Senior English at Another Course to College, with Mr. Comeau
Senior English - the new course
Student Voice & Choice
Mr. Robert Comeau
at Another Course to College, a Boston Public School
These surveys below reflect a new approach I've developed as an English teacher, building student voice and choice into the reading calendar and curriculum, to build motivation and cultural competance. Today, I teach some of the same texts and units from my old course, a chronological survey of world literature, but build more student voice and choice into what we read, and when we read it. I work to blend some curration with some student selections, polling juniors about their interests before the summer break, and preparing materials that match their interests to start the year. As we proceed, students sometimes vote on what to read next, whether to hold a debate on a text, and what the debate topics should be. In some books, like the Essential Feminist Reader, students choose what to read within the anthology, and teach their classmates about the reading the next day. During other units, students choose one of three books, and form small groups for discussion, then teach their classmates about their text. This form of "jigsawing" helps us cover more ground together than we could by all reading the same thing, and it taps into a powerful incentive for adolescent readers: voice and choice. At the same time, I work to preserve the important group dynamics of reading common texts together, so that readers can experience the zone of proximal development, growing their skills and understanding through interactions with more expert others -- their peers and teacher. Students analyze their chosen texts in large or small groups, led by their teacher or a peer. If everyone chose her own text, each reader becomes a group of one, and we miss out on the distributed cognition of seminar discussion, where our understanding together adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Copyright 2013-2015 Robert J. Comeau