A Closer Look at A Christmas Carol

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Take a look at Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol:

 

Scroll through Dickens’ handwritten manuscript page by page by clicking HERE.

Turn the pages by using the buttons in the upper left corner. Zoom in to more clearly see Dickens’ revisions by using the controls at the bottom of each page.

Notice that even the most talented writers (especially the most talented?) revise their work!

For more background information on Dickens and A Christmas Carol, check out this website.

 

Read Any Good Leads Lately?

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When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.  My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress.  She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother.  Of course, she did. This was the day of the reaping.

                                                            –Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

 

The writer of an article, essay, story or book begins with a lead to draw the reader in–to make the reader want to read more.  Suzanne Collins opened her book with a lead that gave us information about the setting:  it was the day of the reaping, apparently a day that poor families had cause to dread.

In the comment section of this post, share an interesting lead to an article, essay, story or book you’ve read recently.  Be sure to include the author’s name and the title of the work.  See the first few comments for examples.  Try not to repeat a lead that has already been given.

 

 

Image Credit:  The Hunger Games, Scholastic Press, 2008

Independent Reading: What Did You Think?

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We’re about to complete our reading logs for the last nine weeks, and this class blog is the perfect place for sharing our thoughts about the books we’ve read.

Choose one of the two prompts below and respond to it as a “comment” to this blog post. I’ve made the first two comments myself as examples. Notice that the first thing we’ve got to do in the comment is IDENTIFY THE BOOK WE’RE TALKING ABOUT! Since we can’t use italics, underlining, or bold text in a comment, we’ll have to set titles apart from the rest of the comment by capitalizing correctly and using quotation marks. Comments should be about five sentences long.

1. One of the overarching themes for this year’s study in seventh grade English is the idea of the Call to Adventure: the idea that a person’s journey begins when some person or some event sets a character on a path of discovery.

In the case of Helen Keller, that call came from Anne Sullivan, who called Helen on a journey to discover language and all of the ways that it could enrich her life. In many stories, a character is called to adventure by a mentor or by circumstances that lead the character to his or her challenging journey. This journey might be an actual journey to new people and places, or it might be a figurative journey to self-discovery and the realization of some important truth.  How were Scrooge, Max, and Christine called to adventure?  How about Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, or Harry Potter?

In one of the books you chose to read, did a character receive a call to adventure? Was he or she guided by a mentor who set an example or taught valuable lessons? Elaborate and give an example.

2. One of the reasons we teachers assign independent reading is so that you discover authors whose work you enjoy. This is important because the more you read, the better your reading and your writing will become.

Which of the books on your independent reading list did you enjoy reading the most? What was it about that book that kept you reading? Was it something about the plot (the action in the story that made you want to find out what was going to happen next), the characters (who they were, how they interacted, what they thought and felt), or the style of writing (the way the author put together sentences, chapters, descriptions, dialog, etc)?

Be specific in your answer without giving away any spoilers!

Image credit:  Pixabay and BeFunky

First Lines

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First lines, first sentences, first pages–the beginnings of books are important. An intriguing cover may entice us to open a book, but it is the engaging text that makes us want to keep reading.

Below are some first lines of famous books, along with their cover art.  For more examples and links back to sources, click here

In the comments, add your own example of a great first line!  Include the title and author’s name.

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Author! Author!

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We’ve been talking about what we like in the books we are reading.  What does the author do to make the book good?  What choices has he or she made that are really effective in making us want to read more?

Here are some of the thoughts shared by students:

 

Mikaela on Caragh M. O’Brien (The Vault of Dreamers):
“I like how the author makes you ask questions.  It makes you want to finish the book before it eats you alive!  And she makes you review the questions later to see if you were thinking logically.”

Reda on Heather Anastasiu (Glitch):
She knows how to end a chapter with a cliffhanger.  With other authors, they seem to make me angry and aggravate me to the point where I want to stop reading, but this author makes it so that I need to know what’s on the other side of that page.”

Tori on Dawn Metcalfe (Luminous): 
“This author has created a story that is unique to all others.  It doesn’t have a very generic plotline, such as one with an obvious antagonist.  This, I think, is an important part of a good story because it creates that tension.  My book keeps taking sharp turns that make the ending harder and harder to guess.”

Niko on J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets):
“Unlike most authors, she expands her universe and keeps a good story at the same time!”

 

 

Layna on Kelly Bingham (Shark Girl):
“I like how the author writes the book in letter form.  I feel like books that are made up of letters are unique because it is a whole different style of writing.  Letters are shorter so there are more stopping points, while in other books there are chapters that are 20 pages long and you sometimes have to stop in a middle of a chapter!”

Madeleine J on Agatha Christie (The Hollow):
“I love this author’s work because she knows how people think and you never can guess who the murderer is.  I also love her work because there is so much of it, and she always gives an extensive background on the people involved.”

 

David S on Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl:  The Last Guardian):
“I like Colfer’s work because he always has a riveting and suspenseful plot.  He never fails to merge suspense and humor, so I always find myself smiling or on the edge of my seat.”

Mia on Suzanne Collins (Mockingjay):
“I like that the author elaborates and is very descriptive.  She is very specific about the words she chooses to use in her sentences.  She uses very big words that have even bigger meanings, along with some I have never heard before.”


 

Book Cover Images: Scholastic Reading Club Online. Scholastic, Inc., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.

New Novels

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animal farm book cover

Intrigued by the history and enticed by the opening pages, pre-AP classes are off to a great start with Animal Farm this week.  Many students left class on Friday saying they were looking forward to reading more, and might even finish the book this weekend!

Those who do finish Orwell’s novel before May 5 may want to explore further resources:

This Brain Pickings article highlights the incredible Animal Farm illustrations of Ralph Steadman as well as key quotes from author George Orwell.

The History Channel website has short, interesting biographies of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin with several related video links. A YouTube search will yield many videos about Nicholas II or any other figure of Russian history you’d like to learn more about.

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Students in second and third period enjoyed the first chapters of Freak the Mighty so much they didn’t want to stop reading on Friday.  The popularity of the book is due in part to the wonderful voice of Max, our teenage narrator.  We’ll follow the story of Max and Kevin’s improbable friendship this week and talk about the important lessons these two boys learn from each other.

Students interested in more Kevin and Max might be interested to know there was a movie made of the book.  Author Rodman Philbrick talks about that and other aspects of his popular novel on his official website.  If you love Freak the Mighty, consider reading its sequel, Max the Mighty.

 

 

 

Edmodo for Book Thoughts

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Descriptive-narrative sketches,  personal narrative essays, narrative poems–we’ve been talking a lot about narrative writing lately.

Most of us are reading books that tell stories.  We’re enjoying the unfolding of a plot and the development of characters.  We’re sticking with our novels because we want to find out what’s going to happen, and because we’re entertained while we wait:  the author’s style is just right for us.

Whatever genre we are reading, we all have something to share about our books.  We are thinking, wondering, noticing, feeling as we read, and many of us would like a place in which to share our book thoughts.

One virtual space that my classes have used in the past is Edmodo.  We’ll use this secure, safe education tool to create an invitation-only, password-protected Kriese 7th ELA “room” where we can talk about our books (and other stories).  Parents will be invited, too :- )

Students are likely familiar with Edmodo via science classes in earlier grade levels.  I’m excited to use this tool again in English class.

Let’s get the conversations started!

 

 

Image credit:  Elements of Literature. Digital image. The-teachers-lounge.com. McDonald Publishing, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.