Sunday, September 14, 2014

Go Your Own Way---in Your Reading Life #SundaySeries #BookTalkaDay

This post is part of the Sunday Series Blogging Challenge via Portable Teacher.

When I accepted Lee Ann Spillane's invitation to participate in the Sunday Series blogging challenge, I did so knowing that I don't assign summer reading to students. Consequently, I realized my posts would have less to do w/ summer reading programs and more to do w/ the reading community in my classroom. I suppose I'm going my own way, just as readers prefer to do--especially during the summer. 

Although I don't assign summer reading, I have colleagues that do, particularly in the honors classes. For example, students taking English 9-Honors are required to read Animal Farm by George Orwell and complete a series of tasks online. Essentially, it's a unit (a mini online course) for the novel. My colleagues know that this is not the approach I would take if I were teaching the class. We can agree to disagree and still have admiration and respect for one another, which I do for both. 

Students taking AP Language and Composition are required to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and write a paper. Similarly, those in AP Literature this year were required to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, write a paper and take a test.  Again, as I shared with the AP Literature teacher, who is teaching the class for the first time, this is not the approach I would take, although I don't have a problem expecting students to read during the summer and giving them some direction that will help prepare them for the course and test. I suggested my colleague consider How to Read Literature Like a Professor as an option next summer. 

Students taking AP Language and Composition in my school have long been required to read Huck Finn during the summer. I consider Twain's novel the most problematic in American literature, and it's a novel I have taught often when I teach juniors. 

English teachers relish summer as a time for catching up on our own reading. Even when I'm required to read a book by my administration as part of a staff development course addressing our school goals, I often resent the mandate. Simply, the books are often poorly research and more poorly written. Reading them is painful and a waste of time. A couple of examples: A Framework for Understanding Poverty, A Repair Kit for Grades. Both books are wretched reads, as are many others in their genre. 

As one of my colleagues who requires specific summer reading and I visited during our PLC collaboration, I asked: "What did you read this summer?" He shared several titles, including mysteries and other light reading fare. I asked: "What were you assigned to read?" Of course, he responded "nothing." Just as I did this summer, my colleague had gone his own way in his reading life. He wasn't in school. He was on vacation. Of course he read, and we have enjoyed lively chats about our reading lives and the choices we make as independent readers who go our own way. 

This week's #BookTalkaday Book Talks:

When I checked students' TBR lists in their writing notebooks, I saw several were putting descriptions of books instead of titles. This prompted me to begin keeping a list on the board (image above). I've blogged about some of these books and include the links to the posts below. This week I book-talked the following books:

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel A fabulous golem story. 

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina : I had to book talk this in my speech class, too, because the kids were fascinated by the title. I won my copy in a Goodreads givaway. 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (I included a mini-lesson on direct address as part of the book talk.)

Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson (My 9-11 book talk.) 

Stitches by David Small: This is Small's graphic memoir about the abuse he endured as a child and his survival. Can't say enough good things about the book. 

2 comments:

  1. I love golem stories and will have to check out Carboard. I also love that you are "going your own way," so much good can be uncovered when we do that. I also like the list on the board. I need to do that--make those book talks visible on an anchor chart. This Sunday series has been a good stretch of my reflective muscle. The pieces you share about the teachers at your school made me think about my own English department and high school teachers in general. It seems difficult to establish and maintain a school or department culture when we are all doing our own things. I wonder if there's research literature out there about such issues--what do the most successful high school English departments look like or do? Hmm... I might need to go on an explore. Thanks for getting me thinking, Glenda.

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    1. I find myself always second-guessing both myself and others all the time, Lee. I think this is the nature of teaching. We know that no matter how many kids we reach, there will always be others who need something more, something different from us.

      I wrote a blog post once about how English teachers should stop apologizing for assigning whole-class texts. I believe this. In conjunction w/ the independent reading, I'm also teaching Beowulf right now. My MTP work is based on whole-class texts, although there is a unit about independent reading and lit circles, too.

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