Whole-Class Novels vs. Choice-Only Reading: Part Two

WholeClassChoiceOnlySurvey.jpgOops! I’ve got to start by apologizing. I initiated this series and then took an end-of-the-school-year blogging hiatus.  You all know how quickly April turns into June in the classroom, so I appreciate your understanding of the whirlwind that is third trimester.

Like I said back in my last post, I want this community to expand the conversation about both whole-class novels and choice reading. We’ve got to ask stakeholders to “chill out” and just seek some balance. They’ve created this false dichotomy that has pushed the pendulum back and forth for too long.

The Trend

Unfortunately, I think it’s—dare I say—“trendy” to only  talk about choice reading right now. Whether this pendulum-swinging trend is caused by something extreme, like some reactionary protests to the CCSS, or it’s a heck of a lot less melodramatic, like maybe it just feels good (and easy) to only talk about choice, we have to step back and get real. Most teachers and students value some whole-class novels when they’re done right, and they value some autonomy when it’s supported appropriately.

Please don’t take this argument as me bashing those voices that are calling for more choice reading. Not only am I a fan and a disciple of those voices, but I am one of them!

The thing is, somehow the concept of “Whole-Class Novels vs. Choice-Only Reading” has turned into yet another needless battle in education. These omnipresent false dichotomies weigh on us as educators. They weaken our collaboration within our departments and schools by turning us into philosophical competitors. (Hhhmm… Sounds a lot like our current political landscape! And seriously, who needs any more partisanship right now?)

Let’s all just take a deep breath and admit that complex issues beg for balance.

Big News?

You may have heard recently that Kelly Gallagher, one of my favorite literacy gurus, made big news at the International Reading Association’s 2014 conference when he announced his shift from a 50/50 approach to a 25/75 approach with less whole-class shared texts and more independent choice reading.

I would have LOVED to have been in New Orleans this year to hear him speak more about this shift, but—while I anxiously wait for his next book whenever that happens to be released—I have to say that I don’t think we need a magic number declaring the right balance for every classroom and every student. I doubt that Gallagher would falsely hold out some “promise of a simple, ‘magic bullet’ solution to the literacy failure of millions of children” [1], but it certainly feels that way.

Especially if, like me, most teachers and administrators only got to follow along with the #IRA14 hashtag and were left to interpret  Gallagher’s big 25/75 announcement rather than hear how he made this decision for his specific students. Unfortunately, like so much of the other research and anecdotal evidence out there, there are already ELA decision-makers waving this magic number over all teachers and all kids.

Survey Says?

Now that the school year is over (for most of you), I want to step back and hear what’s happening in YOUR classrooms and schools. Take a minute to fill out the survey below. Share it with your teacher friends and colleagues, so we can get a broad perspective of what balance looks like across our schools.

Thanks for your participation as we continue this conversation!

 

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