Banned Books Week

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Banned books display

 

What do Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and Harriet the Spy have in common?

All three have been banned at one time or another.  School districts received complaints that Charlotte’s Web had talking animals (a sure sign of witchcraft!), that Harry Potter promoted dark arts, and that Harriet talked back to adults and was therefore a poor example for young people.

Other banned children’s books include The Giving Tree and The Lorax (both considered a threat to the foresting industry), Bridge to Terabithia and Alice in Wonderland (both involving overly elaborate fantasy worlds) and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (too depressing).

School boards were successful in removing these titles from some libraries; however, many of those decisions to ban the books were successfully challenged and overturned.

Curious about more titles?  Check out this list of banned classics.  How many are you familiar with?  Several of these are studied today in Eanes ISD schools.  This year, we’ll read the sometimes-controversial book The Giver.

For more about Banned Books week, visit our West Ridge Middle School library display.

 

Image Credit: covs97 via Compfight

 

Read Aloud ?

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After we finished our reading of Fish for the Global Read Aloud, students were asked to share their thoughts about read aloud in general.  Was it something they valued and would want to continue?

In our district, students used to have 84 minutes of Language Arts each day, and with that amount of time, it was easy to incorporate read aloud into the curriculum.  Now that Language Arts classes are 52 minutes long (30 fewer minutes each day, or 2 1/2 fewer hours each week), it is difficult to incorporate and sustain a meaningful read aloud time.

Here are some of the student responses:

  • “I love read aloud because we get to talk about the book and the things we enjoyed.” –Thomas
  • “I really like read aloud because I understand more when someone else reads out loud.” — Briana
  • “I enjoy read aloud because it give the characters a voice.” — Zach D.
  • “Read aloud is a time that I can relax, and I enjoy that after a long school day.” — Anonymous
  • “I enjoy read aloud because our class actually knows what’s going on as a  group.” — Carter
  • “When someone else reads aloud, it helps make imagery.  We can also discuss our thoughts and questions, so we can opinions from everybody.” — Shamya
  • “Read aloud is a relaxing time to listen, think, and not work.” — Jedi
  • “With read aloud, I get to hear stories I never heard about before.” — Sebastian

Students definitely want to continue read aloud, and so do I.  Research backs us up:  among this study’s 13 reasons to use read aloud with older students is the fact that the practice improves student reading and writing, and reading and writing is what we are all about in English class!

It’s up to me as the teacher to make time in our curriculum for this valuable practice…and to develop the stamina to read aloud daily to five different groups of students instead of the three that I used to have 🙂

 

Image by Mrs. Kriese via Canva 

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.

Who Am I?

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When Peter Parker walks in late to his English class, he interrupts a lesson on plot in fiction. His teacher is explaining that a mentor of hers used to say that there are ten basic plots in all of fiction, but that she disagrees…she thinks there is only one: the question of who am I?

Certainly the exploration of that question is key to many stories.  It is key to the story of Spider Man as Peter Parker must figure out the origin of his identity and who he wants to be going forward.  The question of identity is one we each must answer as we grow up, and it makes sense that if literature is the exploration of human experience that its stories strive to answer that question, too. Who are we, as individuals and as part of larger communities?

“Who am I?” is a question that is key to understanding the theme and plot of many stories we have discussed this year, among them

  • Beowulf, A New Telling
  • Freak the Mighty
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Lion King
  • Mulan
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Les Miserables

Can you think of more stories you have read or watched that explore the question of identity?  Share your answer in the comments.

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.