…or my response to readings from Week 8 on the Socratic Seminar method and book clubs in libraries and your community…
The readings that we had this week reminded me of some experiences I have had over the years that have stuck with me. Being that person that always liked school I have good memories of most of my experiences in school. My most memorable classes however, have been those literature classes that have worked to help me become a better reader. Reading about the method of the socratic seminar in Metzger’s example reminded me of 2 very specific classes.
My American Literature class as a sophomore in high school had some elements that I recognized from her explanation of a successful literature dissection. We read a lot of literature and at one point had a study of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was in reading Emerson that I first encountered actually marking up a text in a way that was useful. Every time I go back to the book and I see my notes that I made during that class I am reminded of how much I learned in that one class. Not only about the literature I was exposed to that I probably would never pick up to read on my own, but also in ways to dig deeper into the text and really formulate opinions and explanations of the text. That class, and in relation that teacher (Hi Ms. Bowser – just in case!) have remained as one of my fondest memories of school.
My other experience was in undergrad (I can’t just say “in college” anymore!) during a children’s literature methods class. The class reminds me a lot of this one in that there’s no real one endpoint – but more a mixture of methods and styles to help improve teaching style over all. Anyway, this class worked a lot with techniques to help children (in this case students grades K-3 because that is what my teaching certification is in) be able to decipher and understand/comprehend texts even when they may not yet be the best readers in the technical sense. We also read literature on how to get boys reading and what resources are available for all reluctant readers.
Part of the class requirement was for us to form a book club and hold book club groups. Our professor used this as a way to show us that just because we are teachers now does not mean that our own abilities to dissect texts is ending. We were able to choose our own books to read and our only requirements were to read 2 books over the semester, hold a book club discussion group in which our professor was to be invited to attend but we could hold it anywhere and engage in conversation about the books. Even though our professor met us at Fiesta Charra (best Mexican in Oxford, OH) and joined in the conversation, I personally never felt that my ideas were “wrong” or that she was judging our interpretations of the books. My particular group read “My Sister’s Keeper” and “The Perks of Being A Wallflower”. I clearly remember our discussions and camaraderie that we felt after engaging in conversations that weren’t about how we think the professor will grade the assignment or whether or not we were going out for karaoke night or country night or both (it was undergrad after all…). Although this isn’t a true example of the Socratic Seminar method, it does prove that running classes in this manner does offer a lot of learning for students.
Book clubs in general seem to be one of those something for everyone things. Although there is not real wrong way to have a book club, there are wrong ways for certain people so it would be important to make sure you were a part of one that had the same goals as you. I really like the idea of book club kits with information about the book and its author included with other media types to help aide the conversation. In fact, after relaying my memories of my book club class in undergrad, I should look into finding one because I did love everything about participating in a book club!
Anyway – one last thought. One of the authors discussed the opportunity for eBooks to provide a better longer lasting education than print books that people read and put on their shelves never to be opened again. I disagree that simply because the book is in a digital format that a person is more likely to reread the material. I believe there are people who reread things and there are people who don’t but that doesn’t take away the value of the book sitting on the shelf – digital or physical. I myself am a re-reader, but only of certain texts. I have many books that have just sat on my bookshelves, both my physical bookshelves and my digital “bookshelves”, that have never opened again. I’m not entirely sure why this point stuck out so much to me because the article is about much more than storing books but, there you go.