Reading John Spencer's post this morning, Classroom Leadership: Rewards are like Crack I thought about about our Grade 5 year long reading assignment. There is a great deal of debate around the tracks just now about the value of homework, and my school will be embarking on a study next year. I'm on the committee. And it may be that this assignment will end. This year this assignment moved from being homework to being "read-anytime."
I inherited this assignment and it has always bothered me that the task sounds daunting to begin with and that's not a great way to start the year. But we try to make it as simple and interesting as possible:
Read 20 Just-Right books in a given variety of genres over the course of the school year. Keep a record. Have a discussion with a parent after you finish the book. (Parents are given suggested questions to help with this.)
Each year there have been a few groans, "I HATE historical fiction!" "Non-fiction is so boring!" "I have to read a book in Bahasa Indonesia?" "Do we have to read fantasy? I don't like fantasy!"
We give no awards, certificates, medals. Students get none of those things. They do get discussion with a parent and with the teacher though weekly letters. They also get the satisfaction in discovering new genres that they love. And WE get the feedback in the end of year reflections that helps us decide whether or not to run it next year ....
"I was surprised that I like historical fiction"
"I warmed to biographies after reading Kathy Freemans. I wanted to read more so Mum let me buy Andre Agassis."
"The effect of this task made historical fiction my 2nd favorite genre. If I never had this task, I would never have tried it."
"I never knew I liked biography and animal fiction."
"A genre I surprisingly liked was poetry."
"I think this was a good assignment for me because I didn't read different kinds of genres. But I found a kind of genre that I never knew it's fun. I thought it would be boring but I love it. "
"I didn't know I'd like biography so I read it second last."
I think we will keep it going!