Tag Archives: Summer Reading

What did you Read this summer? A Back-to-School Summer Reading Assessment

Summer reading is a political topic these days. Should students be assigned a required summer reading book or should summer be about reading what ever one likes? Should students be allowed to have choice in what they read? How many texts should students be required or expected to read over the summer?

This year, my colleagues and I decided that instead of a required summer reading text, students could read any book of their choice. Incoming students were given a suggested book list created by students that included many contemporary titles both fiction and nonfiction.

With a wide range of summer reading books, how does one assess students? Rather than a creative book reflection and project, I have turned to the traditional essay to assess student reading. This assessment is not one that is graded, but used as a gauge of reading tastes and gain data of students’ reading and writing strengths and weaknesses. I use these assessments to help guide my teaching of reading and writing at the start of the school year.

My summer reading assessment prompt stems from the poignant essay What we Hunger For written by Roxanne Gay.

This essay is honest, harrowing, reflective, and offers a personal response to the Hunger Games trilogy.  The author begins by highlighting the representations of strength in women like Katniss and then brings in her own personal experiences that shaped her reading and admiration of strength in the “flawed” protagonist of Suzanne Collin’s books. Gay addresses the negative response to the violence in the trilogy and through her personal confession offers a counter claim against telling young people what they can and should read. She brings in supportive arguments from contemporary YA authors like Sherman Alexie to support her claims.  Gay concludes with her analysis of Katniss as a strong and relatable character by highlighting imperfection in and all around us. This essay is powerful and inspiring. I knew it was something I wanted to share with my students.

For my 8th graders, I have edited the essay to use as a mentor text. I want students to think about the central ideas in their summer reading books and how it shapes their thinking. How do the books we read over summer time support us and sustain us?

summer reading essay 2016

I look forward to what my students share with me. What are the books they read over summer vacation, and the lessons they share with me.

Do you have a unique or thoughtful summer reading assessment? Feel free to share in the Comments section on this blog.

 

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Let’s Talk About Race: Writing & Discussion Prompts Inspired by The Other Wes Moore

“Very few lives hinge on any single moment or decision or circumstance. . . he inspired me and countless other young people to see ourselves as capable of taking control of our own destinies, and to realize how each decision we make determines the course of our life stories.”

My incoming 8th grade students are reading The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (2010) for the all grade summer reading requirement.  The Other Wes Moore is about two kids who grew up with the same name of Wes Moore. There were many similarities among the two of them in addition to the same name – they were both raised fatherless and they were born in the same neighborhood in Baltimore,Maryland in the late 70’s. During their formative teenage years their lives took different turns. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, dec­o­rated com­bat vet­eran, White House Fel­low, and busi­ness leader. The other is serv­ing a life sentence in prison for felony mur­der. The book tells the story of these two men coming of age and attempts to address the influencing factors how their similarities diverged into tragedy and success.

There are so many compelling passages that can spark important conversations around race, identity, and personal responsibility. I have pulled three particular passages that can be used as writing prompts and or critical conversation starters.

I.

“When did you feel like you’d become a man?” Wes asked me, a troubled look on his face.

“I think it was when I first felt accountable to people other than myself. When I first cared that my actions mattered to people other than just me.” I answered quickly and confidently, but I wasn’t too sure of what I was talking about. When did I actually become a man? There was no official ceremony that brought my childhood to an end. Instead crisis other other circumstances presented me with adult-sized responsibilities and obligations that I had to meet one way or another. For some boys, this happens later – in their late teens or even twenties – allowing them to grow organically into adulthood. But for some of us, the promotion to adulthood, or at least its challenges, is so jarring, so sudden, that we enter into it unprepared and might be undone by it. (2010, page 66)

Prompt: When do you become an adult? Some cultures have ceremonies that signify adulthood, but what age or experiences mark adulthood?

II.

“Do you think we’re all just products of our environments? His smile dissolved into a smirk, with the let side of his face resting at ease. 

“I think so, or maybe products of our expectations.”

“Others’ expectations of us or our expectations for ourselves?”

“I mean others’ expectations that you take on as your own.”

I realized how difficult it is to separate the two. The expectations that other place on us help us form our expectations of ourselves.” (2010, page 126)

Prompt: Are we products of our environment, expectations, or other?

III.

The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, any challenge. Fighting for your convictions is important. But finding peace is paramount. Knowing when to fight and when to seek peace and wisdom.” (2010, page 168)

Prompt: What does forgiveness look like and sound like? Is it easy or hard to forgive someone? Explain your response.

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What’s Your Summer Stack?

Summer Stack

While many of the schools outside of the Northeast have finished already, today is officially my last day of school and first day of summer vacation! I have all my books lined up for reading and have already begun to dive into the young adult literature voraciously.

Professional Text

There are two professional books in my stack of books and one I already started reading and the ideas are pouring out. I have marked up the text so much and started making notes for teaching ideas in September. Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen’s Teaching Interpretation using text based evidence to construct meaning (Heinemann, 2014) spills out with so many ideas that support close reading. The main idea of the book is help facilitate students to utilizing an interpretation framework to help read and think critically about a text. The interpretation framework includes help students read closely, come up with theories, gather evidence, and test out theories. The book is Common Core aligned throughout and at the end of every chapter there is a section titled “If . . . Try . . .” for both struggling readers and strategies for advanced readers. This book I highly recommend literacy teachers.

photo 3 (2)photo 4 (2)

I will continue to share great ideas that I gather while reading this summer. I hope that you have a few good books to read. And if you have one to recommend, please share in the comment section on this blog.

Happy Summer !

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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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