Last week was my first full week since back to school…it was a long one! It’s so hard to go from the total relaxation of summer to the crazy of the school year–for both us and our students!
One way that we take a break from the crazy is through silent reading. This year I am doubly excited about independent reading because our department of education has provided every high school English teacher with an amazing number of new titles. I have six copies of six new (and very current) novels for each of my classes, plus two of each title from each of the other grades…it’s so exciting to look at my bookcase! The students are loving the new books and some are on their second one–and we only started last Wednesday.
However, as exciting as all of this is, I am left with wondering how to keep track of all of this reading, and how to assess the students. Ideally, we would just let them read for the love of reading, but some of our students need a little nudge of encouragement in the form of marks, in order to keep their noses in their books. This can be difficult with independent reading, as some students will read ten books, while others will be victorious if they actually finish one. This week I will be showing my students how they will be assessed for their independent reading, in a way that’s fair for each of them.
I’m a great admirer of Penny Kittle, author of Book Love. She writes a lot about building reading stamina, so our students (who mostly read in short, skimming bursts on the Internet) need time to strengthen their reading muscles, so they will be better prepared to read the complex texts they need in subsequent grades, and in post secondary education–not to mention opportunities to get them hooked on reading! So, I’ve designed my assessment around that idea, and give students forms they can use to set goals and track their progress. I’ve also come up with a series of short, informal assignments that they can use for any novel at any time. That way, regardless of where they are in their novel, all students can complete an assignment. You can access these at my TPT store.
Today I added two new assignments to this product, and you can grab them here today for free!
Other than sinking deep into our books, my grade twelve classes will be continuing their non-fiction unit. Their first blog posts are due tonight (they were blogging about their generation’s obsession with social media), and I will give them their first formative assessment on their responses to the material, and on their responses to their group mates. Blog number two will be due by Wednesday. After that we will start our critique of the school system–one of my favouite activities with my kids. You can get more info about it here, in a previous blog post.
This week my IB students will be diving deep into The Merchant of Venice. Monday they will be working on a series of questions I gave them that have them examine Shakespeare’s purpose and technique. At the beginning of the semester, I give them a lot of guidance, but very quickly I will back off and they will work together to decide what is important to remember in each scene. Tuesday we will look closely at some important quotes from the act, and do a writing workshop where they will practice both their writing and analytical skills. One area I will focus on is Shakespeare’s use of prose and verse, and how he uses it to develop character. I can’t wait for the students to meet Shylock–he’s one of my favourite Shakespearean characters, and he will give them much to think about and analyze.
So that’s my week! I hope you have a good one, and if you have any great ideas for dealing with independent reading, please comment below.