Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Summer reading

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I am not sure how I feel about assigning summer reading to my students.  I appreciate having my summers to entirely relax, and I never had to do summer reading when I was a student.  Then again, I know that students who don’t read on their own can lose astonishing amounts of ground over the summer (as much as six months’ learning), and reading during the summer can be very helpful in fighting that off.  Then again again, the students who are going to lose the most ground because they aren’t staying mentally active during the summer are the kids who won’t do the summer reading, or will try to rush through it at the last minute.  The ones who will actually spend their summers reading in a steady way?  Well, they probably would have done that anyway.

So I think summer reading is a little pointless.

Still, my school wants us to assign summer reading, and so I do, and I try to keep it as painless for the kids as possible.

First: no essays.  Ugh, who wants to write an essay over the summer?  And I certainly don’t want to start the school year with an enormous pile of papers to grade.

Instead, I grade one of the books by active participation in a class discussion, and the others, by a test when they get back to school.

My standard assignment is one book to be read by everyone for the discussion, and one chosen from two options, for the test.

This year, my department head convinced me to try something different: assign three books, then allow kids who pass their state test to be rewarded by only having to read two.  She hoped that would inspire them to do their best on the test.  I went along, but I don’t think I want to do it again.  Again, the kids who didn’t pass the test are the very kids who struggle to finish reading two books over the summer, and for whom three will be really formidable.  And unlike a few of my colleagues, I really don’t think very many people fail the state tests because they didn’t try.

Even though I’m not a fan of summer reading, I do have fun picking out the books.  I go for a mix of fiction and nonfiction, try to make connections when I can to what they’ll learn in other classes, and switch them up whenever I get bored with a title.  My students generally end up loving at least one of the books I pick – except for the ones who claim to hate reading, and they’ll whine no matter what I choose, won’t they?  So who cares what they think.

Here are this year’s books, for seventh and eighth graders, in case you want to pick them up.

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers’ Edition
  • Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
  • The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Misfits
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
School starts in less than two weeks, so I’ve been at school every day this week, and a lot of that time, I’ve spent re-reading books and writing tests for this year’s summer reading.  I finished the job yesterday, so I’ll just be hanging up posters today.  I might try to write some lesson plans, but it isn’t uncommon for the school to do some assembly or presentation that they don’t tell us about until the day before school starts, so I may wait to write lesson plans until I’m more sure of my schedule.
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Written by Contented Reader

August 5, 2011 at 7:52 am

Posted in Opinions

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