Tag Archives: Readers Workshop

Co-creating Workshop-Based Units to Personalize Them

As my school district began to anchor itself in the world of personalized learning, I quickly realized that this was a nice fit for the workshop model since both valued voice and choice and both operated on a student-driven framework. One of the aspects of personalized learning that really appealed to me was the idea of students actually generating the learning topics, tasks, and assessments. It seemed like it was helping accomplish a key workshop goal, which is ownership. So as this school year began I resolved to give it a shot–I wanted to build the year in such a way that it was workshop-based but so that it also allowed for personalization through the co-creation of our units.

Getting started

To do that, I used a resource our district provided called “Orchestrating the Move to Personalized Learning” in which Allison Zmuda and Bena Kallick outline 7 areas that teachers can begin the shift to student ownership. They give practical examples of what co-creating looks like at different stages with the goal of moving from teacher-driven to student-driven learning. At a workshop this summer Zmuda pointed us to a couple of other practical co-creating resources, like this play-by-play for co-creating curriculum with students by Sam Nelson (video version here). In short, the progression through the standards stays the same (this is my background work) while there is flexibility in the content or how students access the standards.

How we’re trying to do it

This is a rough outline of the process we have followed in my junior level English III classes this semester to build our workshop units together:

  • Select the semester’s topics: At the beginning of the year we took a day as a class to give input and feedback about potential topics for the school year. I narrowed our list to 10 and students voted on three first semester units. They chose Friday night lights, school shootings, and perfectionism. Below left is what they saw; below right is part of the results.
  • Build the unit’s essential questions: We began each unit by generating the essential questions–what we would study.  I used a resource from Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe to help students understand the traits of good essential questions, then we used the PEM (philosophical, ethical, and moral) framework to build questions. Students did this in teams, then submitted their questions to me. I organized by combining like questions and eliminating stray or non-essential questions. We used these questions to guide our reading and writing times and to design the final tasks and discussions (including the Unit 2 Socratic seminar, comprised entirely of their questions). You can see what they built for Unit 2 and Unit 3
  • Choose a reading pathway: For the violence unit (Unit 3) I gave them a list comprised of my recs and their recs. They could choose beyond the list with prior approval. Having many reading pathways allows the unit to be personalized and allows reading workshop to keep the class discussions centered on skills rather than plot events. I also like that they can have choice but still participate in ongoing thematic discussions. Some chose books based on the unit’s essential questions, and some chose the book and then worked to determine which questions matched up to their book. Some chose academic non-fiction and some chose young adult novels. Students also set their own reading schedules based on a series of 3-4 deadlines.
  • Define the learning goals/outcomes: At this point in the year I am still doing most of this work. I envisioned students designing ways to demonstrate their learning and understanding, but there are so many moving pieces right now that I decided to find ways to give them some managed choice. They have set some independent goals for reading and writing, but I have controlled the end tasks (informal reading check-ins, design challenges, and seminars) with a goal of finding ways to bring their workshop reading into some meaningful collaborative discussion.
Unit 3 seminar discussions


As we are beginning the final push to finish this semester, I’ve been really encouraged by the learning experiences we’ve had and I think it’s because of the investment in personalizing the course’s structure. In the past my focus was on helping students to read tough material (Emerson, Thoreau, etc.) that I had selected or to discuss open-ended questions I had designed. Now, students are digging into the nuances of research on gun violence in a much more organic way. Because they had generated the topic, chosen the book, and generated the questions, our Socratic seminar was really authentic and full of meaningful dialogue. It’s far from perfect, but I’m excited about the effects of the small shifts in ownership that we’re making.

Nathan Coates teaches junior English at Mason High School, a large suburban district near Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s currently learning to be a good passenger while his baby girl learns to drive. Follow Nathan @MHSCoates


Mini-Lesson Monday: Great Sportswriting is Worth Two Reads

In fifth grade, I attended a writing workshop with sportswriter Paul Daugherty at the helm.  A columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, he encouraged we wee ten-year-olds to think about how we might revise more quickly and do our prewriting in our heads.  He spoke about his experiences writing half a story while watching a game unfold, sometimes being tempted to write the ending before the ending had even occurred.  At age ten, I found him eloquent, mysterious, and inspiring–I decided then that I wanted to be a journalist.

Although I dropped my journalism major after one year in college, I still enjoy Daughterty’s columns in the Enquirer and occasionally Sports Illustrated.  And as an adult, I see his process in his product.  The craft of Daugherty’s writing is one of the things that made me enjoy sportswriting, and now, strong pieces about America’s most-loved athletic pastimes are some of my favorite things to read.

So, when Tom Romano sent me this piece from the New York Times, I thought immediately of how students would love the “metaphorical, descriptive” writing “with quotes and assertions and a great final line.”

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Tom Romano’s great description of this piece in the Times.

Objectives: Identify patterns in the author’s writing to characterize his voice; find where the author cites evidence that supports his claims; infer the writer’s process; apply concepts of writer’s voice and strong argument writing to your own nonfiction pieces.

Lesson:  I’ll distribute copies of “Twitchy, Sweaty, but Triumphant” by Michael Powell for students to read, but I’ll also have the piece projected on the Smart Board so kids can see the great accompanying photography.

Because ’tis the season of moving past narrative and into nonfiction writing (in which we often harness the power of narrative, by the way) students will have already been immersed in a study of making claims supported by evidence, crafting a clear and purposeful structure, and maintaining a voice and style that defy the conventions of a five-paragraph you-know-what.  This article will serve as a mentor text that features all three, plus some insight into that long-ago lesson I learned from Paul Daugherty: the speed of a sportswriter’s process.

“We’ve been studying a variety of nonfiction pieces that have great style as well as strong claims–commentaries, columns, and speeches.  And here’s another example of those traits in this sports article.

“As you read it, look for the writer’s voice and the way the writer makes claims and supports them with evidence, as we’ve been doing throughout this unit,” I request.

We take ten minutes to read through the article, annotating quickly and noting writerly moves that jump out at us.  I model on the document camera, noting what I see–the unnamed players throughout the first paragraphs of the piece, creating a universal scene; the sheer entertainment of his vocabulary (words like gluttonous, beatnik, facsimile that you wouldn’t expect in a sports article); his unique turns of phrase.

I then ask students to share in table groups what they noticed about craft and claims.  After they share and we debrief, I return to the article.

“One of the things I find fascinating about sportswriting is how quickly it has to happen.  The turnaround is so quick–we spend a few weeks polishing pieces of this length, but these writers only have a few hours.”

(In keeping choice central to my curriculum, students always get to choose either their process, genre, or topic.  Because in this unit students are constrained to one genre–nonfiction–I will make an effort to help them choose their own topics and processes.  That’s wisdom I gleaned from Writing With Mentors.)

“I want to consider the writer’s process, and I found some good evidence of it:  let’s look at Powell’s tweets from during the game.”

I pull up Powell’s Twitter account and we scroll down to see his game-time tweets, many of which contain some of the same phrases  in the article: the Dead End Kids, the Lackawanna freight train rolling through, the pitchers being gassed.  Students notice these unique phrases immediately.

“What could you infer about Powell, given that this game ended at around 1:00 am and his piece ran at 9:00 am?”

I elicit students to share:  “He was already writing a bit during the game.”  “He writes sports all the time so he can already pull up a lot of the jargon quickly.”  “He really loves his subject, since he’s up watching the game and tweeting and having fun with it.”  “He’s knowledgeable about the history of these teams–maybe he did a lot of research beforehand or maybe he just knows it from writing about it a lot.”

Now, students have painted a picture of the piece’s author.  We can go into the reading warm, not cold.

“So, let’s read again, and consider his process this time,” I ask.  “Look now to see how his tweets–evidence of his prewriting–are in the article and what that teaches you about his process.”

We read the article again, a fresh purpose for reading helping us see the writer’s process come to life.  Once we’ve finished, we talk in table groups and then debrief as a whole class about the evidence we see of Powell’s writing process based on his tweets and what we know about sportswriters as a group.

These two reads give us three things:  another example of writer’s craft, more examples of claims with supporting evidence, and an example of process.


I love this great photo of the Cubs’ moment of triumph from the Wall Street Journal. 

Follow-Up:  After students read this piece, there are many opportunities for follow-up.  One is to simply have them apply its writing lessons to their own nonfiction pieces.  Another is to have a lengthy conversation on writing processes, and how they can be short yet incredibly effective–students can see that prewriting doesn’t have to take the form of a web or an outline, but that it can be tweets, too.

Daugherty’s work, the now-defunct Grantland, and The New York Times sports section are some of my favorite places  to find great sportswriting.  What are some of your favorite resources for finding great nonfiction for your students? Please share in the comments!

A Reader’s Workshop Starter Kit to Jumpstart the Process

return and talkThis summer, we’d like to return and talk about some of our most useful, engaging, or popular posts.  Today’s post, written by Jackie in 2014, shows us how to jumpstart readers workshop and includes a helpful starter kit.

Please return to this topic and talk with us in the comments–what are some of your most useful workshop tools?

Think back to your first day of teaching on your first year of teaching. What were you feeling? Happy, nervous, excited, afraid?IMG_1776 Fear. Fear was the first thing I experienced when I stood in my classroom on the first day of school. That and enthusiasm, excitement, eagerness, and hope, but ultimately, I was afraid, knee shaking, stomach churning nervous as I stood in front of my new class. Fear comes with the unknown, which is why my nerves of being a new teacher were compounded by my entry into the workshop model. The concept of the workshop model is simple, yet it’s a structure that so few of us grew up with. In turn, as I transitioned my classroom, I found my nerves could be categorized into the fear of breaking tradition, the fear of parents, the fear of students not reading, and the fear of proving rigor. I was not alone though. Interns and teachers who were new to workshop model faced many of the same fears. In turn, I created a reader’s workshop starter kit to provide my colleagues with concrete documents that helped them establish the workshop model in their classroom. The starter kit includes the following documents:

  • Elements of a Reading Workshop by Penny Kittle
  • Reading Letter for parents
  • Calculating Reading Rates & Reading Rates Log Sheet
  • Weekly Reading Recording Sheet
  • Excel Sheet Weekly Reading Recording Sheet
  • Book Conference Log
  • Questions to Ask While Conferencing
  • Book Talk Outline
  • Resources for Helping Students to Find New Books

Whether you are a new teacher or simply new to the reader’s workshop, I hope this starter kit will make your journey a bit easier. Enjoy every step and savor even the smallest successes. If you have any questions or comments about starter kit, please feel free to contact me at Jackie.catcher@gmail.com.

Click Here to Download the Reader’s Workshop Starter Kit

#FridayReads: Hot Non-fiction for High School Readers

I still have non-readers. We are ending the ninth week of school, and usually by this time each fall, my Hold Outs experience a shift. They start reading. I haven’t pinpointed exact reasons for the resistance this year — I think I’m doing as many book talks, conferring sessions, and cheerleading-moments-about-books that I have in the past, but something is up with a good number of my students.. They just do not want to read.

I asked Bryan about his reading yesterday. He said, “I only read when I have to.”

“What can I do to help you want to read?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

This is where it gets tough. I get to be a magician and a mind reader.

Or, I just need to know books and keep talking about them. I just need to keep encouraging my students to read and surround them with books they will find interesting.

A few weeks ago, Jackie wrote Top Books for Reluctant High School Readers, and I remembered Ready Player One, Gone Girl, and Perks of Being a Wallflower. I need to book talk those!

About two months ago, I wrote about the novels-in-verse I got for my classroom. Many of my students who had never read a book have read two, three, and four of those titles now.

I know many boys will read non-fiction when they won’t read “make believe.” Seems it’s time for an infusion of hot non-fiction books that might add some intrigue to my classroom bookshelves. I need books that students like Bryan will want to read.teen_school_boys_reading

I posed this question to my writing partners:

What are the hottest non-fiction titles in your classroom library?

Here’s our master list:

Jackie’s List

Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

I’m Staying with my Boys by Jim Proser

Jarhead by Anthony Swofford

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides

Kick Me by Paul Feig

Shana’s List

Pretty Little Killers by Daleen Berry (two girls murdered their best friend at the other high school in our county…kids cannot put this book down)

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (about Katrina; pairs well with Zeitoun)

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

…anything by the great sportswriter John Feinstein (The Punch, Next Man Up, A Season on the Brink)

Stiff by Mary Roach

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (similar to Stiff; about working in a crematory)

…my War shelf, featuring Lone Survivor, American Sniper, Redeployment, or any other autobiography of a soldier

Erika’s List

Lucky by Alice Sebold (account of her rape and healing)

The Prisoner’s Wife &  Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story  both by asha bandele

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael G. Santos

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Yummy by G.Neri (graphic novel based on a true story)

Shaq Talks Back by Shaquille O’Neal

Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Adult and YA)

A Child Called It, The Lost Boy, The Privilege of Youth, A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer (four part series, but each piece can be read independently)

Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Journey to Reunite with his Mother  by Sonia Nazario

The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise & The Bond by Sampson Davis and George Jenkins

Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi

Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir & Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum

Amy’s List

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Letters to My Young Brother by Harper Hill

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Exactly as I Am by Shaun Robinson

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Journey to Reunite with his Mother  by Sonia Nazario

Life without Limits by Nick Vujicic

Do you know of any titles we left out?

©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015

Readers & Writers Workshop–Beyond English and Into Journalism

dotCJR-blog480Are any of us really just English teachers?

It has been rare in my teaching tenure to only teach English–and in my current position, my schedule is no different.  I teach Yearbook and Newspaper, in addition to four English classes.

Learning the content of those new-to-me courses has been one of the biggest (and most fruitful) challenges of my teaching career.  While writing instruction is naturally paramount in journalism courses, teaching photography, design, AP style, and the interview process were foreign concepts to me prior to starting this job.

So, when I discovered that I’d be teaching journalism, I did what any good teacher does–I began to research.  This article describing the four properties of powerful teaching–presence, personality, passion, and preparation–reminded me that I had the first three qualities when it came to teaching journalism.  I just had to do the work of preparation.

After a long summer of workshops and self-teaching, I felt well-versed in lens aperture and the inverted pyramid, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to structure my journalism courses.  When I boiled down the values I wanted my young journalists to prize, though, they came down to doing good writing, good research, and good thinking–all values that are foundational parts of the readers and writers workshop.

So, each day in Newspaper and Yearbook, we begin with ten minutes of reading.  I confer with students and we discuss how to read like writers.  We analyze how a writer sets a scene, much like how a photographer composes a picture.  We note the author’s style, filing away their craft moves for use in our own copy writing.  We speculate about the writer’s inspiration for the story, trying to find our own topics to write about.

After two booktalks (often nonfiction), we then move into a quickwrite, thinking in writing for ten minutes about a variety of subjects–sometimes responding to simple questions, sometimes practicing journalistic writing skills, and sometimes brainstorming ideas for articles, photo stories, or coverage.

A ten- to fifteen-minute mini-lesson follows, taught either by me or the editor-in-chief of the day’s publication.  These mini-lessons are based on trends the editors and I notice as students submit their work.  Yesterday we worked on strengthening our headlines; today we’ll focus on brushing up on the conventions of AP style in our copy.

We leave ourselves with a sixty-minute writers’ workshop every day, which is packed full of collaboration, conferring, and chaos.  That last hour is productive until the bell rings, with every student journalist working toward a unique deadline or assignment, receiving guidance from any and every other person in the room.

Watching and participating in the organized, creative chaos of a journalistic writers’ workshop is probably my favorite time of day.

I asked two students how they felt that the workshop enhanced their journalistic learning.  Ryan feels the quickwrites are most valuable:  “Your notebook allows you to open up and be yourself when you write,” he says.  “You learn to still have a voice in journalism, which is usually just really formulaic.”

“I really like that you learn while you write,” he emphasizes, repeating that twice in our brief conference.

Gabi agrees.  “You’re learning as you do the writing–learning from your mistakes–rather than having concepts spoonfed to you,” she says.  “I think everyone likes to learn hands-on, by actually writing, instead of just reading other people’s articles.”

In what electives or non-English classes do you employ the workshop model?

Reel Reading for Real Readers

ReelReading2For about two years now I’ve posted book trailers, author interviews, and a few other online resources (like the amazing Pinterest boards for The Goldfinch and Alice Bliss) as a way to help guide my students into the world of reading.

I’ve found there are two prime ways that students get interested in a book.

1. I have to love it. If I read a short passage and share my experience while reading a certain book, and students see how it made me think or made me feel, without question, at least one student asks immediately to check it out from my classroom library. Usually there’s a waiting list.

2. I have to help them “see” the book. If I show books trailers, even movie trailers, and help students visualize the story line or the characters or the action, even my struggling readers are more likely to at least give a book a try. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

I have had great success in developing readers this year, especially this year. Maybe I finally figured out how my personal passion for books can work to accelerate student interest in books. More likely it’s the time I allowed for my teens to explore the bookshelves, talk to each other about what they are reading, and the time I gave them to read. Every. Day.

My students will evaluate their reading lives next week as the last task I ask of them. They will interview each other and think about our growth as readers. I know that talking about books, showing book trailers, (and investing a lot of time and money in a phenomenal classroom library) is why I am going to smile all the while as I read their evaluations.

Reel Reading post will take a break this summer.

I’d love to hear of your successes with students and reading this year.

G/T Teens and Reading — Persuading Awesome

Guest Post by Tess Mueggenborg

This transition has not been easy for me.  It’s taken me several years to get comfortable with the idea of giving students more choice – even free choice – in what they read. Part of it is that I’m a bit of a ‘control freak.’  Part of it is that, as I freely admit, I’m a classical canon sort of gal – and I want to share my passion for classical literature.  But I know that my job is to help my students, not to spread my own personal gospel of literature.  So I’m changing – and the results have been surprisingly, rewardingly positive.

I started this transition last fall, allowing my GT sophomores to choose their books (from a long list … though I also allowed them to bring in other books and convince me that their book was worth reading), and giving them time every week to blog about their reading.  I’ll admit: not every student finished their book.  But not a single student complained – not once – that they didn’t like their book or that I was ‘making’ them read something boring.  So that was a nice change of pace.  And, truly, most students DID read.  And they ALL blogged.  Even if they didn’t read, they still wrote.  And every English teacher knows that just getting them to start writing can be a challenge – even with GT students.

So here are a few excerpts from their blogs, in response to this prompt: ‘Persuade me, Professor Mueggenborg, whether or not I should read your novel.’  Some are funny, some are poignant, some obviously leave much to be desired.  I have not edited the responses, so all mistakes are the students’ own.  It’s a work in progress.

Dillon read Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan

If you have not yet had the absolute pleasure of reading this book you should stop what you are doing right now and go get a copy of it; if you have had that pleasure you should do it anyways. I’ll tell you what I am going to do. I will tell you something so irresistible that you will have to read this novel.There is a dance routine with an ox and ghost children. I refuse to tell you the page it is on so that you must read until you find it. At this point if you haven’t rushed to a library of bookstore to at least find that in the book there is nothing more I can say except that this work of art shows genius in contemporary literature the likes of which I have never witnessed and I am truly grateful for having gotten the opportunity to experience it.


Freddie read Transatlantic by Colum McCann

If anyone else is considering reading this book, I strongly recommend it. I loved this book from start to end. I advise, however, not to get discouraged if the first three chapters seem completely incoherent (which they pretty much are). The imagery and similes such as “A chandelier of snot from his nose. The blood backing off his body, his fingers, his brain.” (pg. 31) help the reader imagine what the protagonist was seeing and feeling.


Janice read Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton

I absolutely suggest that anyone and everyone should read this book. The book is insightful, interesting, emotional, and thought-provoking. Throughout the entire time I was reading it, I was somehow able to connect to Chanda. Stratton did an amazing job. Honestly, I never thought I would be able to connect so deeply with a girl that has experienced practically the worst of the worst. Her parents both die, her sister died, she was raped, her best friend is a prostitute with AIDS, her neighbors all gossip about one another, and she was forced to leave school in order to make money for her family. All of these things are horrible and I’ve never experienced anything close to the troubles she goes through, yet I can still feel close and bonded with Chanda.


Andrea read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I have seriously been waiting for this question for as long as I have had this novel. YES. 100% yes! I enjoyed it so much and you will too! Although, if you don’t want to get attached to characters, do not read this novel. If you don’t want to get your heart ripped out of you because of said characters, do not read this novel. If you don’t enjoy reading about death and medical things, do not read this novel. But please, what’s the fun in reading a book if none of those things happen?   


Alissa read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The best part I love about this novel is that it’s actually reality like these things happen in real life, it’s not just make believe. The things that happen in this novel happen to most people in the world and can relate to almost anyone. There are some very important lessons in this novel that led me to caring about my parents and my culture more.


Emilio read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

I believe you should read this novel if you are interested in looking up a bunch of Spanish words or phrases you may not know. This is also a great book for those people who like to try and cook random dishes just try them. You have to be pretty interested in learning about Mexican dishes, even I didn’t know about some.


Ellen read In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

I really enjoyed this book. I usually don’t say things like that (especially about a book) because I just don’t really like reading. Like if I were to finish a book, I would always end up telling myself, “what a waste of time”. But this time, it was actually different. When I finished reading this book, I loved it!  It helped me as a woman feel better about myself and it also shows us that if we were to have hope, things will get better in life.


Andrew read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Before reading this book, please consider you mental state. If you have no hallucinations, sleep soundly through the night, and plan to keep yourself that way, do NOT read this book. You will likely lose your mind to the ravenous punctuation devouring demons that reside deep in these pages. They are evil creatures that will eat your quotation marks. Seriously. However, if you are already mad, are not fond of your sanity, or feel that you need something a bit different, it should be relatively safe to read this. I wouldn’t recommend it but it could be done. While this book does have an interesting approach to character development, a somewhat interesting plot, and a cool name, all of that, when calculating how much of your time this is worth, equates to the value of a dead gnat. For one reason. QUOTATION MARKS. I know, I know, I have already complained about this, but it really is that big of a deal to me. Every new paragraph I find myself rereading and checking to make sure that I am on dialogue (or not). Quotation marks serve a legitimate purpose in literature. They show dialogue, sarcasm, and well, as the name implies, quotes. They are NOT for decoration.


Matthew read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I never read and I personally can’t stand reading. The first time I picked up this book was because I finished all my work in one class and nothing else to do so I started it and from the very first paragraph I read I was hooked. This story broke my heart and then sewed it back together and gave it warmth and then did it all over again. The stories in this book are so heartfelt and they teach so much about the people and lifestyles of other cultures. I would tell anybody to read this book. In a way this book changed the way I felt about everything. It was crazy to think about what some families have to go through. The way that families in America value one another is ridiculous compared to those of the lower classes. I love how the ones that are in poverty and living in lower standards have very good family values. The way that they love and cherish and would do anything for each other is amazing. This book grabbed a hold of someone that cant stand reading and got him to read it and enjoy it which makes that book amazing because otherwise i wouldn’t have read it.

That last selection, from Matthew, is the one that sealed the deal for me on this whole “give them choice” concept.  Awesome.

photo credit Even Hahn


“Professor” Tess Mueggenborg teaches English (and anything else with which her students need help) at RL Turner High School.  Her academic passions lie in comparative language and literature.  The Professor lives in Dallas with her husband, Jeff. Tess’ on Twitter @profmueggenborg

Reel Readers for Real Reading: Sarah’s Key

ReelReading2When my friend Tess got all her world literature novels, one of the hot student favorites proved to be Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Tess called my room to see if I had another copy. Sadly, I did not– then.

I remembered how much I loved the movie, and while I know that books and movies are often very different, I could see why students were clamoring for this book.

My copy of Sarah’s Key should be here by the time this post runs. I’m sure when I show the movie trailer I’ll have a waiting list of students eager to read it. I already have one young man and another young woman who are passionate about Holocaust literature. My collection of this genre grows year after year because I love it, too. So many tragic yet heartwarming stories that teach and remind us to love.

For the past several years I’ve taken students to the Holocaust Museum in Dallas. We’ve listened to survivors speak to us on several occasions. Sadly, they are all getting so old. In a very few years, these great warriors of a terrible time will be gone. It will only be through great literature that we keep their stories alive.

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