Sunday, October 27, 2013

Enhancing learning with fiction

Image from morguefile. Is this a possibility??

I read the "Should more YA fiction be read in schools?" the Guardian  and agree strongly with its sentiments. This is not a new concept. Primary or elementary schools do it very well, but what happens when we get to secondary school and the subjects are compartmentalised? We know that increased and wide reading of fiction leads to greater general knowledge and understanding of the wider world. Studies have shown those students who read more literary fiction have more empathy and understanding of people and actions. It has been found that the reader becomes emotionally engaged with the characters as they successfully or unsuccessfully navigate the problems they face. Wouldn't this emotional engagement help with learning? Fiction is still as good for supporting curriculum as it was in the primary school, but do the secondary teachers know it?

Some subjects lend themselves more easily to having fiction support the learning. These include history and current issues in society. There is plenty of fiction to support the study of war and conflicts throughout the ages. Human rights also has much to be read at different levels. Culture and identity are usually covered by the English department. But what about Science? Math? Languages? Visual & performing arts? Physical Education? Is there engaging fiction we can promote to support these disciplines?

Our Science curriculum has plenty of subjects that can be supported by fiction such as diseases - (chronic, acute, communicable),  human development and genetics, body systems to include eating disorders, Climate change, reproduction, machines, the environment,  Natural Disasters plus many more. Science fiction is a great conversation starter - is this possible with what we know now? Basing the conversation on science and its effects on society with fiction being the underlying conversation starter. There is also plenty of YA fiction to support  maths, music, visual arts, performing arts, physical education (mind / body/ health) curriculums to make this a reality.

I will not continue to list the topics covered in each of the subjects,  but I think I have proven to myself that there are plenty of opportunities to support the curriculum through optional wide reading of fiction throughout all subjects. I just now need to take this idea and develop it further - ensure subject headings are current so we can create in house lists, pass onto the teachers this idea of using fiction throughout the curriculum, not just in English. 

The practicalities include how much fiction can be promoted? Do we take just one unit per year for each subject and promote it then? Should wide reading be compulsory? Could conversations be created in the classroom based on these fiction titles about what they are learning? Will it enhance learning? Will there be more emotional engagement with the learning? Will it deepen learning? Could it  help with transfer of understanding? Could fiction be used as a stimulus for inquiry?

We are so good at creating pathfinders with non fiction, I do sometimes forget that fiction can be more powerful than facts and that these need to be part of the learning.

Do you do this already in your school? How does it work, what have been the benefits and the aspects to watch out for? How far have you gone?

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