The discouraged reader

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Reading contracts for differentiated classroom-dc

AUTHOR: Scott C. Greenwood
TITLE: Contracting revisited: Lessons learned in literacy differentiation
SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 46 no4 338-50 D 2002/Ja 2003

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Learning contracts provide the balance between teacher choice and student initiative that is necessary for differentiation of instruction.
Ryan was a student of mine last semester. He was 20--not that far removed from his middle school years. His learning log response to an article by Worthy (2000) captured some of the complexity and turmoil of those years.

Although I always did well in school I would definitely consider myself a resistant learner. All students go from loving school as children, but as you get older and you begin to formulate your own opinions school becomes more of a hassle than anything else. "Research tells us that, in general, attitudes about reading, writing, and school decline steadily through the elementary years and become particularly negative in the intermediate and middle grades." This quote [from Worthy, p. 299] seems logical to me as I recall the record 17 times I skipped school in sixth grade.
Middle school aged students are growing up and with that they are longing for freedom and independence. At this age, students no longer want to be told what to do. If students are told what to do, many will rebel and no matter what is done from that point on will be in vain, because the students will not relate to the material and they will not care about their own learning. The key words, I think, are choice and flexibility. It is important to allow the students to explore their learning and explore their interests because it allows them to have ownership over their own learning. If you tell your students what to do and you drill them to death they will hate you and they will hate school. If you give them choice and ownership over their own learning, your mission will be accomplished.
In the March 1985 Journal of Reading, I shared the advantages of learning contracts as a structure to motivate and manage my secondary readers. Now, over 15 years later, I have refined and enhanced contracting at the middle level. In addition, I have involved other teachers in contracting and have gathered views and anecdotes. I'd like to share some of the theory and practice of contract learning to enhance literacy instruction. In today's high-stakes environment, I think that it is particularly important to remember the power of structures that encourage student choice and autonomy.
I believe that literacy learning is social, recursive, personal, and idiosyncratic. I believe that good teaching is a magical combination of art and science--that direct instruction is important but has to be targeted. I also firmly believe that children can be trusted to make good choices with a certain modicum of structure. We are living in an educational era that is standards driven, accountability oriented, and yet increasingly diverse. The approaches and strategies that follow (e.g., saving and eliminating wait time) are not fostered only by contracting. However, contracts are a very good way to orchestrate child centeredness and increased independence.
Adolescent literacy continues to be rated as a "hot" topic (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2001/2002). Flexible grouping still matters (Robb, 2000) as educators are expected to use a mixture of whole-group, small-group, one-on-one, and individual learning events. Combining choice with both teacher-led and student-led experiences helps early adolescents develop the responsibility they crave (Atwell, 1987; Rief, 1992; Tomlinson, 1999). In addition, talk provides opportunities for students to interpret, clarify, and exchange ideas, resulting in deeper comprehension of texts (Gambrell, 1996). Learning contracts provide the scaffolding, structure, and classroom management to realize all the goals I've listed.

The central question is this: What is the proper distribution of initiative and responsibility between teacher and student? A learning contract is simply a written agreement between teacher and learner in which the learner agrees to complete tasks in a prescribed amount of time on his or her own initiative. Contract learning has some empirical support (Knowles, 1986) and a fairly extensive history with adult learners. Yet many teachers have found that contract learning has the greatest power when used with children.
There are stylistic and philosophical reasons why many teachers do not use contracts to differentiate instruction and manage workshop-type environments. Yet several points clearly support contracting:
* Teachers must be able to organize the time and opportunity to work with individuals and small groups while other students are constructively occupied--When teachers are challenged to individualize and differentiate, the most frequent excuse I have heard is "What am I supposed to have the other students do?"
* The uniqueness of children means that they learn in different ways, at different speeds, and with varying levels of interest. With more inclusion and an increasingly diverse student population to motivate and manage, good teachers need "an arsenal of approaches appropriate in different circumstances" (Kilgore, Griffin, Sindelar, & Webb, 2002, p. 8).
* Independence and initiative, balanced with abilities to synergize and work cooperatively, are traits to be fostered within the school environment--these are necessary for the world beyond schooling.
* In traditional classrooms, children are often required to waste large amounts of time waiting (for lessons, materials, instruction, or for problems to be solved) rather than being enabled to "get on with it." A colleague once joked about a "good girl" who kept a novel on her lap during his sixth-grade class and was able to finish one a week during the aforementioned waiting times.
Beane (1990) contended that viewing child-centered teaching and learning as the antithesis of teaching content and skills is misguided; rather, knowledge and skills are repositioned around student interest or transposed to answer students' questions. Teachers cannot rely on the formal curriculum guides to organize learning because the interests of children have not been heard.
As student populations grow increasingly diverse, teachers are expected to "meet the range." Yet the expectation that teachers provide for individual differences needs to be accompanied by the tools and instructional strategies that ensure success. Teachers need to assess students (Tomlinson, 1993, see Figure 1) and assist them--moving them toward independence. Teachers of early adolescents are accustomed to the inconsistencies of their needs. These young people demand structure, security, and independence all at once or singly--when it suits them. Contracts help to balance these multiple needs. Many teachers of literacy have embraced "workshop" tenets of instruction (Atwell, 1998; Rief, 1992), but they have become stuck on management and implementation issues. When teachers meet opposition and resistance, they can be quick to revert to old habits. Contract learning provides the balance that keeps workshop environments accountable and structured.

The following section recounts my experiences as a seventh-grade developmental reading teacher, but the strategies and procedures here are easily adapted at other grade levels. My five class sections were "on" contracts for about one third of the year. During contracting time, students were largely self-directed, but provisions for direct instruction for groups or individuals were included. During the other two thirds of the year my classes were slightly more teacher centered. I learned to stagger contracting time, in order to distribute the paper and response load. Whether on or off contracts, my students were consistently involved in self-selected reading and journal writing. Room arrangement was consistent throughout the year (see Figure 2). Students were used to having access to their own work, present and past, and they moved freely to their portfolios. However, during contract time they had full custody and took the portfolios home.
I would never launch into contracting until at least a month of the school year had passed. September was the time to establish expectations for a community of learners and a sense of interdependence, trust, and safety. Key expectations were modeled and practiced explicitly: Peer conferences, positive feedback, pairing, and the use "12" talk" (i.e., speaking quietly) were some of the basic tenets of our classroom community that carried us through the year. Periodically, we took the time specifically to teach and practice the requisite behaviors. The "fishbowl" technique for class discussions was particularly useful, as was thinking aloud, and so the community remained unchanged whether on or off contracts--only the structure for delivery was altered.
As the first contract approached, I spent a great deal of time in preparation. Adequate explanation of the rationale for using contracts was a must, and specific behavioral and performance expectations were spelled out and modeled. At the onset, each student received his or her own working portfolio, necessary papers, guideline sheets, journal books, and the contract itself. The contract (see Figure 3) spelled out a variety of specific tasks to be completed, time allowances, and payoffs; both parties signed the document, and it was turned over to the student for safe-keeping. The first contract of the year was short and largely nonnegotiable, as opposed to the more flexible contracts planned for the future. Early in the school year I was still assessing my students' skills and needs, and I preferred to keep the first contract tightly structured (Tomlinson, 1999); however, it was always my intention to gradually relinquish control to the students.
From the beginning of the year, the classroom (see Figure 2) was arranged with designated pairing areas, self-correction stations, turn-in stations, editing areas, and a library. Contracting time was when all the areas were used simultaneously. The students were permitted to do their assigned and self-selected tasks in any sequence and at any reasonable location as long as the contract was completed by the agreed upon due date. That first contract enabled me to focus student attention on clear goals, and it allowed students to reap immediate benefits such as prompt feedback, praise, feelings of success, and tangible rewards. It is important to keep the first contract short. Tomlinson (1999) suggested incorporating "anchor activities" as another way to ease into differentiation; students all practice meaningful individual work, which paves the way for breaking off groups or individuals as the teacher sees fit.
As the year progressed, more and more control was relinquished to the students. Contracts became longer and much more negotiable. Typically, these contracts spelled out time and a few nonnegotiable (teacher-selected) activities, but they included more negotiable (student-selected) "weight" (Figure 4) for items chosen from a menu (Figure 5).
Many contract activities lend themselves to peer tutoring and cooperative activities without requiring cooperation when individual styles or predilections (or simply the nature of the activity) go against forced cooperation. Most young adolescents love to interact with their peers, and it is possible to harness and direct these interactions. As opposed to the ubiquitous, structured, classic "cooperative learning," I've found that pairs are optimal for contracting. My students would negotiate for formal collaborative activities (e.g., coauthor a Choose Your Own Adventure story, write and illustrate a fable to be read to younger children) or pair informally as needs arose. Partner work was typically done on the periphery of the classroom, with the central space reserved for all quiet work. To help ensure successful interactions within pairs or groups, while respecting the needs of those engaged in quiet activities, we all (me included) used 12" talk for collaborative work.
In addition to exercising freedom of control by negotiating for projects and activities, middle schoolers enjoy controlling their learning environments. Some are simply happy to be trusted to move around the classroom--to hide in a secluded corner and work quietly or to bellyflop on the carpeted floor. All of this freedom contributes to a sense of ownership. As one student stated on her end-of-contract evaluation, "Your class is really fun. We don't have to be planted in the seats all the time. I like the way you let us move around."

Contracts provide opportunities for personalization, which is sorely lacking in many traditional classrooms. Contracts give teacher and student, or groups of students, an opportunity to communicate in writing (via journals) and orally (through conferences). For schools without an advisory program, the conference time enhances the adult-student link that is often missing among middle-level youth.
One form of conference, which students really relish, is the negotiating session. When contracts are partially or largely negotiable, students should be given a variety of means to attain the required content (e.g., reading, research, media, peer interaction) as well as alternative methods for demonstrating what they have learned. The menu from which my students selected their negotiables (Figure 5) was essentially a compendium of student-suggested projects that I constructed over several years.

Three questions drove my instruction at the middle level. What do students need to know? What do students want to know? What do students already know? The need-to-know question is defined by the curriculum, the community, and the teacher. The teacher who uses contract learning does not abdicate the responsibility of direct teaching. Contracts are simply the vehicle that enables both teacher and targeted learners to exploit the opportunity to learn well.
The standards movement should be about teaching a common curriculum to students who learn in different ways. Although the standards by which we are held accountable may be similar for all students, all learners cannot be taught to high curricular standards through standardized instruction. If, for example, I needed to address a standard related to dialogue in narrative writing, I could overlap it with contracting time. I'd give a quick preassessment and corroborate that information through earlier writing samples. I could then target a group for instruction about aspects of dialogue writing that could be "pulled out" of context. Once students in the group learned the information about dialogue, it could be put back in context. Students could practice using their knowledge in a meaningful way by writing a complete piece incorporating dialogue.
Under contracts, teachers can group and regroup students for individual and small-group instruction seamlessly, giving undivided attention without needing to manage or direct the bulk of the class. Remember, however, that teaching skills and mechanics in isolation is hollow and counterproductive.
The already-know question is also important. When a seventh grader came to me as a skilled and motivated writer who was secure in (and bored by) writing a one-paragraph expository theme with three supporting details and a clincher, it was my call (and hers) to move along the continuum and attempt a more challenging assignment.
The want-to-know question is even more important. The research is very clear that there is a powerful link between motivation and literacy achievement (Anderson, Shirey, Wilson, & Fielding, 1987; Gambrell & Morrow, 1995; McKenna, Ellsworth, & Kear, 1995; Wigfield, Wilde, Baker, Fernandez-Fein, & Scher, 1996). Yet academic motivation is a fragile commodity that diminishes as students move through the grades. For academic motivation to remain high, students must be successful and challenged. Whole-class instruction provides neither success nor challenge for about two thirds of any heterogeneous group. Contracts provide choices to reverse that sad situation. Using the menu as a springboard, my students were able to propose motivating and personally meaningful activities; they truly relished choices and worked hard to showcase their skills.
Teachers should consider all three of the previous questions in nudging, cajoling, and guiding student choices. Brian, for example (all middle school students' names are pseudonyms), was devouring Louis L'Amour books. He also liked "nonbooks" called Choose Your Own Adventures. He negotiated to write a lengthy adventure called "Your Name Is Vincent Sackett" in which the L'Amour protagonist encounters a series of calamities and decisions to make. It was over 80 pages in length. Marc, on the other hand, developed an interest in Marco Polo after watching a miniseries on television. He negotiated to write a report on Polo and to give an oral presentation to the class, comparing and contrasting the film version with what he had read.
Even though my early contracts were heavy on nonnegotiable (i.e., required) activities, my students still had choices concerning what independent book they read, how they would respond, and the like. They also exercised options as to when, where, and in what sequence they did their tasks. Wackerly and Young (2002) expanded upon motivation by citing Kohn (1993) and his three Cs of motivation: content, community, and choice. Kohn stated that we may be able to force students to "complete an assignment, but we can't compel them to learn effectively or to care about what they are doing" (p. 12). Wackerly and Young reiterated that choice is the key characteristic that results in vested, motivated learners. The use of rubrics is particularly helpful in contracting (Cline & Schwartz, 1999), but I found it even more important to have exemplars. Rubrics alone are typically more helpful to the teacher than to the student--once exemplars are attached at the various score points, the rubrics are truly useful to students.
It was critical that my students assess themselves along the self-directed continuum (Tomlinson, 1993, Figure 1) as well as for me to know where they were in that continuum. Students who functioned well in a teacher-centered framework were not necessarily great contract workers--until they caught on. Similarly, some students who were turned off by didactic instruction would thrive under contracting parameters. To muddy the waters more, a self-directed, ambitious learner might suddenly go in the opposite direction for a variety of reasons--social, family, or hormonal, for example. Those behaviors would come and go, but there is no "typical" middle-level learner.

Learning contracts should include components that allow students to react to their experiences and enter into discourse about learning and life with their teacher and with one another. Beane (1990) discussed the struggles of early adolescents to understand the particular stage of development they are in and to deal with the change it involves. The use of a dialogue journal is an effective conduit for establishing this communication link with students. Journal writing activities provide an integrated approach to the contract that fosters a real context in which students can practice written skills and communicate their excitement (or frustrations) regarding specific topics--from home life to peer pressure. The emphasis is on the communication aspect of the journal activities and not on the mechanics of writing. Under contracts, I used a two-sided journal format with my students where half of the book was reserved for dialogue with the teacher or their peers about any topic. The other half of the contracting journal book was reserved as a learning log that was limited to addressing specific questions raised in contract studies. As an example, one student had negotiated to read Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, rent the movie version, and write a compare-and-contrast paper about the two treatments. As she read the novel, the student jotted down reflections, comments, and questions that she shared with me along the way. In another case, a student reading Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage negotiated to describe the feelings of a 13-year-old boy living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the U.S. Civil War and relate them to feelings he might have in a threatening situation. Tasks such as these require students to gather information, think about it, and develop a response. Learning logs are particularly useful for interdisciplinary contracts because they can be shared among teachers.

Learning contracts can involve students in real reading that extends beyond the text. In direct contrast to the sometimes damning data (Gambrell, Codling, & Palmer, 1996) about how little adolescents value and practice independent reading, I have found that many of them can be voracious consumers of books when provided with the proper balance of choice, guidance, and encouragement. Every one of my contracts included the reading of at least one student-selected book; the method of response to the book was negotiable. Recommendations that were personalized, from teachers or peers, were well received. This is a trendy age, and serial books are very popular, but I found my students willing to tackle Jack London and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in addition to V.C. Andrews and Christopher Pike. A project entailing the comparison of a book with its movie version (Greenwood, 1989) was particularly popular, as the students avidly read a wide range of good literature.
The conundrum of what constitutes "good" literature (or music, or film) needs to be addressed at times when students have choices and deal with issues that they care about. As long as students have input and are listened to, they will accept risks and challenges. In negotiating, I was careful not to push my predilections and biases, and I explained my reasoning when I tried to "stretch" the students somewhat. It's a hackneyed expression, but I truly did "pick my battles," giving in on some issues but refusing to budge on others. I found that middle schoolers were willing to be flexible and tolerant in negotiating with a middle-aged, middle-class, white male--as long as I reciprocated, showing flexibility and tolerance as well. Early adolescents test limits, but they also want limits. I did my best to be proactive and explain my decisions. I taught my 12- and 13-year-olds about euphemisms, censorship, and what was deemed "appropriate" for in-school behavior. I listened intently to their proffered choices for projects to complete, but I was clear about my aversion to "slice and dice" movies, books, or writings. The students indulged me.
As with the learning logs, readings under contract parameters involved my students in holistic, interdisciplinary learning, which good middle-level schools are supposed to foster. For example, while doing contracts in language arts and social studies classes, students can read a host of historical fiction books that dovetail content from both classrooms. In another case, a physical education teacher, a science teacher, and an advisory-group leader might work together to have students read and discuss Judy Blume's Blubber. This would provide a means of establishing a cross-curricular, thematically based unit focused on the physical development needs of their students.

In a normal 50-minute period, students enter the room with contracting folders. Most go straight to their regular desks, open the folders, and get to work. Some go directly to the in/out boxes, others go to the chalkboard to sign up for conferences. Groups of students (typically pairs) who want permission to work together raise their hands or gesture to me. Some often like to concentrate on one task for the period, although others break up the 50 minutes--I'll interrupt briefly to make announcements. Flexible skill groups meet periodically under my direction to address specific needs and then disband. Advance notice is given for oral presentations so that students can plan their time. There is plenty of movement, but it is purposeful. Students move freely back and forth to the in/out boxes, to me, to the library, and to the reference area. Quiet abounds for the most part.
As the contracts gradually got longer and the options for negotiation widened, the menu was more and more critical. The following is a recreation of a negotiation session with Steve. It's the second day of contract 3, which will last for five weeks. Yesterday the class received the contract, a journal book, and a nonnegotiable crossword set, as well as their previously used guideline sheets and menus. They all know that they must have a book choice and at least one major writing project. Last night they were to pencil in some preliminary choices.
Me: How are you doing today, Steve? (Small talk occurs.)
Steve: Fine. I know what I want to do. (He's not the small talking kind.)
Me: Okay. Let's have a look. (Steve opens folder.)
Steve: I definitely want to see Full Metal Jacket (Kubrick, 1987). My dad said he'd go with me. It's rated R, but I can go if he takes me. He was in 'Nam.
Me: Do you want to get the book version and do the compare and contrast project? Or do you want to do a separate movie summary and critique?
Steve: I want to just do the summary and critique of the movie. I'll write it. Ryan got a book about 'Nam called In Country (Mason, 1985). He says it's really good. I want to build that in.
Me: How about a response to In Country?
Steve: Can I wait? Let me tell you what else I want to do....
(Steve likes crossword puzzles; he definitely wants to do two extra sets. He is not crazy about lots of formal writing, but he's very interested in Vietnam and agrees to write a short report on the war coupled with an interview with his father. We decide on length and parameters for his writings. There is still the issue of how to respond to In Country. He decides to build it into his journal. By this time, we've decided on some things and have both written--in ink--some items on the contract. He knows he can do extra credit work as necessary and can renegotiate if he chooses.
Me: Okay, Steve. So in addition to crossword set 1, your five journal pages, and your formal Vietnam report plus the interview you are going to....
Steve: See Full Metal Jacket and write a movie summary and critique. And I'm gonna read In Country and I'll write a journal entry at the end of every chapter.
Me: I'll respond to your entries. Be sure to use your prompts handout and don't forget to predict a lot. Are you comfortable with the load? Okay. Have a parent sign off and keep me posted.

Based on years of experience, experimentation, and tinkering, I offer the following tips.
* Start slowly in terms of time, volume of work, and negotiability of early contracts.
* Explicitly teach the necessary procedures and social skills.
* Arrange the classroom thoughtfully.
* Establish a comfortable (accepting yet challenging) climate.
* Avoid emphasis of product to the exclusion of process.
* Display exemplary current and past student work.
* Give prompt teacher feedback; allow and encourage peer feedback.
* Involve students in self-assessment.
* Experiment, take risks, and listen to students.
* Respect and enjoy students.
As mentioned earlier, I found it essential to provide exemplars of past work. However, when we share anchor activities with students to make a rubric more meaningful, there is a risk of over-imitation and lack of originality. But I found the upside was increased creativity and a determination to do the best quality work. Remember to always get student permission and to preserve anonymity when appropriate. Prompt and thoughtful teacher feedback is valued by students. It is also critical to have a turn-in station in your classroom (see Figure 2). The students can drop finished products in the box when they are ready and don't have to wait until the end of the contract period.
As students try to work through the issues associated with adolescence, they need and want teachers who care about them personally and who convey respect and trust in their capabilities as learners. The downward spiral recounted in the opening journal log quote from Ryan would not have happened in a contracting environment. Young people need to understand the reasons for acquiring specific skills and information, and they need to feel in control of their lives. The activities associated with contracts connect previously isolated content areas and the personal interests and needs of students. The contract allows them some say in what and how they will learn, and it still allows the teacher to maintain (yet relinquish) control while easing into the role of facilitator and enabler. Most important, contracting establishes a classroom climate that clearly signals that students are valued, respected, and capable of assuming responsibility for a large portion of their learning. What better way is there to set the tone for lifelong learning?
Note. Short portions of this article appear in On Equal Terms: How to Make the Most of Learning Contracts by Scott Greenwood, to be published by Heinemann in 2003. They are reprinted here by permission of the publisher.
Greenwood teaches at West Chester University, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at 110 Recitation Hall, WCU, West Chester, PA 19388, USA.
Figure 2 Room arrangement

Anderson, R.C., Shirey, L.L., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L.G. (1987). Interestingness of children's reading material. In R.E. Snow & M.J. Farr (Eds.), Aptitude, learning, and instruction: Conative and affective process analyses (Vol. 3, pp. 287-299). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Atwell, N. (1987). In the middle: Writing, reading, and learning with adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Atwell, N. (1998). In the middle: New understandings about writing, reading, and learning (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Beane, J.A. (1990). A middle school curriculum: From rhetoric to reality. Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Cassidy, J., & Cassidy, D. (2001/2002, December/January). What's hot, what's not for 2002. Reading Today, 19(3), 1, 18.
Cline, S., & Schwartz, D. (1999). Diverse populations of gifted children. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Gambrell, L. (1996). Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation. The Reading Teacher, 50, 14-25.
Gambrell, L., Codling, R., & Palmer, B. (1996). Elementary students' motivation to read (Research Report). College Park, MD, & Athens, GA: National Reading Research Center, Universities of Maryland & Georgia.
Gambrell, L., & Morrow, L. (1995). Creating motivating contexts for literacy learning. In L. Baker, P. Afflerbach, & D. Reinking (Eds.), Developing engaged readers in home and school communities (pp. 115-136). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Greenwood, S.C. (1985). Use of contracts to motivate and manage your secondary reading class. Journal of Reading, 28, 487-491.
Greenwood, S.C. (1989). Summary, compare, contrast, and critique: Encouraging active reading through the use of cinema. Exercise Exchange, 35(1), 22-24.
Kilgore, K., Griffin, C., Sindelar, P., & Webb, R. (2002). Restructuring for inclusion: Changing teaching practices. Middle School Journal, 33(3), 7-13.
Knowles, M.S. (1986). Using learning contracts: Approaches to individualizing and structuring learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Kubrick, S. (Director). (1987). Full metal jacket [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Brothers.
Mason, B.A. (1985). In country. New York: Harper & Row.
McKenna, M.C., Ellsworth, R.A., & Kear, D.J. (1995). Children's attitudes toward reading: A national survey. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 934-956.
Rief, L. (1992). Seeking diversity. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Robb, L. (2000). Teaching reading in the middle school. New York: Scholastic.
Tomlinson, C.A. (1993). Independent study: A flexible tool for encouraging academic and personal growth. Middle School Journal, 25(1), 55-59.
Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wackerly, A., & Young, B. (2002). Community, choice and content in the urban classroom. Primary Voices K-6, 10(3), 17-23.
Wigfield, A., Wilde, K., Baker, L., Fernandez-Fein, S., & Scher, D. (1996). The nature of children's motivation for reading and their relatives, frequency and reading performance. College Park, MD, & Athens, GA: National Reading Research Center, Universities of Maryland & Georgia.
Worthy, J. (2000). Conducting research on topics of student interest. The Reading Teacher, 54, 298-299.

Progression toward independent learning over time

1. Making choices
2. Finding answers
3. Using resources
4. Planning time
5. Developing basic elements of critical and creative thinking
6. Goal setting
7. Following through
8. Discussing goal attainment

1. Selecting topics
2. Completing open-ended assignments
3. Posing and answering questions
4. Following preset timelines
5. Self-evaluating according to prepared criteria
6. Developing problem-solving skills
7. Documenting stages in the process

Student poses and teacher refines
1. Problem
2. Design
3. Timelines
4. Process
5. Evaluation criteria
Student documents process (metacognition)
Teacher monitors process

Student plans, executes, evaluates
Teacher is available for consultation and feedback as needed
High teacher structure
Low student determination
Short-term potential
In-class completion
Low teacher structure
High student determination
Long-term potential
Out-of-class completion
Note. Carol Tomlinson's Progression Toward Independent Learning. Used with permission from the National Middle School Association. Adapted from Tomlinson, C.A. (1993). Independent study: A flexible tool for academic and personal growth. Middle School Journal, 25(1), 55-59.

Developmental reading contract 1
I, __________, being of sound mind and body, do hereby agree to complete the following tasks. I understand that more flexible contracts with more student choices will follow this year if I do a good job on this one.
A. Sustained Silent Reading title: ____________________
B. SSR extension of my choice: ____________________
C. Five dialogue journal pages
D. Crossword puzzle set I
E. Collage on lyrics of a song or poetry
F. Student choice: ______________________________
I understand that this contract is worth 125 points toward my first quarter grade. This contract has been explained to me, and I have seen samples of past students' work. I will self-correct to the best of my ability and 12" talk when appropriate.
(x) __________ (student)
I will continually offer guidance and help and prompt feedback so that students will achieve their best results.
(x) __________ (teacher)
(x) __________ (parent)
Note. Reprinted from On Equal Terms: How to make the Most of Learning Contracts by Scott Greenwood. Copyright ©2003. Reprinted by permission of Heinemann.

Contract 4
I, __________, still of reasonably sound mind and body, am ready for my fourth (and final) contract of the year. I am thoroughly familiar with contract parameters.
A. Sustained Silent Reading title: ____________________
B. Major writing process/product: ____________________
Negotiable (see menu * for all of below)
* I understand that my SSR book for this contract must come from the "recommended reading" list. I will negotiate for projects and activities that will show off my developing skills to their best advantage.
(x) __________ (student)
I will do my best work.
(x) __________ (teacher)
I will continue to provide guidance and prompt feedback.
(x) __________ (parent)
I will support as necessary.
Note. * See Figure 5.
Reprinted from On Equal Terms: How to make the Most of Learning Contracts by Scott Greenwood. Copyright ©2003.
Reprinted by permission of Heinemann.

(Save all year)
(x) __________
1. Book summary and critique (oral, written, or otherwise)
2. Movie summary and critique
3. Magazine article summary and critique
4. Book and movie: Summarize, compare, contrast, and critique
5. Jamestown crossword puzzle sets
6. Word bank and/or word search
7. Original crossword based on Sustained Silent Reading book
8. Extra SSR books (extension of your choice)
9. Jamestown heroes/disasters
10. Journal writing beyond nonnegotiable
11. Collage: Connotations of lyrics of song or poetry
12. Poetry about, plus illustrations of, emotions
13. Other original poetry
14. Author research
15. Other research: Topic of interest
16. Original short story
17. Original Choose Your Own Adventure
18. Extra analogy sets
19. Original analogies
20. Original trivia questions and answers
21. __________
22. __________
23. __________
24. __________
25. __________
Note. Reprinted from On Equal Terms: How to make the Most of Learning Contracts by Scott Greenwood. Copyright ©2003. Reprinted by permission of Heinemann.

source:;jsessionid=Y3NQ1LKJTLNXBQA3DIKSFF4ADUNGIIV0?_requestid=127171 retrieved on September 21, 2004


At May 30, 2008 at 3:47 AM, Anonymous Kathy said...

Thank you so much for this. I have a wondeful bunch of 11, 12 year olds who are all reading above their age and I wanted to begin them on some sort of contract, this has been a great starting point for me, so thanks


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