The most memorable things I did in school were the things I was interested in. My most memorable reading experiences as both a child and now as an adult are the books I chose to read. Choice is such a powerful motivator for both children and adults.
When it comes to reading I have heard it said that you should have a balance between academic reading and recreational reading. As teachers we have professional development to help us be better teachers. It may come as a surprise but those academic texts and PD sessions are far more powerful and useful for us adults when we actually get to choose what to read or what to pursue. If it is true for us it is also true for the students in our classes and this leads me to…
Choice this year is going to be a larger portion of the classroom. We are told by the curriculum what we must cover in the classroom and we are even given some suggestions as books that would best meet outcomes we have to teach. So many times kids seem bored either with the content or the text they have been assigned. I have dabbled in the past with ways to get around assigned texts. Last year we had a list of books they could pick from, I was sure this would eliminate the whole issue of choice but it did not because kids still did not want to use their coveted reading time to read a book I decided they should read, even if they had 20 titles to choose from. Different this year? There will be an assigned text still because the conversations around the text can be rich but it will never take away from their choice reading time. We will be increasing the reading time available to the students. Some will be assigned study but the majority will be choice books.
Now what about that curriculum? I can’t do anything about that, we must teach what we are told to teach but we can still work some choice time into our schedule and this is where Genius Hour, Discovery Hour, Personal Interest Projects, whatever you want to call them come in. This year I hope to dedicate one hour a week to this student lead, student directed, student chosen project work. If they want to explore a science concept, or look at Canadian History or even what ingredients make the best cookies. They will be given time to explore their own ideas, thoughts and interests. This will not take away from the curricular time but will replace some of the “down” time that happens between one subject to the next.
Just like adults I feel children are far more interested in doing things they want to do. The fact of life is we all have to do things we don’t want to do. I don’t like emptying the dishwasher but yet I have to do it, most kids don’t like learning about Cartesian Plane but…they do it. This year I want to explore how much more of their potential is activated by doing things they want to do between doing the things we have to do.
Just for the record, the things we have to do are going to be really fun too.