I just can’t see making reading competitive and that is largely what class novels/readers/chapter books do. How can the slower reading kids enjoy their learning experience when they can be seen, perceived, there is a feeling in the room, that (as usual) they are not as good as the frontrunners? This is very much about equity and inclusion and self perception and availability to books and where the kids went to elementary and middle school and what they think of themselves as readers.
Even in an all white school where kids, usually in the suburbs, experience a fair amount of social equity and no racism, it’s still about equity because I define equity in terms of guaranteeing to a child that they are not going to be judged, marginalized, subtlety bullied intellectually, or seen to be not as good as another no matter what their skin color is.
I remember one girl who was physically very imposing and was always wearing black clothes. Her trademark was her chains and she had no small amount of tattoos. As one would expect, on the first day of school – for the first few weeks in fact – she went into the only role she had known – that of outsider. She sat in the back. She was absent to me until, in about week 3, she realized that she could express herself AS HERSELF and NOT AS AN OUTSIDER who didn’t belong. She was able to do this because of the way I was teaching her and because of the curriculum decisions I had infused into my instructional program.
One day in the first month of school when the honeymoon was over and we all realized that we were going to have to be together for the rest of the year with no way out of it for any of us, this girl came into class as she usually did – slightly angry. I was delaying the start of class by talking to someone. (I am sure other teachers never do that, but I used to do it all the time – delay the start of class from some deep weariness in me that I still could use some counseling about.)
So anyway this girl then stood up in front of 35 East High School urban kids – a three way mix of the richest snots and the poorest kids and the invisible kids – and yes there was a racial pattern to that so SORRY (said snarkily) – and she said, “Yo! Everybody shut up! I got to get my French on!” It was a moment.
In that moment that girl was casting off a role she had probably played in all her other classes up to that point because, although HIGHLY INTELLIGENT, she probably didn’t read a lot of books in middle school because she had already gone/been put into ROLE by the pecking order that her previous teachers HAD ALLOWED AND EVEN BEEN COMPLICIT IN CREATING IN THEIR CLASSROOMS BY THE WAY THEY TAUGHT before she came into my classroom and started owning her education.
That day I could see that this girl had become intrinsically motivated to learn because of the way I had designed my class. She started sitting in the front of class. She became a kind of class leader because she would physically intimidate anyone who messed up her learning. Why would I not teach her as well if I actually cared about ALL OF MY STUDENTS AND NOT JUST THE FEW, which is what this topic of novels and all CI instruction in general really should be about – equity and inclusion first and only secondly about language gains*.
Or are we all going to lie down and let the few take over this country and just let the “lazy” ones rot?
*Here’s some food for thought. With equity and inclusion firmly in place in our classroom because of the way we have decided to teach our languages, what will the language gains by our students look like? If, after thinking about the question, or after having read the last two books Tina and I have written about the “natural approach/Invisibles”, you answered something like their gains will increase exponentially, then you – IMHO – are indeed correct and you will now begin to see a profound shift in your teaching to a much more comfortable and fulfilling place. It is because language is in my view an expression of the shared expression of a community that life is. It is my belief, and I have moved ever closer and closer to this conclusion only after forty years of thinking about it, that if the community is not healthy then the language learning cannot be healthy.
Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could