We frequently get questions from teachers who want to teach novels, but simply do not have enough time to read entire books with their classes. While we generally advocate for reading novels in their entirety, we completely understand that this is not always possible for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to English language levels and school schedules, as well as state, school, and district mandates. Today we want to give you a few tips for picking out which novel excerpts to read with your class.
With a push in the common core to incorporate more informational texts and a teenage audience that is becoming more globally aware than any previous generation, I have found that using high quality magazines in the classroom can help capture young minds in relevant reading and writing. I especially like The New Yorker, but the same strategies below can be used for Time Magazine, National Geographic, your local newspaper, or many other options. (Be sure to vet articles carefully and get approval where appropriate.) Many newspapers and some magazines also have an educator's discount! Below are some ways that I'm using magazines in my classroom. I'd love to hear your questions, comments, or suggestions below!
It is the time of year again when we meet in departments to plan out summer reading programs. For me, the words "summer reading" can be a delight and a drain. I work at a school that requires summer reading for college prep and honors English classes at every grade level, which can present some challenges. Even with the struggles, I think that summer reading is a battle worth fighting. If you are interested in some of the scientific benefits of summer reading, click around this site for a bit. Here are my thoughts on putting together a summer reading program that will enhance the curriculum without burning out teachers or students.
A co-worker recently re-posted this article criticizing changes that my alma mater UCLA made in 2011 to the English department required courses. Gone are the days of required single author courses in Milton, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, which have been replaced with thematic courses and syllabi full of a combination of the traditional canon and new voices. Of course, I poked around and saw other articles like this one, in support of the changes and found this clear explanation of the changes from the Daily Bruin. This all got me thinking about the books that our high schools require. I currently teach American lit and British lit to juniors and seniors in high school and so my required reading relies heavily on our anthology with the supplement of a couple of novels. Even though I LOVE my curriculum, I think it is important to think about how we select required reading. Below I've listed some of the major considerations out there with a brief opinion of my own. I'd love to hear your two cents! How much control do you have over your required reading? Are you happy with your current list?
We've all had those class periods that seem to drag on with a flat discussion because half the class didn't really read the last night's homework. With all of the shortcuts out there on the internet and sometimes a general apathy that hits teenagers, how do we get them to actually read? Here are some of my ideas and I'd love to hear yours in the comment section below:
As we continue to grow in our common core competencies and take on new informational texts, we need tools to help students read closely and analyze texts that may be outside of their fiction plot structure comfort zone (and ours!). At a conference many years ago, I picked up a valuable strategy called the arch method, which I believe can do just that. I learned it from Valerie Stevenson who is a high school English teacher from San Diego, accomplished conference speaker, and incredible fount of knowledge. Originally, I used it as a way to help AP students answer prose analysis prompts, but with the common core emphasis on informational texts at all levels, I want to show you how it is an appropriate and valuable tool for all of our classes.
Both formative and summative assessments play important roles in the learning outcomes of our students. In any given unit of study, as teachers we check our Common Core standards, map out our benchmarks and embark on the journey. However, if you are like me and you've been doing this for a while, sometimes our favorite assessments deserve a second look to make sure that they are lining up with the Common Core. If you are in the market for Common Core aligned resources, check out this article to be sure you are getting what you pay for!
Have you heard of Literature-Map? Touted as "The Tourist Map for Literature," this site allows readers to type in a favorite author, then hit enter to find a map of similar authors. For example, when I typed in Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Terabithia) and hit enter, I got a map that included the names Chris Crutcher, Brian Jaques, Wendelin Van Draanen, Jerry Spinelli, and Louis Sachar. The closer the writer's names are to the center of the map (with the searched author's name), the closer the similarities between authors.
I just finished reading an interesting article from the New York Times this morning about helping boys to become "readers" (Boys and Reading, Is There Any Hope?). There is no question that there is a huge output of Young Adult fiction today. In fact, as the article mentions, it seems as if the genre of Young Adult fiction is surpassing the interest in Adult fiction today. This made me think of The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) trilogy. I still cannot get those characters out of my mind. The Hunger Games has moved toward the top of my "all-time" favorites list, for sure.