Why summer reading? My school, along with many other high schools these days, encourages summer reading by promoting a list and expecting students to pick up a title and read it over the summer. The goal is long-term enjoyment of literature and practice with reading literary fiction that is challenging and interesting (RL.9-10.10). The list is here below.
Assessment and pre-assessment. What is sometimes tricky, though, is that we want to start the school year off by establishing the proper culture in each of our classrooms, and slapping students with an assessment, has at times, felt counterproductive to that process as well as counterproductive to the process of encouraging reading. However, students do expect some kind of assessment that is evidence based (RL.9-10.1), and reading for proper evidence figures prominently in this opening unit, so my selected assessment prompt focuses on how well students can pull examples from the text.
Link to my video explanation of this!
The prompt. In this prompt (link to resource), I ask them to write about their books, arguing (W.9-10.1) about whether the book is a strong choice for high school students. The students will need to introduce a precise claim and support this with sub-claims (W.9-10.1a) about the quality of the characters (RL.9-10.3), theme (RL.9-10.2), plot (RL.9-10.5), figurative description style(RL.9-10.4), etc. Again, I am still in diagnostic mode, and as much as I want to assess the students' reading of their summer texts, I am even more interested in pre-assessing their writing skills for the year by giving them frequent, informal writings (W.9-10.10).
Link to Maine East's summer reading 2013:
Does My Head Look Big in This by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
Fade to Black by Alex Flinn
Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
The students wrote their essays on Chromebooks, a web-based notebook computer device, that has been rolled out to every freshman and sophomore student. The benefit of using Google-based Chromebooks is that students submit online copies to the teacher for review, and then students can revise and resubmit seamlessly (W.9-10.6). I will be looking to see if the students read the comments that I leave for them and to see if they really do improve how they write about literature as the semester progresses.
As it was, all of my students did remember to bring the device to school, and only a few needed a quick tutorial about how to use Google Drive. My classroom seating chart is set with pairs (at tables) and also base groups of x3 students each. For this activity, I leveraged the pairs by asking students to help each other with tech questions that might surface. In addition, I have an older student, a Senior, who is my classroom helper during this period; she earns service credit for doing this, but she also can answer questions of the students and to generally nudge them in the right direction.
Finally, I had a couple of absentees for this lesson, so I will need to circle back and make a time outside of class (or perhaps during class) for them to complete the writing prompt, since I need 100% participation for both diagnostic purposes (writing--e.g. W.9-10.1) and for assessment purposes (summer reading program--e.g. RL.9-10.1; W.9-10.10).
Group processing. I am very much in favor of engaging the students in reflection at multiple points, especially in the opening days of class. The reason for this is that I want them to become as metacognitive as possible, and I want them to trust that my classroom and lesson design is done purposefully and that a lot of thinking goes into the class from my end.
- I will ask:
1.) What is the difference between a diagnostic and an assessement? What aspects of today's activity were diagnostic for you and for me? What aspects of it were assessement-oriented?
2.) How did you do with the summer reading? When given an opportunity to select, check out, and read a book, do you do it? What helps you, and what gets in your way?
Acknowledgements for this lesson. I would like to thank the LRC (library) staff for culling together the summer reading list. I personally got to read several of them and found each to be a unique choice offering for students of challenging texts (RL.9-10.10). In addition, I would like to thank the teachers and staff at our sending school.
Although there are several sending schools involved in our student population, the bulk of students come from this particular school, and I can see very easily that the students not only were given the summer reading assignment but were expected to complete it. One student even commented to me that he had done summer reading past years, etc. and that this was really no different.
the end of the day, students are best served when teachers across levels work together to spiral important student skills and to influence student dispositions.
Finally, the image credit comes from public domain on wikimedia:
I enjoy using wikimedia because image permissions and credits are very specifically specified.