“I wanted to find something that would possibly interest them and that they can’t find on the internet.”
Dina Leygerman was tired of having her high school students pretending to read the classic novels assigned in her class. She knew many of them were using SparkNotes and other shortcuts online and she guessed that some had probably never read a novel cover-to-cover. So Leygerman set a new a much loftier goal. She aimed to spark a love for reading amongst high schoolers.
With the support of her principal, Leygerman decided to take a break from the classics. She passed out a set of Young Adult books that a friend recommended to her. The book, “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman, is a dystopian title. One that she admits she had not even read herself.
“I wanted to find something that would possibly interest them and that they can’t find on the internet. Like information about it on the internet,” said Leygerman.
Teaching a book you’ve never read
At first, the students were skeptical because their teacher had not read the book herself.
“They were like, wait you didn’t read this? How are you are going to teach us” says Leygerman “And I said, we’re going to learn together, that’s going to be the beauty of that.”
It didn’t take long before the students were hooked. Since Leygerman didn’t have a unit planned out yet, she set the students up in literature circles and she sat in with a different group every day.
“I was pleasantly surprised when the students just got into it. Like two chapters in, they were really into it.”
Leygerman says she had about 40 of her 45 seniors clearly engaged with the novel. This was a massive improvement over the classic novels she introduced in the past.
At times, the students would read well beyond their teacher and the results were heartwarming.
“They would be like, Ms. Leygerman, did you get to that part yet — Oh my God, oh my God, we can’t wait until you get there,” said Leygerman. “They were so excited, and they were so excited for me to get to the part they were at. That to me was like, I won!”
Once the students finished the book many of them came up to Leygerman and said “this was the best book I ever read” and some even said, “this was the only book I ever read.”
Several of the students even asked for a copy of the sequel. Leygerman referred them to the school principal and the students made the effort to request the book through the administration. The principal ordered 25 copies of the sequel that could be borrowed.
“Out of the 25 copies that she ordered, the kids borrowed 20 copies,” says Leygerman.
Breaking from tradition turned out to be a huge success.
To hear our full interview with Dina Leygerman listen to Episode 133 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.