Posts Tagged ‘Summer Reading’

Comment on Summer Reading

March 25, 2009

An anonymous poster (always curious — as I can only think of a minimal number of reasons one would wish to remain anonymous on a post about summer reading) asked the following:

Would students be able to read the responses posted by their peers? This could create a plethora of problems. First off, many students are self consious about their work, so they could be very hesitant about posting. Second, some students are lazy, so they may just look at other students posts and use them to write their papers. Third, even if these students happen to not be lazy, they could be still influenced by the other posts, hindering their creativity. Therefore, I believe that either the posts should be blocked until the due date is past. That way, students could look at other peoples thoughts only after they have turned in their own.

Rather than comment on the comment, I think a direct response in a post will best serve the dialogue.

Yes, students would be able to read responses posted by their peers.

Believe me when I say, I recognize a student’s self-consciousness; however, a student needs to recognize that his work, regardless of what he chooses as a career, will be public. If that student chooses university level course work at any point in his life, then I can almost guarantee that student’s writing will become public — for every writing course I took at an undergraduate and graduate level required copies of individual papers to be made and distributed. A colleague has informed me his child’s intro comp course at the University has included a blog requirement, and I’m just trying to get my students ready.

As for students’ laziness, I recognize that too. Been there. Been that way. Might they use their peers’ writing to write their own papers? What’s to stop them from e-mailing their papers to one another if we don’t blog? Essentially, I want to move from papers for the summer reading component anyway. I just want to try to guide the thinking and discourse and have a way to be in touch with my students over the course of the summer as we gear up for the fall. At present students succumb to SparkNotes as an aide to their writing if not in lieu of their reading anyway. This way, I’m a bit more involved in the conversation.

As for the final concern about a student’s creativity, I think some students need that extra assistance. Current students, for instance, would not have necessarily caught — on their own — the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hal breaks out of prose and speaks in poetry to Falstaff to which Falstaff responds after Hal’s departure in a short poetic soliloquy beginning with the words, “strange words.” They got it, and — frankly — I got it, only after class discussion. Similarly, some got, and some did not, the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hotspur refers to Hal in a parody of the Greek epic stock epithet as: “The nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales” (IV, i).

In short, I want this to serve as merely a tool for discussion purposes. The question is, how to do that?


High School English and Summer Reading

March 13, 2009

I am a teacher of English, and if you are reading this, then you are a literate human being.  What follows is a request I have submitted to my peers, but I would also like the opinions of any regular and irregular readers I may have. 

What was your experience with summer reading when you were in high school?  What kinds of texts did you have to read, and what kind of work did you have to provide your teacher to help prove that you actually read the work? 

Last summer, my students read Tess of the D’urbervilles, Murder in the Cathedral, Becket, and Sonnets from the Portuguese.  In addition to their reading, students produced three 500 word responses to the novel and plays and four 250 word responses to the sonnets.  For those of you maybe not paying attention, that translated into 13 separate responses from each of my 50 students, so at approximately 250 words per page, that means 22 pages times 50. 

This year I want to do something completely different.  Maybe with the same texts.  Here’s where you come in.  This is what I shared with my peers:

I want and need your input.

I don’t know about you, but in some ways, I dread summer reading. I don’t dread re-exploring the texts I ask the students to read at the expense of losing my guilty pleasure beach pulp so much. Nor do I necessarily dread learning what the students think about the texts.

What I dread is the volume of written response that I collect on the first day that I still feel compulsively compelled to respond to in order to defend the scores I give the students. I dread the feeling of starting the school year with an albatross around my neck. Worst of all, I dread the idea of letting the summer reading into my home for fear they will not simply take care of themselves and go away.

I know there’s a better way.

I know to respond to each entry is asinine.

I want to work smarter and enjoy the whole year, not just the day that I get rid of the box of binders (and believe me, I’m not collecting binders EVER again) that have appreciated riding around in the back seat of my car with the windows down on Friday afternoons blissfully unaware that I leave my car unlocked at night in the driveway with the dark hope that somebody will steal them from me and not ask for ransom. Unfortunately, however, I live in a neighborhood with five members of the local Sheriff’s Department, so not many are breaking into my car.

I refuse to live like a Cubs fan anymore and simply long for next year. Then again, maybe I do want to continue living like a Cubs fan so I can celebrate the end of the season as early as, dare I say, August.

Here’s where you come in. I’m thinking about asking my students to read their texts, and respond to blog prompts over the summer on a private blog I create where only my classes and I can participate. Students without easy Internet access will receive an alternative assignment. The problem is, I want the work my students do to be proportionate to what they are asked to do at other levels.

What are your thoughts on this idea of mine?

Most importantly, what is a proportionate number of responses to reading? How many do you do? How many would you like to do? The appeal of this, for me, is to be able to communicate with the students about their progress through the texts, to be able to communicate with them when they have problems, or to communicate at moments in their reading where I can send them to a specific internet site that provides supplemental information that they might not get from SparkNotes.

Thanks for any feedback you can provide.