Tag Archives: English

Social Justice: A Young Adult Book List

Summer time allows me to catch up on reading and begin to plan for the ideas swimming in my brain for the new school year. Since I have moved around which core texts that I am teaching first in my eighth grade English class, and we will read To Kill a Mockingbird in the first quarter, I have decided that the first outside reading  assignment will focus on the theme of social justice.

Each quarter my students select an outside reading book to read independently and if students are aiming for honors English in the high school they read two outside reading books per quarter. The themes of the outside reading books change based on current events and genres. The most popular outside reading assignment this past year was graphic novels.

As students are reading the historical based text, To Kill a Mockingbird, I want them to be aware of the oppression and injustices that still exist in our world today.  I have carefully selected books that I have read and have been recommend to me that cover topics of racism, classism, homophobia, guerilla warfare in third world countries, and illegal immigration.  My over all theme throughout the year is community and empathy.  Below is the book list that I have compiled for September.

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Year in Review Flipagram

My student had a Flipagram running on her phone yesterday and I became obsessed. This is an awesome free app that creates a speedy slide show with music (free for 30 seconds) to one’s pictures. So, I just had to create a year in review slideshow to share with everyone the highlights teaching eighth grade English this year.

Here’s a list of the biggies:

The Literacy Lounge
Interactive Notebooks & Foldables
Common Core Standards
NCTE Annual Convention
Bubble Head Responses
Close Reading
Give More Hugs Partnership
Genius Hour
Tunnel Books
Twitter Chats

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Who’s Who? A Detective’s Interactive File & Close Reading

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My students have just started reading Agatha Christie’s murder mystery And Then There Were None.  In the first chapter the reader is introduced to eleven different and central characters. This can be confusion for some. So, in order to help my students to learn and understand each of the characters I created an interactive detective’s file foldable for their English Journal.  Students created the detective’s file and then received a small file card on each of the characters to fill out while reading of the text.  Like a detective seen on television and in movies, students are required to keep a file on each of the characters based on their reading and understanding of the text. The detective’s files needed to contain the following information:

Front Side (To be completed during after reading Chapters 1 & 2) :

Physical Traits

Character Traits

Reason for going to Solider Island

Mode of Transportation to the Island

Inferences that can be made about the character

Back Side (To be completed during reading chapters 3-15):

Crime Accused of

Reactions

Cause of Death

Time & Place of Death

 

After students made the detective file foldable and glued it into their notebooks they were assigned a specific character to study and examine closely.  Working in small groups, students reread specific sections about their character gathering evidence, then developing ideas and making inferences about the character. Using the information from the selected text students were to uncover the following: (1) the character’s physical appearance and age; (2) the mode of transportation the character used to arrive on Solider Island; (3) a direct quote about the character describing the character’s personality; (4) an inference about the character’s personality based on the quote; and (5) how the character was invited to the island and what he/she expects to do on Solider Island. Students created posters to communicate all the above information. 

This activity directly links to the CCLS and close reading for text evidence: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it” (CCLS R.1). 

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Students presented their finished posters and their classmates filled in their detective files on each of the characters of the text.

Christopher Lehman & Kate Roberts’ book Falling in Love with Close Reading (2014) describes close reading as “following the unfolding of an idea, to hear a text, to attend to language, to question, to visualize scenes, to mentally construct characters can only come from closely paying attention” [to the text] (p.10).  This year I am slowing down my students reading so they practice the skill of reading closely, paying attention to the details, and see the complexity of ideas that are presented in texts and in our own lives. 

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Summer Reading Recommendations for Middle School

This upcoming fall I plan to teach eighth grade English and summer reading requirements have sent me researching book titles for my incoming students.

All students entering Grade 8 at the schools where I teach are required to read: Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. In 1957, Melba Pattillo turned sixteen. Little did she know that same year she would become a warrior at the core of the fight for civil rights. Following the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, Melba was one of nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. Warriors Don’t Cry is her story.

My students will be required to read another book, plus a third for extra credit.  Here are some recommended titles:

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

Equally detested and revered–often by the same people–Steve Jobs, the man who operated from his own “reality distortion field,” moved beyond the visionary to perfect the simple and transform the world as we know it. Blumenthal’s accessible biography presents an intimate and well-rounded portrait of a complex American icon and the technological contributions that define his enduring legacy.

Michael Vey by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary; he has special electric powers. Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of another, they investigate their conditions. Their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Growing up in Texas in 1899, Calpurnia is more interested in science than cooking and needlepoint. Her grandfather, a naturalist, sparks Calpurnia’s curiosity and they explore the rivers, observe animals, and possibly discover a new species of plant. Conflicted by societal expectations for girls in the 1900s, Callie desires to be a scientist rather than a mother and a wife.

Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of WWII by Robert Kurson

John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two divers, take on a wreck, a WWII U-boat, at 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. The two divers embark on a seven-year search for the U-boat’s identity, jarring people’s memories and researching archives. Along the way, Chatterton’s diving had serious repercussions for his personal life, while Kohler’s commitment to the cause resulted in his becoming a U-boat scholar. The completion of their quest answers one of the few remaining questions about WWII. Adventure enthusiasts will love the story of these divers and history buffs will revel in the descriptions of WWII and the Third Reich.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Sixteen-year-old Jacob receives a letter that sends him on a journey to a remote island, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar, possibly dangerous. The story includes vintage photographs that help unravel the plot and Jacob’s findings on the island. Read the story to find out why these children were quarantined on this island long ago.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This book comes recommended to me by one of my students.  Sixteen year old Hazel is living with cancer and clinically depressed.  She is sent my her doctor to a support group where she meets Augustus, a fellow cancer survivor.  They fall in love and so the novel continues.  If you have read Wonder, by RJ Palacio, this might be a book you would like.

If you have a great recommended read for middle school students, please share book titles in the comment section below.  Happy reading!

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