We need to have a 50-50 split with ELA CCSS, I get it. It is kind of like in our dual language classrooms it starts at 80-20 and then moves to 70-30 and eventually lands in the 50-50 range in our district. In dual language it means the percentage of the day the students are taught in Spanish vs. English. In these classes we also have a 50-50 split of native speakers; someone out there likes those numbers 50-50.
I’m not certain how I feel about percentages actually, and inside of my heart, I’m so glad it isn’t me sitting in the seats of the classroom because I do not want to be dictated to. I want story and I want to choose it and I really don’t even want it assigned, because as some of you might recall, the nosedive or dip our reading took as we entered high school and college. I can sum up the late sixties and early seventies in one word….TEXTBOOK READING. Did we like textbook reading? Did we highlight and fall asleep right in the middle of the 200 pages assigned per night in college? Did we fall asleep as the professor droned on and on? I know your answer is YES, just like me! And I happen to love history, because it is a STORY.
So was there ever a time that I enjoyed reading out of a textbook? It changed in a child development class. It changed because of yes…a teacher. I soaked it up every day because of the strategies she used with the information that we read. She gave practical examples of how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was important research for any aspiring teacher to have in her tool-belt. And we processed our learning in discussion daily. It was innovative, fun, active learning and absolutely never a snooze! I wanted to be like Professor H…I couldn’t wait. It was the start of wanting to read professional books and journals because I yearned to know about my chosen field. My dad loved reading anything on coal plants because he designed safety equipment for coal plants; he also had a want and a need for ongoing instruction in his chosen career.
Today I examine former feelings in light of CCSS mandates or suggestions, if you will. There are a few important things that have changed in recent history. The non-fiction books of today are absolutely phenomenal. They are colorful and designed so children gasp in delight. We even have poems for two voices which teach scientific concepts. One of my all time favorite journals, National Geographic, are the new go to books in our elementary library. Non-fiction is in vogue, and it attracts our young students who gravitate to learning about disasters, blood and guts and animals. I would be remiss if I didn’t include those whose tongues hang out when they look at the stars and have dreams about their favorite cars and trucks and how they are assembled. Our picture books of today sometimes also have a fictional narrative running across the non-fiction text; my personal favorites.
The emphasis put on using historical documents, photos and primary sources is amazing. Students feel like detectives as they try to uncover what a person was trying to say, using vocabulary that makes them seem like they almost were from a foreign land. Speaking of that….I really believe that non-fiction can bring us closer as a citizens of our world. Don’t you just want to visit the Amazon rainforest after reading about it? Or maybe not.
My palette for non-fiction has changed in the last twenty years. I continue to research new best practice by reading professional books and magazines. I haven’t cracked a history textbook in a while, but last night, I couldn’t put down the National Geographic article, The New Science of the Brain. One of my friends has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and I am thirsty for knowledge about our brains and recent discoveries.
So here I am at the end of this little non-fiction rant smiling, because I just read my first paragraph over. So much for supporting my opinion with facts. No I don’t want to be dictated to, I love choice in what I serve up to myself and my students. However, I love the non-fiction of this age. It offers so much, it is amazing and it is something I definitely choose to read…every single day.
So I guess it is just TEXTBOOKS that are just so annoying! Sorry for that boost of confidence, Pearson. Yeah, Wonderopolis. Yeah, Tumblebooks. Yeah American Memory.