Thursday, November 5, 2009

Compiling a list of reading suggestions for high school students

In many of the conversations I have had with educators over the past few months, a recurring theme has been the difficulty of providing challenging instruction to the most advanced students in a particular high school class. In the United States, test scores and other evidence show that the gap between the most and least academically able students in a given classroom widens as the students get older, so it is particularly difficult to design instruction for high school students. You risk teaching above the heads of the students who are behind, on one hand, or boring your advanced students with work that seems remedial or superficial, on the other. And you risk boring everyone by trying to steer a "middle course" by aiming your instruction at the average student.

I believe that one of the ways we can address this challenge is by equipping our best students to be self-educators through independent study. As a high school senior, five of my six classes were independent study. In the high school where I currently teach, one student I know studies Japanese independently in the library every morning, and another plows through massive books and watches as many classic films as he can get his hands on. We have to offer our support to these students, encourage their curiosity, and do what we can to point them toward the broader world of ideas and the academic disciplines.

To that end, I am currently in the process of compiling a list of reading suggestions - fiction and non-fiction - for high school students, and I would love to hear everyone's input. I have heard quite a few great suggestions so far.

I plan to label each book as a "circle," "square," or "diamond" - relatively easy, intermediate, or difficult - in the manner of ski slopes. If you find that helpful, please feel free to label the difficulty of the books you suggest.

Feel free to leave your suggestions as a comment to this post, share them on the Wide Awake Minds Facebook page, or send them to me via email. I'll post a draft list on this blog over the weekend.