Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: One School, One Question
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Slice of Life: One School, One Question


My local high school, Newton South, has been doing One School, One Book since 2008.  Even though it has been working well, the committee decided to revise the format next year based on feedback from students and teachers.  Rather than One School, One Book, Newton South is going to try One School, One Question.  Students will be given a choice of five texts to read.  These texts will be linked by a common theme or question.  Each student will choose which text to read but all students will consider and reflect on the same question.  Conversations will explore the guiding question and theme and students will share the point of view of the text they read.

Like with any change, there are pros, cons and varying opinions.  The school is embracing these opinions and thinking about how to structure next year to preserve the positive aspects of the tradition while implementing new ideas to try.  The main reason for the change was to allow for more choice:

There has been “a lot of research on how choice affects [students] reading and engagement. Students do a lot better with books that they’ve had some choice in and one text would just give one side of [any] perspective, so this gives a bunch of different choices,” said Lellock. (Robin Medoff: http://nshsdenebola.com/one-school-one-question-brings-exciting-changes/)

I love the idea of giving students more choice.  The past two years my son has participated in One School, One Book and it has been interesting to hear the responses to the books chosen among the kids I have known for years.  The books have all been great picks, but they did not meet the range of interests in the school.  The event is meant to celebrate reading – providing choice will hopefully engage more students.

Looking across texts with a common question or theme also relates well to the standards.  The school has developed a text set for students to explore.  The question will relate to each text in a different way and provide students with a lens for discussion.  I wonder if the question will propel students to read multiple texts and not stop with just one.  It will be interesting to see how many students read multiple texts; which text is most popular; if certain texts are more likely to be chosen by particular groups of students; if the experience still promotes a feeling of community without having one book?

I am excited to observe the process and hear how the change impacts the experience for the school.  Choice is critical for readers – if this provides choice while still inspiring response, dialogue and reflection among the community – then it seems like a win-win to me!

To see the texts chosen and the guiding question, read this article from the school newspaper:

http://nshsdenebola.com/one-school-one-question-brings-exciting-changes/ by Robin Medoff




  • Avatar
    Kimberley Moran
    Posted at 10:24h, 31 May Reply

    My first thought when I read this was that the question sounded great. There is so much research around teaching kids to ask questions instead of just answering them. I also love the idea of reading the book with just one focus. There is a great book out there called Reading Projects Reimagined by Dan Feigelson that explores this concept.

    Then I started thinking about how putting “rules” around one book, one school does change its original intent. I wonder if it will propel or repel students? I hope you’ll post an update.

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    Lisa Maucione
    Posted at 10:32h, 31 May Reply

    What an interesting way to implement One School, One Book. I like the fact that students have choice about what they will read and the overarching question. There’s also variety in the books that are being offered, such as song lyrics and a graphic novel, which I think will help with student engagement. I wonder if the new way of doing the program will have the same community building effect as one book. It would be interesting to find out.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:33h, 31 May Reply

    My first thought was”Awesome! Five book recommendations instead of one!” Because I would read all the choices, probably would have done this even when I was a student, and would really explore that question deeply. I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this. And maybe this will result in fewer students opting out because The Book didn’t interest them. Sounds fun!

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 10:52h, 31 May Reply

    Interesting spin to make it work for your school. I look forward to hearing about how it worked out and whether it still felt as unifying. Interesting side note I went to Newton North back in the day!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 11:34h, 31 May Reply

    I love how this school has taken a good idea and made it better. Giving kids options opens up so much for them and their teachers. It allows students to reach for more as well as avoid something that they don’t like. The guiding question is inspired. Would love to hear more about how the work progresses. Thanks for sharing this.

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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 16:20h, 31 May Reply

    What a good idea! Choice does matter, and the guiding question should elicit thoughtful responses. I hope you’ll post more about how this works out.

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    Sally Donnelly
    Posted at 22:32h, 31 May Reply

    So interesting. I may try to pick one and read with the guiding question in mind! Thanks for sharing!

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    Posted at 23:11h, 31 May Reply

    I think this is a wonderful idea, especially because it came from participants. Someone is listening! And thanks for posting the link. I was itching to know the books and question chosen. I think the choices are varied and interesting and will spark some great discussions. Please keep us posted!

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    Mary Ann Reilly
    Posted at 12:40h, 02 June Reply

    I love the change and the link to the newspaper article announcing the change. I have read Little Brother, but none of the others on the list. Will look at list again and make a choice:)

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