A different approach to assigned reading

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frankenstein, A Tale of Two Cities, Romeo and Juliet… you name it, we’ve read it. Students have long accepted the tradition of assigned readings that can be expected of any English class. During the summer, we procrastinate on the three books we have to read until the last possible day, when we finish The Alchemist before dinner. During the school year, we struggle through twenty chapters of reading each week as we juggle our other assignments and activities. Assigned reading is an expected component of every English class, yet teachers always select the novels instead of allowing students to choose.

Many of the required novels are assigned for a reason. Our English teachers have hand-selected the works that will best prepare us for essays and exams in the future. They have been tested by many students and have proven to be an effective teaching aid for students to grasp specific lessons and themes, such as following one’s dreams or an evaluating human nature.

Yet, many students are against assigned readings because they dislike the idea of having to read a pre-assigned novel, regardless of whether or not the work is enjoyable and valuable. Students likely prefer the novels they would like to read over assigned reading. Students will benefit from choosing their own novels to read as a class because they will be allowed to play a greater role in taking their education into their own hands. While some teachers may believe this process would be unproductive for discussion and learning, students may actually be more motivated to read the novel with a greater interest and participate in discussions to share their opinion.

A practical way to allow this method would be for the English teacher to first select a specific topic or theme to study. The teacher could then offer the class a choice of novels that would educate them on the theme. While students will still have to read a novel, offering a broader array of choices will allow them to pick which novel would interest them most while still learning and delving deeper into that theme. Though teachers may be less prepared for a new novel, by joining the students in reading the book they can work closer together in analyzing text.

This would be a powerful learning opportunity for both students and teachers as they explore the new text together without any expectations of what commentary should be made. Students and teachers will be able to learn from each other. In addition, allowing students this choice will also offer teachers more interesting and fresh discussions and essays.

Allowing students to choose their own novels would benefit both the teacher and students as teachers can still address the themes that help students learn beyond the books while the students can learn about those themes while still pursuing a novel that interests them. When offered a choice of novels, students will still be able to learn the necessary literary analysis and discussion skills while being more motivated to read and understand the novels.

By Irene Zhou, News editor
Editorial cartoon by Natalie Jiang

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