Researching Books in American Studies


High School American Studies teacher Norma Marsh tried something a little different in her class recently, in collaboration with Jr./Sr. High Librarian Wendy Herumin. “My students are beginning an independent reading project that allows them to have some choice in the books they read,” she explained. “One of the biggest challenges in such a project is guiding students to select the novels that are right for them.”
Ms. Marsh wanted to help her students choose books that engaged and interested them, so she and Mrs. Herumin created a structure to help them make their choices. In the Jr./Sr. High Library, Mrs. Herumin gathered together books about the American Experience that might be good candidates for the assignment and displayed them on tables. The books were chosen to appeal to a wide range of reading interests and reading levels.
Working in two-person teams, the students researched the books by inspecting the covers, the
descriptions (blurbs), randomly selected pages, and other elements and discussed their findings and impressions. They moved from table to table with the aid of a timer set to go off every six minutes, which was enough time to rapidly assess their interest in the books. “Moving from table to table helps keep the students active and engaged,” said Ms. Marsh. “I was excited to hear them talking about their initial impressions while they gained exposure to a variety of novels.” 
To wrap up the exercise, Ms. Herumin researched book trailers and provided them electronically to the students -- with a little more information about each book. Having narrowed their choices, they made their final selections after watching the trailers for homework.