Whole Class Texts vs Choice Texts

Focus on Teaching Edthena tips for teachers and coaches about professional development and professional learning

  • There is a debate among educators as to whether whole-class texts or choice texts should be the main focus for reading with class periods.

  • Educators who closely follow the “reading workshop” model believe that selecting one text for the entire class will be counterproductive due to the fact that the students did not choose that text and it is not at all students’ individual reading level.

  • Ariel Sacks shares how the pedagogy of teaching whole-class texts is changing. Now, there is more of a focus on teaching whole-class texts that connect to students’ lives.

In Ariel Sacks’s article in Education Week, Teacher – Whole-Class Novels vs. Choice Reading: Why Not Do Both?, she describes how in her class the structure of whole-class novels and choice reading has become less clear than in the past.

Ariel is a middle school language arts teacher and curriculum coach. She is the author of Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach. This type of structure in Ariel’s class has allowed reading to happen in an organic way.

Ariel tries to provide students the opportunity to develop reading habits that will benefit them outside of her classroom. She calls this type of classroom environment one that builds reading momentum.

In her article, Ariel focuses on three practices to promote engagement and equity in her classroom.

Practice 1: Make Reading a Continuous Thread

Meaningful reading needs to be a habit that is built through daily practice. In Ariel’s opinion, reading can happen at the start of class for 10 – 30 minutes.

The key to making the reading continuous is making sure that it happens every day, regardless of unit or learning phase.

Practice 2: Hold No One Back

Students read at different paces than one another. Therefore, even if a novel is being read as a whole class, it is important for a teacher to allow students to read at their own pace.

For Ariel, when the class is studying a whole-class text, she will create a pacing calendar. The students have the option to move at a faster pace than the calendar.

As students meet the daily page requirements for the whole-class text, they can select a choice text. Ariel already has these additional texts waiting.

Practice 3: Offer Choice in How Students Access the Reading

Sometimes, even with the best planning, the texts may not be accessible to students. For this reason, it’s helpful to plan alternatives and accommodations.

If the whole-class text is above some of the students’ independent reading level, Ariel allows readers to use audio-recordings. Then students can all come together around the whole-class text.

In summary, for many educators, it used to be an either/or when choosing to execute “choice reading” or “reader’s workshop.” However, Ariel’s practice illustrates that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice between the two anymore.

Overall, the differences between whole-novel studies and choice-reading cycles have become less distinctive than they once were in many classrooms. By utilizing both choice reading and whole-novel studies, it’s possible to create scenarios where all types of students can be consistently engaged.

Like what you’re reading? Check out a recent article in this series about Professional Learning Communities.

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