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Zahira the Teacher

This has helped me to understand part of the reason why my first attempt to read an entire class book failed miserably. Some students loved the book, others hated it, several didn't read it. We worked together on a book called Red Scarf Girl which I thought would be great for our memoir literacy theme. I'll be looking forward to your next blog on the reasons why teachers use whole-class books.


I'm a bit confused--since not all the kids will be at the same level, you shouldn't teach them all the same stuff so that they could one day all GET to at least a minimum same level?

Or in other words, since it's never the case that 30 kids are at the same level, why teach?


(to a classroom of 30 kids, that is, as opposed to having simply tutoring or home schooling.)

Tim Fredrick

We teach, not because we are trying to get all our students to the same exact level, but rather to move each child - no matter where they are with their skills - ahead.

In my opinion, it is unrealistic to think that all children in our classes will be on the same level. We want to get them ahead and all the research that I know shows that if you want to improve a child's reading skills, you give them books that are slightly challenging, but not frustrating. In other words, in Vygotsky's zone of proximal development.

We don't help students improve their reading skills by giving them the books we want them to be able to read eventually. That only turns them off if the book is too frustrating.


I didn't read carefully but am going to comment anyway. How bad is that? We don't always have the opportunity in life to have everything the way we want it. On this premise many teachers have taught very boring books to many kids, given out lots of F's and went comfortably to bed at night guilt free. I think there is a place for whole class reading - even of the most boring books. Once upon a time I taught a class of pretty much non-readers. More like gang bangers. I was young, stupid and ready to follow instruction. I am thankful for that because all the exterior crap led me to read to those kids some very boring books which together we decided didn't have to be so boring at all. Boring, depressing, futile are all things you can make if you want to. I think helping kids see the difference between want to and have to and making have-to into both a challenge and an opportunity is important. In teaching books you have a wonderful opportunity to show them the road to all kinds of success - if you take it. I think it is important to show kids their way into a whole class book so that later they can find their way in a neighborhood, city and country.


--We don't help students improve their reading skills by giving them the books we want them to be able to read eventually. That only turns them off if the book is too frustrating.

Why? They learn to do dishes, don't they? Even thought the goal is simply that we want them to eventually do the dishes, right? and it's frustrating to them, isn't it?

Yet they learn to wash the dishes, and as adults, they wash the dishes.

If your only goal of teaching is to move each student ahead of where they were, why bother having schools instead of just having tutoring? Clearly they aren't having a common experience, so why pretend?

Tim Fredrick

Learning to do dishes is not so frustrating that it makes you want to give up.

Reading a book that is WAY over your head does make you want to give up on reading.

Yes, we need to give them CHALLENGING books - books that are just slightly ahead of them. We should not give them FRUSTRATING books - books that are so difficult the students think they are stupid and incapable.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step - not jumping ahead hundreds of miles at a time.

Eric Jean

I couldn't agree with you more.

Speaking as an English student, and not as an educator (yet) I think that an approach that privileges individual ability and interest over whole-calss novels is a must. Perhaps it need not be the only approach but space needs to be made in every teacher's currriculum for it.

Certainly, if whole-class novels had not be taught to me I would be imporverished by it: having to read certain books just because the teacher made me do it has enlarged the category of "books I like to read." (I also realize, however, that I was that student who was a 9 or a 10 on the scale and was willing to read just about anything because, guess what, I had success in the classroom so this was somethign I was "good at.") At some point you have to assign reading that may not be right up everybody's alley in order to try to broaden one's appreciation. Before switching my major to English, I abhored poetry. I was a bright student who could write about drama and prose but who felt as if he had no understanding of poetry whatsoever. It scarred the heck out of me. It took a great teacher to get me motivated, to encourage me go for it and nowI can't get enough of the stuff.

I do think, though, that this approach itself would work best when it is joined with a more individualized approach. I often think about how I will address these issues in my own classroom when I finally graduate. In many ways it is very frighteneing because I would love dearly for eveyone to care about literature as much as I do but realize that sadly, that will not be the case. Of course, I would hope that by individualizing our approach we would stand a better chance of at least increasing a student's appreciation. Anyway - I'm with you 100%.

I would qualify this whole idea of the scale and giving a level 6 kid a level 10 book. Sometimes, a level 6 kid is a actually a level 9 kid who never gave a dam,n and never really belived he could be a level 9 kid. So, while I agree that it makes more sense to tailor and scale the difficulty to the studetn, sometimes it is healthy to set the bar at 9. I had an English teacher who did that for un in my graduatuing year: he assigned a variety of research projects and expected from his students college level work in return. And of course he got it. Occasionally, when the bar is set too low... after all, it's easy enough to be a level 6 kid when level 6 will get you a pass...

I've rambled on for a little longer than I set out to.

Love your blog and I look forward to reading more!!!

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