Current Reading Quote

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." -Paul Sweeney

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Independent Reading Works for All Grade Levels

Recently, I have been hearing more and more that independent reading (or silent sustained reading) is only for students at the middle school level and under.  This teacher believes that independent reading serves students well from kindergarten through twelfth grade. When I incorporate independent reading into my class, it is during a double-period ninth grade class. This class is about 90 minutes long so there is plenty of time for independent reading and a regular lesson that usually addresses the class novel or play we are reading.  In this class, we've completed six novels and plays while the students complete independent reading, as well.  I understand that I have more time than most teachers are given, however, I believe that English classes, at least a few times per week, should be longer than the standard 45 minute period.  Then, independent reading could be included in all English classes.

Aside from the lack of time, this post is really addressing this stigma (I know, that word is extreme) that independent reading is only for middle schoolers. I had a colleague who taught the Advanced Placement literature class and she incorporated independent reading into it, and those students were preparing for an exam that could possibly give them college credit!  Here is the A.P. Literature essay task for 2012. It requires the students to relate a quote or idea to a novel or play.  There is a list of almost 40 suggested plays and novels but the directions state that the students can choose a book not listed that is "of comparable literary merit."  The way I see it, the more the students read, the more options they have when completing the A.P. task. If the A.P. class is longer than the standard 45 minute period, students should be able to read independently.  They could choose from a library of classics that would be appropriate for the A.P. exam.  When I taught the honors class, we got through seven books and plays in a year.  Allowing independent reading would have given the students the opportunity to read more and to read books they personally find interesting.

When it comes to teaching, there is always more to do than time allows and, as educators, we need to prioritize what we teach.  However, reading fits into whatever the new "fad" and "buzz words" are (Common Core, Bloom's Taxonomy, etc).  Therefore, it is my contention that independent reading could and should be incorporated into any grade level English class.  The trick is to modify and personalize the program to fit the students' needs, ages and levels. Reading on one's own is always beneficial and since high school students seem to be lacking skills that demonstrate they are "college ready," reading is definitely one way to help students improve so they are "college ready."

What do you think?

Enjoy your weekend!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Importance of Libraries (and book stores!)

I recently went to a reading of This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz in East Harlem and, as expected, my mind was blown.  I am a huge fan of his work and him but being there just reinforced everything I had thought.  And he is so gracious and honest and patient (during the signing!). I follow him on Facebook and people kept mentioning an interview he did with Bill Moyers so I searched for it and found it here and he talks about his first experience in a library.

I am a library lover.  I worked in a school with a beautiful and somewhat underutilized library and sometimes wish I could spend part of my teaching day working in one.  I am also a bookstore lover.  There were the days when people hated Barnes and Noble for shutting down the independent book store and now...we worry that the internet is shutting down Barnes and Noble.  I'd be very sad if book stores became a myth and they are most definitely an endangered species.  I am not a Kindle or iPad user.  If I did have one, it would not be for reading books; it would be for watching movies on a plane or playing games on public transportation.  I like having a book in my hand and on my book shelf.  I like highlighting my favorite lines and passages.  And I like loaning and trading them with my friends. Lastly, sometimes you need a book RIGHT NOW and can't wait for it to to arrive to you by mail. It just makes sense!

I also, as I've said in the past, have a beautiful classroom library.  I wish it were updated more often however, I can only spend so much of my own money on books for my students and I can only post so many projects!  However, I love that I can give my students books to read and I sometimes loan them my personal books, too.  It is important for children and teenagers to have access to books and I hope that, like Junot Diaz, my students will grow up remembering that they had the opportunity to take books and read them and enjoy them.  And, if I ever have a child one day, I hope I can take him or her to a bookstore or library and allow him/her to choose a book and then we could read it together.  I can't imagine reading a book to a child on an electronic device...nothing sounds more sad and "unglamorous."

Pictures from the Junot Diaz signing:



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Great Article on Young Adult Literature

Hey All!  I was playing around on NCTE's web site (I so wish I was going to this year's convention in Las Vegas!) and I came across this great article about young adult literature called "YA Literature—Where Teens Find Themselves" by Lorna Collier.  It's a great article.  She addresses what young adult literature actually is, how it's defined, how it can be used in the classroom and the challenges of it (my favorite part, personally).  Check it out.

Stay well.  I hope everyone on the East Coast is weathering the aftermath of the hurricane   I am okay in Jersey but super sad over all of the damage.



YA Literature—Where Teens Find Themselves

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Benefits of Independent Reading

Once upon a time, I was a wide-eyed student teacher who had a really difficult time making room for "young adult" literature in my teaching world.  I was so ignorant.  I believed students should only read classic literature and young adult books should be for fun reading on students' own time.  Then, I was given the double period literacy class my first year teaching...and four years thereafter.  I fell in love.  Having two periods of English was something every student deserved at some point in his or her high school career. With the help of Donorschoose, my very generous family and my own salary, I created a classroom library that would rival many others. I wish I could explain to my family members and those strangers who donated to my projects what an amazing thing they did, and how much that money contributed to kids learning to love books.  Through donations, I also secured a rug and bean bag chairs to create a reading corner.

I am not teaching the class this year; it isn't being offered.  I miss it so much.  Watching students come in every morning, get their independent reading books, find a place to sit and read was so gratifying.   Sometimes I would join them and read my own independent reading book.  Sometimes, I'd sit with certain students and have them read to me.  Sometimes, I'd have to do other work. Those students learned so much about words when they had that time to read.  They learned about stories, people, themselves, each other and life.  Every child should be given time when they have to read. I am fairly certain that most will step up to the challenge.

If I had my way, every English class would be longer than the standard 45 minute period, at least a few days per week.  And every classroom would have an independent reading library. And every student would be able to read whatever he or she wanted to read. A girl can dream...

Here are some pictures of my classroom and Independent Reading Library

Friday, February 26, 2010

NCTE Convention 2009

I know this post is a bit late. It has been a crazy few months. But, today we had a snow day! Pretty exciting for NYC School teachers.  Anyway, I ended up "presenting" at NCTE's convention this past November. It was also my first time attending and WOW! I was completely overwhelmed. There is so much to do and see and not nearly enough time. I went to a few of the workshops. Regarding the workshop idea-I have a few complaints. There are simply too many that the ones you do decide to attend are somewhat empty. While that does allow for more communication with the presenters, 20 people in an enormous ballroom leaves you feeling somewhat isolated. Also, the topics seemed somewhat repetitive. Anyway, I got some great ideas from a workshop I attended about teaching Shakespeare!

Here is a picture of my poster presentation. There is also a copy of the newsletter I created for anyone who came by. It would help the teacher who has not begun independent reading in the classroom yet or the teacher who has begun the process but has been facing hurdles. I hope you enjoy it!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Great Books to Add to Your Library!

These books would not only be a great addition to your classroom library but are also recommended for anyone looking to start a classroom library.

*Disclaimer: I have asterisked any books that may have mature or inappropriate language. When in doubt, screen the books first. I haven't had any problems with censorship so my library may be a little more "liberal" than your own.

Reading levels are arguable.While I work with struggling ninth graders, they are high achieving students for the most part. If you require further information regarding difficulty levels, additional information can sometimes be found in the book and other times through