Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Textbooks

As you all should know, I'm teaching at a new school this year. In the process, I'm adjusting to a new culture.

Part of that culture is figuring out how to use a lit textbook.

I've certainly had lit textbooks in my past, but I've only ever used them occasionally. I used them in Creative Writing just as a repository of cool stories. If there's a short story in there by someone whose novel we're reading, I'll often use it to introduce the novel. But I never plowed through it front to back.

I plan by figuring out what skills kids should build (a given, always), but then decide what big human or societal question I want kids to address. I then pick texts to back it up. From time to time, if there's a novel I want to teach, I work backwards from that, pick the questions, and then pick supplemental texts.

But I'm in a new situation now. I've been told: "You can teach what you want, but we've got these four novels in the book room. Also, please teach from Units One, Two, and Three of the book in semester one."

So it's not start-at-page-one-and-go-forward, but it's still unusual for me.

The problem: it feels bassackwards.

What I've done for the first six weeks plan is read most of the stories from Unit One and picked a few that are sort of thematically related (the big question: How do we determine what Success is? Or maybe: "What do our decisions say about us?"

Yeah, I don't like them much either.

I'll make them work--many of the stories are wonderful. But I'm feeling a little restrained in the planning. It's just not me...it's like wearing someone else's socks.

Perhaps I need to find a like-minded someone in the building and life his/her unit?

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