Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Spoilers, Yay or Nay?

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Today (written Monday, after school) we were having a discussion about how to talk about books. I want my students to have deeper conversations than "My favorite part is..." and "Did you like it?" We started with making a list of DOs and DON'Ts when Discussing Books. As I anticipated, "Don't spoil the ending!" was top of the DON'Ts list...but then the conversation took a surprising twist. One student blurted out, "Unless they want to know how it ends."

 Confession time...I almost waved off her remark, but something made me stop and address it. I asked the class, "Who wants to know how a book ends before you start reading it?" Hands slowly started going up. They laughed. I'm sure my expression was incredulous, to say the least. You know when your eyebrows descend so far you feel like they are touching your nose?!?! I froze and the students continued the discussion without me,

"I read the first couple of chapters and then I read the last chapter.""Yeah, I read the last page first to see if it's worth it." "I read the first and last page and then decide." 

WHAT?!?! I was flabberghasted! Why do so many of my students want to know how a book ends before they begin reading it? One of them said, "Ms. Haseltine, it's the same way I watch tv. I watch the season finale before I decide to watch any episodes." And that's when it hit me. They live in a world where everything is at their fingertips. 

When I was a kid (in the olden days of the 70s) and I wanted to know the lyrics to the song, I had to listen and catch the song on the radio so I could tape it. Then I had to listen to it over and over and over again while transcribing the words. (Come on...who remembers doing this?!?!) It was tedious, but I felt like I accomplished something. Now when I want the lyrics I google them and print them out.

My students are living in a world where the information is readily accessible. Having technology in class means that as I'm speaking, they are looking up what I'm saying, adding their own perspective to the discussion. They don't come to school to find out information anymore! Students don't have to ask someone else questions. They don't have to wait to find out...anything.
It's at this moment where many of us lament the good old days and regret the fact that, "Kids today have it too easy." But I think that's a cop-out. I don't still copy the lyrics, I google them. I love that information is constantly at my fingertips...and my students. My challenge is to meet them in this new and amazing world, listen to them, and figure out how I can help them steer their way through it. 

I challenge you to ask your students if they read the end as they begin and really listen to what they have to say. Please share with me as I'm so intrigued by this development in them as readers. 

I'm off to start a new book...and I will NOT be reading the last page until I'm finished.




19 comments:

  1. Very interesting, Michelle! Great job listening to what your students are saying! I'm going to ask my classes today.

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  2. I've had kids say this too. I'll bet there were kids doing that back when you and I were copying lyrics off of our clock radios. Just goes to show that there's no one right way to read. BTW, love the line about your eyebrows.

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  3. I remember doing that as a kid -- turning to the last page first. I don't do it now and I don't know why I did it then. I think I was so darn curious about how the story would turn out before I even started the story that I could not resist. I don't remember it ever spoiling the enjoyment of the read for me, but I also don't remember the last time I did it, either.
    Kevin

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  4. I have to admit that I was never one of those "look at the last page" people, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that kids today have instant access to everything and perhaps this is why they peek ahead. It is interesting that they say that the do it to find out if the book is "worth it." Back when I was younger (also a lyric-copying child of the 70's), we didn't have as many books to choose from, I suppose. Kids these days are lucky in that way. They have Goodreads, Amazon, and the internet to help guide their worthwhile reading choices. I'm definitely going to start watching my students to see who is looking ahead. :)

    Jennifer

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  5. I must confess that I, too, read the last chapter after reading the first chapter or two. I guess I hate surprises! It is also fun to try to figure out how the author gets from where he/she began to the end. As new characters enter the story I start to see how they fit in. I know, weird.

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  6. Thank you for this insight. I JUST got aggravated with my students for giving away endings in their small group books. Ha.

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  7. This is so true! "My challenge is to meet them in this new and amazing world, listen to them, and figure out how I can help them steer their way through it. " We must meet our students where they are now. I have end of the book readers, but not that many. Actually, it's my better readers who do this. I do love that I can Google so much. The word never would have come to mind even 10 years ago.

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  8. I might be an end of the book reader. :) Sometimes if the book is intense, dramatic, or exciting, I have to flip to the end of the book and see what will happen. I also think you nailed the job of a teacher: "My challenge is to meet them in this new and amazing world, listen to them and figure out how I can help them steer their way through it."

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  9. I might be an end of the book reader. :) Sometimes if the book is intense, dramatic, or exciting, I have to flip to the end of the book and see what will happen. I also think you nailed the job of a teacher: "My challenge is to meet them in this new and amazing world, listen to them and figure out how I can help them steer their way through it."

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  10. Now I really need to ask, Michelle! I do know a few who do this, but it's never come up in this class. I agree with you, lamenting the old days won't help anyone. We need to discover new ways to help students navigate this new one. (I am old enough to have played a record over & over in order to write down the lyrics. I remember!)

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  11. I need to ask my students too! I cannot imagine doing it. Preview is a must, but the ending first? No way! By the way, I just started a new book (snow day #2), and i WILL read the pages in order!

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  12. It is not just kids. My mother-in-law did the same thing. I also have a friend who reads books the same way. I wonder, though. There are some books - Jeffrey Deaver's The October List comes to mind - that start with the ending and work through to the beginning. How would students handle this?

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  13. Whoa...
    I cannot wait til I see my fourth grade readers later today.
    Love that we are always learning from our students. You make an interesting connection regarding always available information. I love your description of what happened when you asked the question. I could picture the scene so well.

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  14. As I've grown up sharing books with my mom, I've realized this about reading. My mom can enjoy the book more if she knows what happens to a key character. I enjoy the build up and the anticipation. For my students with similar rules in our class, for book reviews there is no need to ruin the end. For literary essays, sometimes you have to. Thanks for your post, I could really feel this one.

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  15. My students have a late-hate relationship with knowing the ending in advance. Some kids LOVE the power of knowing the ending when some may not. This, we need to watch out for. I also hear a lot of kids, though, who can't seem to make up their mind. "Tell me [...] No, don't! [...] Tell me! [...] Why'd you tell me ?!?" Rings through the halls during our reading of Ellen Raskin's mystery, The Westing Game. Thanks for sharing your students' perspectives!

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  16. This is such an interesting perspective Michelle. I never thought in a million years that my students might actually prefer to know the ending of a book before they start reading. What a great discussion you had with your kiddos.

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  17. You hit the nail on the head, Michelle - our kids live in a fast forward world, and that can be, sometimes, a sad thing.

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  18. You hit the nail on the head, Michelle - our kids live in a fast forward world, and that can be, sometimes, a sad thing.

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  19. Thanks for sharing this peek into your classroom, Michelle, Your students are lucky to have you to help them navigate the challenges of "this new and amazing world." I never skip to the end, and it would never have occurred to me to ask kids about this!

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Please share your thoughts. I love comments!