Everyone Likes Stories.
I truly believe that–everyone. Not everyone likes to read, not everyone likes theater, film or other media but I believe that everyone likes stories. When there is a good story–it turns head–it gets people to stop and pay attention.
This year, I have been experimenting with student choice during reading time. I know some students like to be read to. Some like to read on their own and other like to read in a group. So I have allowed each student to choose what they would like to do during this designated time.
If You Read It, They Will Come
When reading time comes I simply go over to the corner and start reading as if I were reading a children’s book. I actually started the school year by reading a children’s book to all of my students in the corner of the room while everyone sat on rugs. This idea came directly from Catlin Tucker who actually modeled this in one of the conferences I had the privilege of attending. She made the point that everyone starts out enjoying stories (we all loved story time in kindergarten). But, something happens to many of us by the time we reach high school to make us NOT enjoy reading. I think it has everything to do with choice and nothing to do with narrative because everyone love stories.
Get Out of the Story’s Way
In the past I would have given a long preface to each book or story about how great a story is or a long exposition of the historical background or why it’s an important and influential piece etc. As I endeavored this year to be as student centered as possible by not speaking to the class–I decided that I would forgo any such statements and just start reading. I won’t tell them why the book is good or what to read for. I just wanted them to read–experience the story. I didn’t even tell them to quiet down because I was reading.
On the first few short stories the narrative just took over. It captured the audience. For those students who wanted to listen to me, it worked well.
Good Stories are Timeless
Today, I started Jane Eyre–a longer novel with more archaic language. But, one containing a great story. Now the test–could the narrative shine through the text or would it fall on deaf ears and eyes.
Prior to reading time I did something unexpected but described in the agenda–I played a film clip from the movie version (I chose the 2011 version with Michael Fassbender) because it was available on netlix streaming). I have no explanation, no introduction, no prefatory remarks to set the context. Some students didn’t pay attention at first but after a few minutes most of the class was watching. By the time young Jane was placed in the Red Room, all eyes were on the screen. It was then that I stopped the video and transitioned into reading time.
I began reading in the corner and those near me engaged and attentive. They had a visual context for the book we were to begin and, I believe, the narrative worked it’s magic. I’m hoping the students are now invested into novel (or at least have a point of access), but time will tell. Today, it was affirmed to me that everyone loves stories and If i can get myself out of the way of a good story–a good story will do it’s work.