Here are just a few examples of projects students have done in the past for summer reading.
Many times books read for fun lead me to deeper thoughts on my teaching. This happened today.
This afternoon I celebrated the end of two very stressful, busy weeks and National Readathon Day by reading Paper Things by Jennifer Richards Jacobson. The book doesn’t officially release until February 10, but somehow Letterpress Books of Portland was able to secure copies to sell at the nErDCamp Northern New England Author Night last week. I love Jennifer’s writing, I’ve been hearing good things about the book, so of course I needed to get a copy and have it signed.
I wasn’t very far into the book before I was wiping my eyes, moved to compassion for Ari, the 11 year old main character/narrator. Ari, through a series of events completely out of her control, becomes homeless. The story takes place right here in Portland, Maine (called Port City in the book). This is a fabulous book that I really think should be read by every teacher and young person.
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My students delighted me this week by doing books shares right back from vacation. I gave them the option of waiting until next week, when they’d had time to prepare themselves. In my 10th grade class, the student scheduled to share chose to wait, I was ready to do one, when Noah volunteered. He finished BZRK by Michael Grant a month or so ago and had talked about it as he was reading it, but hadn’t formally shared it. He did a fabulous job with his summary and explanation.
9th grader Jordyn quickly scanned my shelves for one of the series she read in the past, and shared Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel, explaining its connection to Clare’s previous series, and giving students advice on reading order.
My seniors are challenging each other to read books that are completely the opposite of what they normally would select for themselves. Today Alex shared the book his classmates selected for him: Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson.
This week we only had one book share. Last week was a short week, and I forgot to remind the sophomore and freshman who would be next. I gave them the option of going next week, which they gladly took. I had reminded my senior, and he was ready. CJ is an avid reader and many of his books he donates to my classroom library. Even if he forgets it is his turn, he can plunk from the shelf a book he has enjoyed and talk about it.
He read The Rook by Daniel O’Malley a couple of years ago, but the story stuck with him.
It does sound like an intriguing story
Friday nights in our house are reserved for listening to In Tune with Sara Willis on MPBN radio and reading. In Tune is a fabulous local music program on our public radio station that airs week nights at 10, Friday nights at 8 for three hours, and Sunday mornings at 10 for two hours. Sara plays some fabulous music and often will feature local artists. Friday nights we put the radio on and settle in with a good book. Some weeks I’m so tired I don’t make it the whole three hours and I fall asleep reading. Other weeks I finish an entire book. Both last week and this week were the latter.
Last week I read I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. This is a book that I have been hearing about from many people, and it did not disappoint. It is a fun book. It takes place over the summer between 8th & 9th grade for three friends. The new English teacher has assigned among other wonderful books, To Kill a Mockingbird. Not everyone is excited about the list, and Lucy, Elena, and Michael come up with a plan to get everyone talking about the book. But the plan gets away from them. Acampora creates a beautiful blend of friendship, growing up, love for books, and teenage decision making (which, as anyone who has teens or works with teens knows, isn’t always well thought out!) I kill the Mockingbird is a slim novel, but one that I’m looking forward to reading again because it has so much depth.
This week I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Again, another book that I have had recommended to me by numerous people. It’s been sitting on my shelf for close to a year. I’ve wanted to read it, but hadn’t gotten to it yet. Last night I picked it up, and I am glad I did! Anyone who loves books, games, puzzles, and libraries will enjoy this story of a group of 12 years who get to spend the night in a brand new library playing games and reading books. In the morning they discover they have the opportunity to participate in an ultimate game: find their way out of the library by finding and solving clues and in the process, learn the value of libraries and reading.
This year I finally figured out how to successfully implement student book talks. It’s not a complicated thing. I’ve always understood the importance of it, but somehow I never figured out how to make it a habitual part of our English classes. This year I saw some photos on Facebook of some of Jason Stephenson’s (@teacherman82) students doing a weekly book share and suddenly it all clicked for me. Two of my classes meet on a modified block schedule so we have a 40 minute class every Monday and longer classes two days later in the week. My seniors have two really long classes. It’s hard to do much in a 40 minute period, so that is our day to work on grammar and vocabulary and to book talk! We have a set schedule and each Monday a different student shares a book they are reading or have read.
These are the shares from so far this year.
Katie talked about The Maze Runner by James Dashner, giving us great insight into the differences between the book and the movie.
CJ shared The Enemy by Charlie Higson. Alex shared Andy Andrews’ The Final Summit. Lucy shared Songs of a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson. Katrina talked about Gone by Michael Grant. Seyya shared Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go. Amanda shared The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks.
Yesterday was the first day of school and the day that the summer reading assignments were due. My students were relieved and annoyed to discover that I would not be collecting them and they would not be sharing them until their first full English class. This year we did an orientation day for the first day where students had each class for 15 minutes and we spent time getting to know each other.
Today was the first full day of classes and I met with my Grade 10/11 English class. This year we have just 2 juniors, and one of them in an ELL from China, she is not in my English class, so we combined the two grades for most of their classes. Today’s class was about 70 minutes of students book talking. It was awesome! I loved hearing the kids thoughts on the books I had read, and hearing about new books I’m unfamiliar with. The kids shared great insights and inquiry as well as some pretty creative analysis. We had two power points, three papers, a blog, and a website. And the kids just talked about their books.
In addition to the free choice books, they had to read a book on Christian living and write a response paper. I’ve just started reading those and they are good! Some good thinking, although it is clear to me that I need to do more work with them on how to write a response paper. When they talked about their books today, they expressed their thoughts well, but when it came to the written responses, they seem to have a harder time expression their thinking. I’m excited; something to work on!
Tomorrow I will have the Senior English class and my Freshmen English class. I look forward to hearing about their books.
Here is the list of books from the 10/11 English:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days & Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney
Kingdom Keepers:Power Play & Kingdom Keepers: Shell Game by Ridley Pearson
Looking for Alaska & The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Looking for Alaska by John Green & The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Woods Runner & Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen
Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti & Samson: A Savior Will Rise by Shawn Hoffman
The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston & The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano