English teacher Melaina Young ’93 is going virtual with book clubs. Her IB HL English juniors have a choice of reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
“The book clubs allow the students to have more agency in the learning process and more student choice in our curriculum. Distance learning provides a really nice space for students to be engaged in smaller groups,” said Melaina.
For a typical “synchronous” class meeting, all students gather together at the same time via chat software. When it comes time to discuss the books, breakout rooms allow Melaina to divide the large chat into smaller groups for book club meetings, where discussions include “important issues that run through the books they are reading such as power, identity, freedom, and success.”
Melaina can then bring students back together as a whole class to discuss short readings that are thematically relevant to the different texts that they are working on together. For example, she might select a poem and lead a discussion of how it complements the issues raised in the book groups.
These synchronous sessions are supplemented by “asynchronous” classes, which take place in more of a forum format with flexible scheduling. Melaina uses this asynchronous format to allow “online discussions in small groups for students to engage in the material.”
As Melaina and her juniors meet the challenges of distance learning head on, many of the apparent obstacles are leading to new ways of learning, communicating, and engaging with material.