my colleagues challenged me on whether students could read graphic novels, children's books, Twilight and Harry Potter. The classic questions. So I thought I'd have them read from all genres: fiction, non-fiction, classic, graphic novel, fanfiction, etc., in any order they please. This is going to lead me to learning more about fanfiction, as well as books that accompany video games.

Are there courses like this out there? What do they look like? How well do they work?

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