This was part of a lesson in his English book about effective and ineffective summarizing strategies. While not a reading assignment, exactly, it prompted a conversation.
His argument went something like this:
Teachers want us to read, right? But...instead of assigning us to read...they assign us to read things about reading, or fill out packets about the things we have read. What a great way to suck all the fun out of reading. If they want us to love to read, we should just read. If they want to know what I've been reading, or what I think about what I'm reading, why not just ask me?To be fair, he's in middle school, and in my experience, it's a rare middle schooler who loves homework. And he wasn't (really) being critical of his English teacher; he's an equal-opportunity homework-hater, and is sick of the packets in all of his subjects. He is also the kid who will read his geography book just because he is interested in it...until you give him a worksheet to fill in after reading. (That just turns the joyful learning into something to slog through...)
But do you think he might be on to something here? What if we expected kids to do the reading?
This has me wondering about why it is common practice to assign a worksheet to go along with every reading assignment. Are we trying help kids think about the reading? (I mean, really?) Or are we trying to hold them accountable for doing the reading? (Because I can think of several other ways to hold kids accountable for reading other than filling out a sheet.) Or are we trying to justify ourselves as teachers somehow, trying to prove that we have given students the opportunity to learn? (That just sounds silly to me, but I wonder...?) Or maybe we are trying to pad kids' grades by giving them a pile of piddly assignments to offset any low test grades? (Oh, don't get me started on this...we have to stop grading for compliance, completion, and effort!)
What do you think? Can we expect kids to just do the reading without assigning a sheet to go along with it? Are you brave enough to try it?