Eighth-Graders Get a Taste of Good Literature

Eighth-Graders Get a Taste of Good Literature photo

The days of an English teacher assigning every student in a class the same book to read are over at Edmund W. Miles Middle School. As part of Reader’s Workshop, an initiative through Columbia University Teacher’s College, students are now choosing books that match their interests.

Eighth-grade English language arts teachers Katie Rosario and Janine Katsigiorgis transformed their classrooms into book tasting cafés on Sept. 19. The desks were covered in tablecloths with placemats that read “Eat, Read and Be Merry.” In the middle were dozens of books for students to sample as they each selected their first novel of the year to read.  

On book tasting menus, students were asked to analyze five different books after looking at the covers and reading a few inside pages. They then ranked the books based on which ones they would be most interested in reading. 

“We don’t do classwide novels anymore,” Ms. Rosario said. “Having students select their books increases engagement and reading stamina. If they pick books that they want to read, they’re more inclined to go home and read every day. We want them to have that feeling that they can’t put it down.”

Ms. Katsigiorgis said that there were more than 200 books from her classroom library available for students to review, from classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” to recent graphic novel “Drama.” Genres included high-interest fiction, mystery, sports and fantasy.

Through Reader’s Workshop, Ms. Katsigiorgis, Ms. Rosario and their colleagues continue to teach reading comprehension skills, but students now apply those skills using books they select. Teachers then follow up during small-group conferences in which students share their observations about their respective books.