Today, I had this tweet about my students not doing their homework and reading. A little background: it’s a college in the high school classroom. So, basically, students are expected to do the college amount of reading (say, on average, about 7 pages, single-spaced on printer paper) 3-4 nights per week. Then, the class is supposed to hop into good, informative discussion that promotes high-level thinking for the students. You know, like those good literature classes you had in college.
And right now, the students are in the classics. They just finished Homer’s Odyssey and are now working on the Iliad.
That discussion, then, where students are complicating their thoughts and clashing and sharing ideas with other students doesn’t happen often. If they don’t read, then there is nothing to push them to think about the text. And if they’re not thinking about that text because they didn’t read, then they’re not going to be able to complicate their classmates’ ideas. It’s a sad cause-and-effect that I’m sure tortures many teachers who run into this problem.
But what is the solution?
I shouldn’t discount all of my students, however. There are some who read, and there are some who analyze and even a few who make the deep connections within the text (and to other texts). But when a handful of students carry the discussion for the whole class, it feels like a struggle.
I guess the issue is motivation. Are they disinterested because it’s boring? Does it not relate to them? Or are they just seniors and they’re already checking out? Maybe they just need to see the reason behind reading, analyzing and gaining a strong, deep understanding of a text. But how do you do that?
A few students who “hated” reading the Odyssey actually realized that some of the ideas we talked about as a class (the idea that Homer’s view of a hero may transcend into modern Western civilization) made sense and became “interesting” after connecting it to more contemporary pieces. It was cool to hear that, especially from those who struggled to find any reason to read the classics.
And while I’ll get into what I did to help those students who previously “hated” what they were reading later, I think this just goes to show the importance of connecting what students are reading to their surroundings, to modern times. Whenever that happens, students seem more interested and engaged.
But, still, how do you get past that first step of just reading the text – as homework – to begin with so discussion can lead to more realizations for students?