Guided Choice vs. Open Choice

The EDGE book comes with a guided library. Should I have my students select from the books aligned with the EDGE book? Or do I let them have free reign and choose their own self-selected texts. I find myself constantly at odds between the assigned district curriculum and ideas and theories from experts in the field. I want my students to develop as readers and develop in their desires to read for enjoyment. Next year, I plan to do much more reading, but I am trying to figure out whether or not I should use the recommended novels from the textbook or let students choose what they want to read.

Routman (2003) explains that increasing reading time will help readers improve and Atwell (2007)  explains that giving choice can be a  very powerful motivator, but Routman (2003) brings up an interesting point: “If students are reading mostly difficult books, if they don’t understand what they read, if no one is monitoring their progress, not much changes. I have been in far too many classrooms where students are staring at books they cannot and do not read and where sustained silent/independent reading is largely a waste of time.”  It seems like choice is more effective that non-choice, but that “just right” books are more effective than books that are too difficult. How do these options get weighed? It is best to limit the choice in order to guarantee that books are within the students ZPD and not within the frustration level as outlined in the QRI-5?

For me, this comes down to time. Do I have time to teach the students to select “just right” books and then monitor whether or not they are selecting correctly? The answer to this should be “yes!” If I want my students to improve as readers, I need to teach them to be readers. And “being” a reader means selecting appropriate books that you choose. I like how Dave Stuart Jr. has his students self-select books and while they are reading, he goes around and monitors their progress. Through this type of monitoring, I can give them freedom to choose while checking that they are able to make progress as a reader.

This post has made me realize that if I am going to do independent reading, I am going to allow full choice. I have also realized that I create a dichotomy in my own mind between independent reading and whole class reading. My thought is that if I move to independent reading, I will just get rid of any units with a common novel, but reading a post by Eric Beaton has made me think that there might be something to be said for A Combined Approach. I may have to do some more reflection about this topic. What is your perspective?

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