Part II. In an AP Class, Shouldn’t It Be about the Reading?

Angels sang to me again today. This doesn’t really happen too often, but when it comes to awesome adventures with students and books, the choir starts belting out in fff.

Based on the feedback to my post on Wednesday, I know many of my peers feel the same way as I do about AP students and reading–or not reading–as the case may be. I appreciate the comments and the emails and the encouragement. (I gave a student the Pulitzer Prize Winner Tinkers today, and another one asked for a copy of The Great Gatsby with no prompting from me whatsoever. I know I am doing something right here.)

I’m pretty much the advocate for independent reading on my campus. I talk about it every chance I get: slip it into a conversation here, there, and everywhere. Sometimes the words work their way into another teacher’s thinking, and Hallelujah! the angels bust out in song.

Read this email I got from my friend, Tess Mueggenborg. She teaches our gifted and talented Globesophomores in a special humanities course, which combines AP World History and Honors English II, and AP Literature. She and I share a lot–some things curriculum related, other things not. When we first worked together six years ago, it was as a team teaching the G/T course: me English/her history. I can tell you this:  Tess loves classic literature–some of which I’d never heard of. Gilgamesh, Horus the Hawk. Sigh.

For the past few years Tess’s heart’s been changing (I say that tongue in cheek because her heart is shiny gold), and she’s allowed for much more student choice in all her English classes. This fall she asked for funds to create a World Literature library of contemporary and complex books for her advanced students. Our ELA coordinator granted the request, and. . .

Read this. You’ll hear the choir.


Thought you might like to hear (and read) what’s going on with the new novels in World Experience … Last Friday, we had a day of “book speed dating.”  The students had about 60 seconds with each novel, and if the book interested them, they put a sticky note with their name on the back cover.  Then we divvied up the books, which proved to be arduous but entertaining.  Some of these kids were REALLY passionate about which book they ended up with! Today, they had their first assignment (other than “start reading!”) – a blog post.  Here are the questions I posed:

By now, you should be 1/4 to 1/3 through your novel (if not more!).  Based on what you’ve read thus far, answer the following questions on your blog.

1. How many pages are in your novel?  How many have you read?

2. Who is the protagonist (main character) of your novel?  What is the main conflict this person faces?  What are some possible outcomes that you foresee for this person?  (In other words: guess the ending.)

3. In a well-developed paragraph (with text evidence), respond: so far, what do you like about your novel?  What do you not like about your novel?  Why? Explain.

4. Based on what you’ve read thus far, would you recommend this book to someone else?  Why?  Explain.

5. Pick ONE quote that has stood out to you from the novel.  Give the quote, then explain: what made this quote stand out to you?  How does this quote relate to the whole novel?

And here are the links to several of their blogs:

Chris is reading Transatlantic:

Neha is reading The Namesake:

Nico is reading All the Names:

Rafael is reading Enrique’s Journey:

Angelica is reading Girl in Translation

Aaliyah is reading The Secret Life of Bees:

Overall, I’m really pleased with the results I’m seeing thus far!  Many of the students aren’t as far into their books as I had hoped they would be, but they all seem genuinely interested to keep reading.  I’m definitely getting more traction with these novels than I have with the literature I’ve done in the past for this unit (“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” plus Islamic and Chinese poetry).  Next week, I’ll start having them tie the cultural content of their novel to the things they’ve learned about World History thus far.  I’m VERY curious to see how that goes!


I ran down to Tess’ room the first chance I got. I was too excited to respond in an email. The books Tess filled her shelves with are rich and diverse. Here’s her list: World Literature Library

As I left her room, one comment made me smile:  “I’d still be using the classic lit, if the students would read them.”

And that’s my point: In an AP Class, Shouldn’t It Be about the Reading?


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2 thoughts on “Part II. In an AP Class, Shouldn’t It Be about the Reading?

  1. shanakarnes November 1, 2013 at 7:26 am Reply

    Amy, you are amazing. Please write your book on the AP reading workshop angle so I can buy it and make all my friends buy it and read it in my professional book club and get the teachers who’ve taught the same way since literally 1963 in our building to WAKE UP and become amazing AP teachers like you have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You are awesome. Can’t wait to see you again at NCTE this year and to present with you next year!!! 🙂


  2. Lee Ann Spillane (@spillarke) October 25, 2013 at 7:16 am Reply

    Amen, sister! Love the original post and the follow up. I am a member of the choir. Thank you for writing about what matters most and sharing your work with us.


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