Choice Class Novels

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who gave us a lot of liberty with our assignments. We chose which books we wanted to read, we selected how we wanted to do her assignments, and we also got to choose some of the direction we wanted the class to go.

Mrs. Barber loved working through books as a class. For my sophomore year, she selected which books we would read. She deviated away from the classics and instead selected biographies, autobiographies, and historical works, both fiction and nonfiction.

Come my junior and senior years, she actually gave us choice on which novels we wanted to read as a class. She openly took suggestions from students and decided it by a vote. I believe that is how we ended up reading Night by Elie Wiesel.

Mrs. Barber guided us in our selections. Sometimes, she would include a choice or two of her own and explained why she thought they would benefit our class. When we had four or five options, she would have the class vote on which book we wanted.

I really enjoyed that we had some choice about what books we read. It made us feel good when we chose a book that the majority of the class enjoyed. It also helped us understand better the process of choosing books for entire groups of people when other books failed.

127 Hours by Aron Ralston is one of the books that failed. I’ve never genuinely been so mad I’ve wanted to murder, but this book accomplished that for me. Someone from the class saw the movie and heard that it was a book first, so he pushed it through and won the vote. I think only two or three students from the class actually enjoyed the book.

That experience taught us that there are books out there not suited for us, and that the process for choosing books suitable for classrooms is not as easy as we take it for. I personally felt more compassion toward Mrs. Barber knowing what she does for her students.

I really loved having choice in my high school English classroom. It made me feel like I was in charge of my learning process instead of being told “this is what you need to know.” When I become a teacher, I will be implementing as much choice as I can so my students feel more liberty in their learning than slavery.


20 responses to “Choice Class Novels

  1. Choice can be an amazingly empowering component in the classroom. Guided choices are definitely preferred so the teacher can be prepared for any issues that might arise.


  2. I love this! I only wish my experience in my English classes was like that (they were quite the opposite). And I cannot agree more when it comes to choice and how important it is in the classroom. But how do we know what is too much choice? Where do we draw the line? Great post!


    • I think for me the red flags start coming when students are trying to choose middle grades or even elementary books for themselves. While there are many great books within those categories, that is a good indication that they are trying to float by and not challenge themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! The more challenging the book is, the better off the students will be in getting engaged in their book! Although we don’t want it to be way out of their reading level.


  3. Where was the freedom to read nonfiction and biographies when I was a teen? I had to do that on my own time. Maybe someone will read The Enemy Within: The Mcclellan Committee’s Crusade Against Jimmy Hoffa And Corrupt Labor Unions all because I allowed them to (like I was once).


    • Yes! One of the books that I can remember so vividly from middle school was a nonfiction book about caffeine, which was something I chose on my own. It would be great to see students have more knowledge and wisdom applied because they were allowed to read what they wanted.


  4. I love this! Feeling like you have a say in your learning is so absolutely vital. I loved Night. I guess love might not be the right word. It had a huge impact on me.


  5. I love this! I really liked how you were able to share the joy (and sometimes frustration) of class choice. We’ve read a lot about how choice is great, but I haven’t heard it from a student’s perspective. Thanks for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alright, now I am jealous. I would have loved to have choices in high school. I really hope that I can do this when I teach, give options and have students choose their readings.


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