Learning Log – Goodreads

I just created a bookshelf in Goodreads to support IB English 12 students in their in-depth study of poet Elizabeth Bishop. We study her writing style very closely, looking carefully at her topic selection, diction, syntax, and other distinguishing characteristics. To receive an IB diploma in English, one of the examinations is an oral exam. For this exam, each individual student is handed an excerpt of about 20 lines from an author or poet we have studied in-depth (not all students receive the same excerpt or the same writer). The student is then given 20 minutes to carefully read and mark up the excerpt and prepare an oral commentary on it. Following this, the student meets with me alone and speaks for about 12 minutes, explaining the purpose of the excerpt, its structure, and how it fits into the larger work. The student analyzes and interprets the details, and compares the poem to other works by the same author.

It is an intimidating assignment. Those who do best are those who have really studied the author and know him or her inside and out. The bookshelf I created above should help support students in getting to know Elizabeth Bishop and her style even better. I would ask students to check out one of these books from the school library or local library. I would allow students to stray from this list, but ask that they share any additional titles so I could add them to this bookshelf. I would then create a group for the class so we could get together and discuss additional insights students gained from what everybody read.  This would really help these students prepare for this oral examination.

There are a few other ways I can think of to incorporate Goodreads into my teaching. I noticed that there are some groups for things like short story writers and that some even have contests. I could encourage students who like to write to join these groups or even just assign students to join one of these groups so they can give feedback on others’ writing and see peer review modeled outside of a school setting. We could also create our own writing groups. I think Goodreads can help students select books for independent reading; I could create bookshelves and recommendations for different genres. Students could pick up suggestions from classmates if each class member had their own Goodreads page with recommendations. Finally, I might be able to use Goodreads when students were completing a research assignment. Perhaps they could create a bookshelf for their topic and share it with me; I could then help them narrow down their choices and even help them locate the books in the library (either a school or community library).

What ways will you use Goodreads in your classroom?

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