This is a term used by Kelly Gallagher in Readicide that roughly corresponds to Donalyn Miller’s immersion of students in books in the classroom. As I said in my last post I’m keen to revisit ‘surrounding’ my students with books. Gallagher teaches secondary students, as I do and has a similar view to Donalyn, in terms of giving kids time, space and choice. He approaches the need to balance the teaching of the class text (often iconic or classic texts in the cultural heritage) in some interesting ways, but I plan to talk about that in a later post, so back to the subject of my post – the book flood.
I did a lightning quick re-read of The Book Whisperer noting in particular the approach, goals and methods, and then thought about how this might work in my classroom. Some of the things I’m grappling with include the ‘genre’ approach that Donalyn uses to frame the 40 book assignment. I’m not sure that will be the most useful frame for my students and am thinking about how our syllabus and programmes have some specific requirements, such as close reading of : two works each of fiction, non fiction, drama, film, variety of poems or study of poets. These always drive the close study and critical analysis focus of our programme. The other requirement is about ‘experience’. The syllabus says:
The selection of texts must give students experience of:
- a widely defined Australian literature and other Australian texts including those that give insight into Aboriginal experiences and multicultural experiences in Australia
- literature from other countries and times
- Shakespearean drama
- cultural heritages, popular cultures and youth cultures
- picture books
- everyday and workplace texts
- a range of social, gender and cultural perspectives.
While these give a little more guidance, they are mostly too broad to frame the reading, particularly for developing readers in Year 9, so I am trying to find frames that will work with my students. Gallagher’s list of “101 books my reluctant readers love to read” (p119, Readicide) has some potential categories, that I think could be used to organise the books in the classroom, but I’m thinking I might just ask the kids what will work best for them from their perspective of needing to find books they really want to read.
As far as the reading assignment is concerned I’m torn between a mixture of genres and text forms. So far I’m working with: Australian Authors, Aboriginal Experience, Multicultural Experience, Other Countries, Other Times, Young Adult Literature, Poetry, Picture Books, Informational and Autobiography/Biography/Memoir. I can already see problems with the mixing of Australian authors and Young Adult Literature and feel like genres will help students to identify texts that want to read more easily.
Anyone tried implementing Donalyn’s 40 book assignment in a secondary classroom? How did you frame the assignment? Did you use genres or some other categorizing approach? What success have you had? What refinements can you suggest?