Tag Archives: summer reading

The Great Debate: Summer Reading

While there is still snow resting on the peaks of the mountains and skiers claiming they’ll ski until the Fourth of July, summer in SLC is approaching rapidly.  The sun is hanging around later and later, the trees are blossoming, and students are ansty. The end of the school year always comes with bittersweet excitement, reflection over what was accomplished and what was not, tons of hastily written ideas on post-it notes, and summer reading.

Summer reading was both an authentic and assigned part of my summer growing up, as I was always reading and read what was asked of me for the upcoming year.  Assigning summer reading has been a part of my teaching career, too. I understand the intention for students to fend off the “summer slide” by practicing reading skills that, perhaps when a text isn’t assigned, may dwindle.  Shared books also provide an entry point into learning at the start of the school year and the beginning of collective knowledge among classes.

But this year I am questioning it all.  

After nine months of promoting choice reading and working with individual students to develop reading identities, giving my students their summer reading requirement for next year’s class feels like a step back from work we’ve done.  Likewise, assigning books to the upcoming juniors feels out of step with the work we’ll do together next year.

Assigned summer reading titles doesn’t put the individual at the center.  Students are reading texts I curated before I have even met them. Who knows if they’ll enjoy one of the books? I wonder if I’m turning them further off from reading before we have begun or if they have the reading skills and stamina to be challenged, but also be successful.  

Additionally, students are reading texts meant to be discussed and shared in isolation.  This vacuum creates an independent literacy endeavor versus one shared within a community like the one we will strive to build all year.  If a student doesn’t read, for whatever reason, they start the year a little further outside that community. Learning should be inclusive, not the catalyst for creating an exclusive group.  On the flip side, I don’t want to bog student readers down with a task or assignment because authentic readers engage without assessment.

Within a school year, week, or day, we are familiar with student schedules.  I have an idea of what students are involved in academically and after school.  I don’t know these students, let alone their summer schedules. What is my place in dictating their three-month break?

The issues with required summer reading are evident when your classroom adapts the workshop model.  The solution takes work. We have to be so driven during the school year to create authentic readers, that the summer is viewed by students as a time to read more of what they want, a time to check books off their “to read” lists versus their “must read” list.  

 

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American Literature Summer Reading Selections:  We will all read Into the Wild as a study of independence and freedom, then students will select either Homegoing, The Book of Unknown Americans, or Behold the Dreams to read as inquiry into the changing American Dream.

 

I haven’t dismantled the system (yet).   My incoming juniors do have summer reading.  I hope one of the offered choices is THAT unique book that hooks a reader or makes them curious to come to class in August.

I hope my outgoing juniors have developed enough of a sense of who they are as readers and will engage with books of their choice this summer.  Before the year is out, we will complete our reading ladder reflections, share our favorite books of the school year, book talk, add to our “To Read” lists, compile a list of “must have” titles for my library, and during our final conferences, I will ask students what they plan to read this summer.  I will continue to invest in individual readers next school year so we can re-think and re-configure summer reading assignments.

From my Three Teachers Talk Community, I’d love to know how does your school or department handle summer reading?  What strategies do you have for making summer reading authentic and engaging?  What has been the result of your school doesn’t require summer reading?  What successful changes or modifications have you made recently to support authentic reading?

 

Maggie Lopez has a full summer reading schedule of sought after titles planned, like On the Come Up and Internment, as well as vegan cookbooks, travel books, and whatever else she can get her hands on.  You can follow her on Twitter @meg_lopez0.

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Let’s Talk Summer Reading–Without the Pressure

Summer is one of my favorite times of year for reading. I love lying out in the sun with a light paperback, curling up in the corner of the couch with a classic, or falling asleep with my e-reader in my hand under a whirring fan.

Summer reading should be fun for everyone, but especially for teachers and students.

Instead, it’s become such a controversial topic–a buzzword laden with hidden meanings and tensions and polarizing sides. Much of the discourse around reading, and education in general, feels exhausting to me lately. Banned books, mandated books, and everything in between can spark vitriol in teachers who profess to love our students, profession, work.

summer-reading_xs.jpgBut, as ever, reading is the great escape.

And we need that escape–I feel like I never get a break from teaching, and when I do, I don’t know how to seize it. But one thing I love doing in the summertime is reading a book without looking for craft mini-lessons, or thinking about a booktalk I’ll give, or which kid I’ll recommend that title to. That kind of reading can wait until August.

So let’s talk about summer reading, without the pressure. I don’t want to argue with anyone about whether students should be assigned books, or required to participate in book clubs, or the danger of the summer slide or the 20 minutes of reading per day.

I just want to talk books.

Here are some genres and titles I’ve loved so far this summer, and I would love desperately need your recommendations. Please leave them in the comments!

download-1.jpgMurder-Mystery

Still Life is the first in the Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny, and I’ll forever remember reading it in beautiful Canaan Valley, WV during an anniversary getaway. This beautifully written murder-mystery is set in a small town in Canada, and our hero, Gamache, is a quiet observer of human nature, which helps him solve mysteries. I adore the way Penny crafts his thoughts about what he sees, and how many lovely backstories are woven through each mystery in this series.

Page-Turners

download.jpgThe Word Exchange was completely, compulsively, un-put-down-able. Alena Graedon is a new author for me, and her tale of a world that loses its grip on language once a massive tech company monopolizes and commoditizes words was, for me, perfectly timed–I’ve been a little unsettled lately by my observations about how addicted to technology everyone is, and how afraid I am of what it’s doing to my students, and could potentially do to my children. This book spurred me to action in terms of deactivating my Facebook and Instagram accounts and making a conscious effort to leave my phone in another room–to make space to just be, and be bored, and have time to think and wonder and ponder.

download-2.jpgThe Power by Naomi Alderman was just wonderful. It had all the elements of a gripping adventure story, along with a powerful message about what corrupts us. In this novel, women develop an electrostatic power and a society shifts from patriarchal to matriarchal in the space of a few generations as a result. The effect of women suddenly becoming more physically powerful than men leads to widespread revolution in everything from interpersonal relationships to world leadership. It’s beautifully written, too.

download-3.jpgDear Martin was a book I’d been recommended a thousand times, it seemed, but after reading so many books that felt similar–The Hate U Give, Long Way Down, etc., I just couldn’t pick it up–but I’m so glad I finally did. Nic Stone crafts this novel as a series of letters from young Justyce McAllister to Martin Luther King, interspersed with transcripts of news reports and first-person narrative. It’s complex and thoughtful and plausible and readable and powerful. I loved it.

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Nonfiction

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing is Daniel Pink’s latest offering, and as usual, he has an insightful book that has applications for me as an individual, a parent, and a teacher. Pink discusses all the elements of timing that govern our lives, from being a “morning person” to a “night owl,” to the power and importance of building in breaks, taking naps, and seeking out social and alone time. He frames this all in the usual compelling narrative style that makes his writing so readable and interesting to me.

download-4.jpgTeaching Books

180 Days is proving difficult for me to get into. I’ve had it on my desk for over a month, but every time I pick up this collaboration between Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher, I feel like I’m having an emotional battle. My former classroom teacher self wars with my preservice teacher professor self wars with my currently nonteaching summer self when I read about the decisions that go into planning for a packed, skill-building, book-loving, writing-doing, meaningful, 180-day school year. I think it just contributes to that overall feeling of exhaustion I have, so maybe I just need to pick it up when I’m a little more rested.


What are you reading this summer? What books and places help you take a break from teaching? Please share in the comments or on Twitter via @3teacherstalk.

Shana Karnes is enjoying summer reading in West Virginia with her two daughters. She spends lots of time at the public library, the university rec center, and Target–because books, running, and iced coffee while shopping are joyful things. Shana works with practicing teachers through the National Writing Project and formerly taught preservice educators and high school students. Let’s talk reading on Twitter–I’m @litreader for a reason!

More Than a Coach, a Reader

Clear Creek ISD June 2017 (1)The following is a guest post from an inspiring teacher and football coach I met this summer. He sent it to me the day after my daughter got married, and I’ve been playing catch up with life and getting-ready-for-back-to-school ever since. Sorry, I am late in posting it, Charles. You have to know, this post excites me:  I’m excited for the PD experiences we had this summer. I’m excited for the students who will walk through your door this fall. I’m excited to know you will spread your love of books and reading far and wide — and I’ll be excited, and not at all surprised, when you share a few titles with your linebackers. (Have you read Twelve Mighty Orphans?)


It’s August 6th and my summer is effectively over. We start football camps Monday and I’ll work until 5pm most days making sure helmets are ready, tackling dummies are out of storage, and duties are clear. This isn’t a necessarily dreadful thing because I love coaching football, and this part of the year is rife with expectation and uncertainty.

It’s also, for me, a time of reflection. Did I make the most of my time away from the classroom? Did I find enough time to shower my own kids with love and affection? Did I make sure I did the dishes and laundry and kept the house in order so that my wife had time to relax when she got home from work? I hope the answer to all these questions is “yes,” but I fear it’s a “maybe,” at best.

I was at school most days. The first two weeks after graduation were dedicated to our very first CCISD Literacy Institute, and mornings spent with athletes at Strength and Conditioning camp consumed most of the rest. The Literacy Institute was an incredible experience in almost every way. I learned so much from my teaching partner, Meggie Willner, and we both fell head over heels in love with our group of STAAR Camp students. Working with our curriculum director, Billy Eastman, and Amy Rasmussen made this the most valuable professional learning I’ve ever experienced. Those two weeks will make a difference in the lives of students in my class and the time trade off was more than worth it. Strength camp is bittersweet because I didn’t get to sleep past 6:15, but my football players and my own kids were there for most of it, and seeing them learn and work was worth it. For better or worse, this physical connection to campus means that I never really stop thinking about teaching or coaching. I’m always there.

My summer was, for the most part, wonderful. Whether afternoon napping, writing, playing board games with my kids, or swimming in our new swimming pool, my family and I always found ways to fill our time with laughter and joy. This summer was, however, different, and not just because of our much deeper sun tans. This summer I read like a “real” English teacher should. I’ve always listened while my colleagues extolled the virtues of their summer reading regimen. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been known to crack open a book on a hot summer afternoon while sitting in the cool air-conditioning, but it hasn’t been my habit. Reading during the summer always felt like “work,” and I shouldn’t be working during my break. I should be chasing my kids around the house, helping them build blanket forts or taking them to the trampoline park. Reading threatened to get in the way of all that fun, but I wasn’t going to use that excuse this summer.

This summer, I consciously committed to being an avid reader, and while I’m sure many of you read much more than I did, that felt like a success for me.

CharlesMoorebookstackI read so many amazing books and looking at my stack makes me realize what an eclectic collection it is. I read fiction, memoir, poetry, a thriller short story anthology, and even a graphic novel. I read the first book in a series, the fourth book in a series and a few standalone novels.

I’m proud of the volume that I consumed (remember I must spend SOME time thinking about inside linebackers). I’m proud of the variety and scope and I think it will make me a better teacher going forward.

These are the books in the order in which I read them:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My teaching partner, Meggie, and our curriculum director, Billy, wanted to throttle me when I told them how I felt about this book. They both RAVED about it and I really didn’t care for it. I’m sure a second reading would do it justice because I was dealing with a lot personally and professionally at the end of the school year while reading it, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I hope this doesn’t make me an embarrassment to the profession.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Rebar

They say reading is like a roller coaster and I went with an easy to read book for the Literacy Institute at the start of summer. A super straightforward, gently-paced book was exactly what I needed at the start of summer. I really enjoyed this book and for those seeking YA that appeals to both boys and girls, you can’t go wrong here.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I loved this book!!! It is a blend of Sci-Fi and fantasy with a strong female protagonist. I loved the author’s take on super powers and the surprisingly effective post-apocalyptic setting. I was tempted to read the second and third books in the series, but I want this world to be there for me when I want to revisit it.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

This book spoke to my teaching soul. Vance examines a culture drowning in poverty and while it’s a reflection on his firsthand experiences, I felt like there was so much from his past that echoed in mine. I don’t think I realize how much our students’ home lives affect their school lives, but this book made me reflect on it again and again. This book coupled with a viewing of The Shack, directed by Stuart Hazeldine caused a sort of mid-summer epiphany that will change my teaching in the years to come. Another blog post, maybe?

Scythe by Neal Schusterman

I one-clicked this book the day Billy Eastman book talked it at the literacy institute and once I picked it up, I couldn’t stop. It’s original and well-written and even though parts of it were somewhat easy to predict, others still kept me guessing until the end.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

I read this poetry book under a shade tree in Wimberley, Texas, on our 16th annual summer camping trip. My mother-in-law noticed how fast I was turning the pages while reading this one and told me it wasn’t a real book. I handed it to her and she read it cover to cover. We didn’t talk about it, but I think we both knew how it affected us: deeply.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe by Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic

Determined to read a graphic novel, I picked up one about my favorite Marvel character. I’m not particularly experienced with graphic novels, having only finished George R. R. Martin’s graphic novels that are companions to his A Song of Ice and Fire. It was fun but not intellectually stimulating. Maybe this experience will help me with a reluctant reader or two or maybe give me some “street cred” with my Manga readers.

Matchup edited by Lee Child

Please don’t hate on my man crush on Lee Child. I’m obsessed with his Jack Reacher character and devour anything Child publishes. This book is produced by the International Thriller Writer’s Association and paired a dozen female authors with a dozen male authors to write a dozen short thrillers with varying success. There might be mentor texts here.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This book was a quick read for me and it made me feel like an idiot because I didn’t see the plot twist until it was too late. I really enjoyed reading about how Yoon’s main character dealt with her problems the way a teenager would. I think this is an important book for our students to experience. To some, the main character’s relationship to her mother will be an eye-opener; to others, all too familiar.

Vanguard by Ann Aguirre

A vanity read if there ever was one. I love the Razorland trilogy and I couldn’t resist buzzing through this fourth book in the series. The love story made me uncomfortable at first, but I think books should do that sometimes. I enjoyed the happy ending in this book as my summer also draws to a happy ending. A modern Romeo and Juliet story? Maybe, maybe not.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This might be the top of the list of my summer reading. The story was incredible, the characters were deep and it is set in the same part of the country that J. D. Vance visits in his memoir from earlier in the summer. I love when books connect like that. This is one of the few books this summer that would keep me up late at night reading. I fell in love with this book and can’t wait to read Zenter’s Goodbye Days (if I can ever get it back from our freshman A.P. teacher).

Ah, the ones that got away…

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

The Last Neandertal: A Novel by Claire Cameron

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

and so many more…

So now I must start a list for the new school year. I don’t typically read a lot during football season. Working 80-hour weeks and trudging through months without a day off will take the motivation out of me. But maybe I can set a goal for the fall. Something to reach toward even when my knees and ankles are tired and my eyes won’t stay open.

Maybe I can get to school 20 minutes earlier and squeeze in some reading while the coffee percolates. I crush coffee.

Charles Moore is the senior English team lead at Clear Springs High School in League City, TX. He enjoys leisure swimming, reading, and coaching linebackers. Follow Charles on Twitter @ctcoach

The Importance of Summer Reading by Sarah Krajewkski

guest post iconIt’s that time of year again when the beauty of our classrooms begin to disappear. Posters and signs that inspired students vanish from walls and doors. Classroom supplies get dumped into storage bins and closets. Those smiling cherubs are no longer waiting for us to greet them. It’s summer.

Summertime doesn’t mean that reading has to stop, but too often it does for our students. For many students in low-income areas, the moment they leave school on the last day is the last time a book enters their hands until the following school year. Reading is not a priority over the summer for these students, and it should be. Study after study proves what Richard Allington has been saying for decades: the achievement gap between high and low income children continues to widen. Allington states that as they enter public school, children go “from less than a year’s difference upon entering Kindergarten to almost 3 years’ difference by the end of 6th grade” (Allington and McGill-Franzen 4-5). Summer reading loss is a huge part of the problem, for students who do not pick up a single book in those 10 weeks of summer are 10 weeks further behind in the fall. My district has a high poverty rate, so this concerns me. Each school year, I aim to do more to promote the importance of independent reading in my district. I also do all I can to show students that reading can provide them with as much entertainment as their iPhones can. Now, I am revising my goal to include summer vacation.

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One of the front whiteboards in my classroom

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Five of the 12 bookshelves in my classroom library

 

It all starts with falling in love with reading during the school year. If students aren’t reading consistently from September to June, they won’t read on their own over the summer. So, starting that very first week, I gave all of my students time to read in class EVERY DAY. It became a habit. After those 15 minutes, I always “book talked” an intriguing new title I read myself or heard about from a trusted source. I really had to know my books, as well as the various genres my students enjoyed. I made sure my classroom library was visible. I surrounded my students in a sea of books. “Book passes” got students into new titles they didn’t know about. (Think speed dating with books.) We used Goodreads to reflect and share our reading experiences with peers, which created a reading community outside of our classroom. We Skyped with some of their favorite authors. I showed them all the important reading statistics I could find. Most importantly, I never gave up on those students that said they “just hated reading” or “couldn’t find a good book.” By the end of the year, my 94 9th graders read over 366,000 pages, and all but three read at least 1,000 pages. ALL of them said they found books that they enjoyed. They are readers, and I want them to stay readers, so I began thinking about encouraging summer reading.

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My 6th period English 9 class shares how proud they are of all that they read

 

Throughout the last few weeks of school, I began the prep work. I started promoting my all-important “summer library hours” during the daily announcements so students knew when their trusted reading sanctuary would be available to them. Almost every Tuesday and Wednesday they will be able to check out a few books, preview new titles, or even just stay and read quietly for a few hours. (Soon weekly emails will be sent out to parents with reminders about these summer hours, as well as “reading tips” to get their children reading, and a link to my blog that contains the Class of 2019’s favorite books of the year.) Next, I began book talking titles that would be coming out over the summer to lure my students into my classroom library. At the beginning of June, I encouraged my students to help me promote the Little Free Libraries our district would be getting at the end of August. These libraries will serve as an additional reading reminder, for students will be coming into my classroom to paint and stock them. I also told them I will be attempting Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday challenge. Many students were shocked by this, but I told them some of the books would be picture books I’d be reading with my own young children. I mentioned that I am still aiming to read at least 30 YA titles, and some students are challenging themselves to read even more than that!

As of today, many districts are already a few weeks into their summer vacation, but in my Western New York district, final exams are just wrapping up. I only have a few days left to take care of some paperwork and get my classroom in order. I hope that, starting next week, some familiar faces pop in to see what new titles I have awaiting them. I can only wait and hope that reading has become its own incentive.

How do you encourage summer reading?  Please share in the comments!

Sarah Krajewski is a 9th grade English teacher at Cleveland Hill High School in Cheektowaga, New York.  She is just finishing her 14th year of teaching, and is always looking for new, creative ways to help her students enjoy learning, reading, and writing. She is anxiously awaiting another trip to the NCTE Annual Convention to expand her literacy knowledge. At school, she is known for her dedication to her students and for being a devoted reader who “knows her books.” At home, she is a proud wife and mother to three avid readers.  You can follow Sarah on Twitter @shkrajewski and her blog can be viewed at http://skrajewski.wordpress.com/.

Source:
Allington, Richard L., and Anne McGill-Franzen. Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading
Achievement Gap. New York, NY: Teachers College, 2013. 4-5. Print.

5 Ways to Enjoy the Last Month of School

Today we start a fun two weeks. Texas state exams and AP exams dual for the attention and time of most every student and teacher in the building.

Two weeks of juggling tests with students in and out of classrooms. Teachers putting on hats as proctors and hall monitors, shuffling to teach in different rooms so students can test in theirs. Stress can make cranky even the calmest souls.

Two weeks until the end of school after that. June 6 is our last day. Some days that sounds like the equivalent of enduring 12 long winters.

smart-goals1I must make the choice daily to be optimistic, to see the possible in all the end-of-year chaos.

5 Ways to Enjoy the Last Month of School:

1. Talk about Books. I will double the amount of time my students and I talk about books and reading. Summer slide is real, even for students in high school and AP English classes. I wrote some thoughts about summer reading here. I want my students to enjoy the reading they do this summer. Most have read double, some even triple, the number of books they read last year. I cringe thinking that many may not read even one book this summer. (The AP English Literature required summer reading holds little promise with Brave New World and Beowulf.) If we talk about books enough, and if my students write down titles that sound interesting enough, and if maybe I allow them to take enough books from my classroom library home for the summer — maybe even my most reluctant readers will read at least one book before they come back to school in August.

2. Sit and Listen. Last week a student tapped on my door during my conference period. “Mrs. Rasmussen, are you busy?” I was but I waved her inside. I shut my laptop and turned my chair, and Mikaila began to talk. She told me that she’d been in her business class when an idea for her writing project “burst in my brain, and I started writing it down, and the more I wrote the more I imagined and the more I began to cry, and then the teacher looked over my shoulder and got worried about what I was writing. I told her, ‘I’m okay, I just need to go see my English teacher.'” Grinning, she finally took a breath. Mikaila stood and talked with me for the rest of the period. She’s got a lot of hurt in her, and she needed someone to hear it. That is all I did. I listened. I still had essays to read and leave feedback on, but that afternoon with this sweet young woman was the best I have had in weeks. I felt needed. During the next few weeks I will try to be still, open my door, and listen. I doubt Mikaila is the only one who needs to talk.

3. Allow Students to Self-Assess. When my students care about their topics, their writing is always better, but after 11 years of school, so many of my writers care more about the grade they’ll get than about the quality of their writing. I’ve tried to change that all year. For the next few weeks, my students will read and revise their own work again and again. They will read one another’s writing and offer feedback, and then they will revise again. We have done two rounds of this already, and with the exception of just a few kids who put forth little effort and scored their work high, most everyone wrote an honest assessment of their writing process. They are thinking about the thinking they do as they write on the page. That’s the best kind of assessment possible.

4. Begin Planning for Next Year. Not full-on planning, mind you. That would make me crazy, but I have started a list of things I will change. I know I need to do a better job with organizing writer’s notebooks and teaching vocabulary. I know I want to read more poetry, although I added a lot in my primarily non-fiction AP English Language class this year. I know I need to do the lessons we did just last week early in the fall. I’ll add tabs in a writer’s notebook that I can use as a sample with my new students in the fall, and I’ll tinker in Drive as I make notes in my lesson plans. Planning gives me energy, so it makes sense to note changes I want to make now instead of hoping I remember them later.

5. Confer and confer and confer. Like you and your students, the relationships my students and I have built all year are strong and trustworthy. I want to utilize this trust and push my students further in their reading and writing than I would have been able to do earlier. The only way to do this is to talk with them more one-on-one. Every day as students read their self-selected books and write their self-selected projects, I will pull up a chair and we will talk. “What are you thinking?” I’ll ask, and they will open up and tell me. They know I will listen and offer feedback that they can take, or not. That’s the beauty of teaching students to take ownership of their learning.

©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015

Not Your Same AP English Summer Reading List

I started counting Mondays. I try not to get overly excited for summer but I cannot seem to help it. I have so many grand plans. I’m lucky that way. I get to travel to conferences I want to go to and see friends I want to see.

My students are not so fortunate. Most of their summer will be spent within a few miles of their homes. That’s usually how it goes for kids in less affluent areas. They hang out. Do nothing. At least that’s what they tell me.

I want them to read. The summer slide goes right on sliding right into high school.

Some of my students will read because they’ve come to identify themselves as readers this year. They’ve crafted lists of books that interest them, and they’ll make their way to the library and check out books that look intriguing. Some will make their way to the book store. Several of my students have spent their part-time paychecks on books we’ve talked about in class.

They are learning what it means to value books. Of course, I’m pleased.

Summer reading is a tricky thing. I know many students will not read if they do not have an assignment that requires it. That is what we’ve taught them to expect. Expectations engrained like this are hard to change.

Change is possible though.

We can change the books we put on our ‘required’ reading lists (I like the word recommended or suggested so much better.)

We can allow choice of titles instead of Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.43.41 PMmandating one specific book.

If we want our students to want to read, we have to make it easy for them. The article Those Tired Summer Reading Lists. Here’s What to Do offers more to this argument. (And it’s got some nice alternatives for reading logs, too.)

I wonder how you are prepping your students for summer reading?

Me? I have already started the pep talk: The senior AP English teachers on my campus are mandating A Brave New World and Beowulf.

I’ll just leave that right there.

I am proud of my AP English Language team. We’re providing an annotated list of paired texts for our incoming juniors: Summer Reading with a Challenge and a Choice. This is not your same AP English summer reading list. I am confident we will win over more readers this way.

Choice always does.

Maybe we can help more teachers remember:  Is summer reading about the reader or about the book?

In the next few weeks, I’ll talk up books with my students. I’ll remind them of the choices they had in our book clubs. Maybe they’ll remember how hard it was to choose just one title at the time and read another this summer. I’ll show some book trailers and encourage students to grow their TBR lists. We talk a lot about readers having reading plans.

I lose a lot of books throughout the year, but I’ve also got a lot of books on my shelves that never move. I’m thinking of having some kind of check out system, maybe a $2 sale (if I can do that). I’d rather have books in student hands than sitting all alone on shelves all summer. Anyone have ideas here?

What are your plans to encourage readers to read this summer?

©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015

I am Not Assigning Books

Our Compass Shifts 2-1I love @professornana, the Goddess of YA Literature, and I learn a lot from reading her posts. This one got me thinking, and I opened and read every link she embedded in it.

This whole exile thing is crazy. Like Teri suggests, go take this little lexile quiz yourself. Then read the article she references, Teachers are Supposed to Assign Harder Books, but They Aren’t Doing it Yet. You’ll see what I mean.

CRAZY.

The article got me (and not in a good way) at the title with the word “assign.”

My students are reading more than they ever have before because I am talking books, and suggesting books, and showing off books more than I ever have before.

I am not assigning them.

Choice works. Allowing students to read what they want, high or low lexile, works.

Do I sometimes steer students into genres, or most recently into Prize winners? Do I meet with kids and challenge them into more difficult books? Yes, but I’ve learned to always include some element of choice.

The past several days I’ve spent conferring with students during the first 10 minutes of class. Ten minutes that we devote to independent reading. I’ve met with 2/3 of my 145 students so far. Every student but two has read more this year than they did last. Most have exceeded the goal they set during our first reading conferences at the beginning of the year.

That kind of data speaks louder than any kind of lexile level. (I need to just say that my auto-correct changes lexile to exile every single time. Do you think that’s telling?)

Recently, a colleague visited my classroom. He watched my students engage with literature while I sat at a back table and listened. Later he asked how I conduct my readers/writers workshops. I told him “You saw it.”

My task is to get students reading and to teach them to talk about a texts:  books, stories, articles, passages, poems. Once I do that, students can do most everything else when it comes to reading on their own.

There’s freedom here. Freedom for me and freedom for them.

Funny how my students learn more from each other than they do from me anyway. I wonder why it took me so long to realize that.

I’m reminded of a post Donalyn Miller wrote almost a year ago, and I echo her title:

Let My People Read.

 

P.S. Are you thinking about Summer Reading yet? It’s about to be a hot topic on my campus. To allow kids to choose or not to choose, that is the question.

P.S.S. I have to figure out how to allow student choice in AP Literature, which I am most likely teaching next year. Every experienced AP Lit teacher I’ve talked to “assigns” specific books. Still trying to think through this. Any suggestions?

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