Reading and Reading Logs: Time to Re-Think?

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The message of the above graphic is one we already know:  reading is important, and reading every day fosters academic strength.  Chances are that the more you read, the better student you will be…the better thinker you will be.

At the seventh grade level, we ask that you strive to read 800-900 pages in a nine-week time period, that you log the titles of the books you read, and that you obtain a parent signature next to each title as corroboration of your reading.  Reading that many pages means reading regularly, even though you may not keep to a 20-minutes-a-day schedule you had when you were younger.  We all have more time to read some days than we do on others.

Recently, we teachers have lifted the requirement that you read at least one book of a specified genre per nine weeks.  The most important thing isn’t what you read, but that you read.  I appreciate these words by educator and reading expert Donalyn Miller: “Reading belongs to readers, not to teachers. If we want children to see reading as anything more than a school job, we must give them the chance to choose their own books and develop personal connections to reading, or they never will.”

We’ve made that small change, but I’m thinking there need to be more changes.  I’d like to open a conversation about how we do reading at school, and I’m asking for your input.  Parents, feel free to add your thoughts, too.

  • Independent, Sustained Silent Reading is something we used to do daily in seventh grade when ELA classes were 84 minutes long.  I’d like to find time for ISSR again at school. Some schools with only one period of ELA have their ISSR time one period each week or once every seven school days.  Others use the first ten minutes of every period.  What are your thoughts about how often and how long we should have independent reading in the classroom?

  • Reading Logs don’t have to be lists of titles with signatures.  If we are reading at school again on a regular basis, there could be time for reading conferences with the teacher.  With our iPads, we could record small group conversations about what’s happening in our books and turn in those conversations.  What would be your preferred way of receiving credit for your reading?

  • Regular library visits are important to supporting an ISSR program.  Should we start going to the library every two weeks? Some students have said they have trouble finding a book to check out, so perhaps we should arrange for Mrs. Martinez to spotlight some titles for us each time we visit.  How do you think we could make the most of regular trips to the school library?

Parents and students, I look forward to hearing your answers to these questions (and any other thoughts you may have about reading) in the comments section of this post.

 

 

 

Second Period Spotlight

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It’s wonderful to really hear students’ voices come through their writing.  We’ve talked about the progress they’ve made as writers, and the kids observed that they are writing with more expression and with better organization.  They’d love to have your feedback on their compositions!

Cierra had a great time at summer camp.  Read about why she loved it so much.

You’ll enjoy Ethan’s humorous explanation as to why kids should not have to do the dishes.

Grant’s description of his favorite food will make you hungry!

Nina is a poet.  Read this poem, then visit her blog for more.

Tired of the cold?  Not Regina.  She explains why she loves winter!

Ryan’s narrative about his recent fishing trip puts you right on the water with him.

Overdue library books?  You can empathize with Valerie as you read about the pain of late fines.

 

 

Fourth Period Focus

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Our expository writing has been so enjoyable to read!  Check out the following links (and others to be found in the student blog roll) for compositions that are alive with voice and filled with thought.

Don’t be a corner-camper!  Steven explains how NOT to play video games.

Soham informs us of the disadvantages of using electronics.

A student who DISLIKES snow days?  That’s Matthew.  He explains why.

Ryan sees long car rides as great opportunities for fun.

Izzy shows why Telluride is a great place to visit.

“Bow ties are cool!” declare the Doctor and Gabriel.

Amulya explains why she enjoys pep rallies.

Ava explores the many meanings of the color red.

 

Third Period Thoughts

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Short expository essays, fiction, poems, and personal narratives have been posted by third period students.  Enjoy this sampling of their work!

“The fun is in the risk.”  Eli explains why he loves riding his mini-bike.

Irma calls shotgun!  Read about why the front seat is the best seat.

“The sun falls back underneath the earth.”  Clara’s sunset will leave you in awe.

Sam has written a clever how-to guide for those who want to irritate a brother or sister…

“Too bad it’s not turkey season, I thought.”  Clay narrates a hunting adventure.

“The Merchants’ Village” is a chapter story written by Jane.

Bryce explains the different ways in which people can wear masks.

You’ll be counting the days until summertime after you read this post by Lauren.

 

Some Highlights from Sixth Period

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Our writing from the week of February 10 has been entertaining and informative.  Enjoy this small sampling of student work, and visit the links in the blog roll at the left to read more of what our Wildcats have to say.  Comments welcome!

Dahlia shares her D’Var Torah.

Emma paints with the color blue.

Alena expresses her thoughts on the Olympic sport of curling.

George explores the qualities of effective leadership.

Grant shares the pressures of being a baseball pitcher.

Lucca explains his love of lacrosse.

Joseph shows why football is awesome.

Emma Bernice evaluates her iPad ownership.

 

 

Elements of Plot

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We are about to begin an exploration of another story, this one told through music. Even though Phantom of the Opera is mostly delivered through song, all of the elements of plot that we find in fiction books are there:

  • exposition
  • setting
  • characterization
  • rising action
  • conflict
  • climax
  • resolution

Enjoy this video as a review of those elements.

My Favorite Mistake: Spotlight on 7th Period

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After reading several Newsweek “Favorite Mistake” columns, we wrote about some favorite mistakes of our own:

“There was nothing positive about this. My head lowered. My stomach sank. What had I done?  Julius recalls an incident involving the family pet and auto repair.

“I can’t remember what happened next, only my father coming in with a bowl of water, him yelling, and the unbearable stench of smoke.” Microwave mishaps befall  Mara and Yasmine.

“As if things can’t get any worse…they do.”  Read Vayda’s account of signing up for P.E.

“My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding so hard that I could hear it.”  Rachel shares a story of anxiety.

“There I was lying flat on the ground— eyes widened as if the world had just flashed before them—and to me— it was.”  Learn why Vivian was so upset.

“The whole thing seemed like it was in slow motion.”  Caitlyn narrowly avoids disaster.

Note that the Newsweek columns are based on interviews, written in first person but by a third party who had talked with the man or woman who had actually had the experience.

In class, we discussed how our favorite mistakes would be different:  ours would be personal narratives, written in first person by the student who had had the experience. For this assignment, our goal would be to show the event in more detail than the news magazine columns had, in a way that the reader could feel what the writer had felt.

Leave us your comments and let us know how we did!

Voice Through Punctuation

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In our study of mentor texts (most recently, the prologue to Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, the thirty-fourth chapter of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and James Ramsey Ullman’s “A Boy and a Man” from our Prentice-Hall literature textbook), we’ve paid attention to how the authors have used punctuation to bring out the emotion of what is happening on the page.  Hyphenated adjectives can add voice, dashes can add a sense of immediacy and urgency, colons can add dramatic emphasis, and ellipses can show hesitation or doubt.  Of course, these aren’t the only uses for these punctuation marks.  We’ve been playing with them in our writing over the past few weeks to see what more they can do for us.

Here are examples from student work that I collected in my classroom about six or seven years ago. These sentences were all taken from personal narratives written in response to the prompt “write about a moment you’ll always remember.”

Hyphenated Adjective

We weren’t just scared.  We were scared-out-of-our-wits scared. Shelby

We didn’t call our full-court, man-to-man, get-the-ball defense “Duracell” for nothing.  In our last game alone, we had created fifteen turnovers.Ryan

Dash

I was having the time of my life.  Something was bound to happen—something bad. –Jesse

Confused, I glanced at the clock.  It was only—wait—that couldn’t be!  Nine o’clock?!! –Annie

There were no birds singing, no plants swaying, no clouds moving—another breathless day. –Carly

Every minute—every second—was precious to me, because every instant we weren’t there was a moment he might die.  I don’t remember whether or not I cried.  It wasn’t important.  What was important was how much I needed him—how much I would miss him—how much I loved him. –Hetty

I was trapped. The towering oak which had once captured my imagination now held me prisoner in my own treehouse.  I yelled for my mom, for my dog—for anyone!  –Jaci

Colon

It was World War III:  older brother vs. younger sister.  There were pillows, books, even food being thrown.  Soon we were throwing ourselves at each other!  — Myles

I knew something then:  this dog needed me, and I needed him too. –Emmi

It was only later that I realized what I had accomplished:  not only had I broken my own record, but I had broken the all-time record! — Katy

Victory was mine:  I had decimated his army and captured his king in the most strategic and graceful game of chess I’d ever played.  — Clifton

Ellipsis

I felt strange…not good, not bad.  Only one thing was certain:  I had to make the best out of a sad situation—new house, new room, new things. –Mary

“Ummm…sure…I’ll do it,” I finally answered.  Oh my God, I thought…What did I just do?Jessie

“Hi, I…I’m Je…Jessica.”  My lips were paralyzed and my heart was pounding furiously.  Three hundred pairs of eyes were staring up at me, watching my every move. –Jessica

Students, use the comments to post examples of punctuation craft from your recent essays or blog posts.