In ten years, when I see one of my students on the street, I don't want them to tell me that they remember what the mockingbird symbolized in To Kill a Mockingbird; I want them to tell me what they think of the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, or that they've picked up something like Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. I want them to learn how to read, and, thus, I need to worry less about covering content and, instead, in teaching strategies for all types of reading.
This is much harder than covering content. It means less focusing on what to teach from a novel, but how to teach a novel. This is one of the biggest challenges to the teaching of English, and the summer -- and the reading I'm doing now, stuff like Cris Trovini's Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?, is helping me re-focus on my own classroom practices a bit. I think I do a lot of what she espouses, but I want to continue to develop these ideas.
One thing I am considering next year is using the NY Times Up Front magazine. My goal would be to integrate more non-fiction into our course, as well as more real-world reading skills, and so our entire 9th grade team is considering using them next year with the freshmen. The subscription cost, I believe, is $10/year for the biweekly magazine. The samples I saw seemed pretty good. More information is here: Up Front Magazine.
If I am to create a mass of critical readers, I need to do more than make sure they know about Shakespeare's use of celestial imagery in Romeo and Juliet. I need to teach them how to approach news pieces and media and give them the tools necessary to read them and question them. That's the goal for next year, or at least one of them.
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