So, today’s activity was a little unexpected.

Book reports were due today–which I knew about, but was apparently “unexpected” for many of you students. But what we did with those book reports today was kind of surprising to me. Normally, I’ve had students break into little groups to discuss their books, or I’ve picked random people to present their book to the class. But today, I don’t know why, but in first period I just said that whoever liked their book should just tell us about it, and then I sat down and waited. Class members then took over, and we talked about their books for about 45 minutes. After 1st period, I just stuck with that pattern, and it worked for every class. I felt really good about the fact that not only had quite a few people in each class read a book they liked, but that they liked it enough to voluntarily give a summary and then to submit to my deep questioning and ridiculous digressions. Good job, guys.

I was really interested to hear what kind of books people were getting into this semester. There were all the usual vampire and zombie books (Anne Rice, Twilight, Zombie Survival Guide, etc), which are all great. And some other people went old school, with The Lord of the Rings books and some Narnia. In one class, one student had read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, while another had read a book called Bound, which was a retelling of the Cinderella story set in China with foot-binding providing some of the crucial “shoe-fitting” drama. It was fun to compare the various revisions of the old story, and to also point out how ridiculously shallow the Disney movie is. (Of course, a lengthy discussion of the weirdness ofDisney ensued, followed by a discussion of the various inappropriate things clever animators have managed to sneak into the animated features over the years. Don’t worry, parents, I cut off the discussion before we got to the whole “Little Mermaid” thing. They edited all that stuff out anyway–it’s all gone safely down the memory hole…)

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book talk, and especially the fact that I was able to take myself almost entirely out of the process and jest let you guys do the talking and asking. I hope some of the book we talked about will be interesting to you and you can read them for one of your next books.

The next outside reading book is due on Monday, February 26. That’s exactly two weeks from today.

After that, we all became the “old lady”–you know, that old lady I’ve been telling you about every day that grades your state writing tests and loves to criticize your fine writing. Well, today, we all got to be the old lady.

You may remember that last week we all wrote an essay on the topic “Is it better to be a kid or an adult?” Well, I jumbled all those up and distributed them back to you today. I made sure that nobody got one from their own class, and there were no names on the essays themselves. The main point of this activity was for everyone to be able to see and give some feedback about a “typical” student essay. Today, students read the essay they were randomly given, and then worked through some feedback questions on a worksheet that you can download from the bottom of this post. If you missed class today, download the worksheet and then come get an essay from me to work with.

Tomorrow, we’ll go over various issues you’ve unearthed in reading these essays and talk about some of the good things we’ve found, and some of the not-so-good. In general, looking over the essays, I have to say that I was quite impressed. I especially liked the essay that began in this confrontational manner:

“Kids these days have no idea how bad they have it.”

And then there was this gem:

“Being a kid is no different from being and adult.”

As far as “first sentences” these are both great example of very provocative statements that draw the reader in, without resorting to the cliche “Imagine a world…” type of intros we’re used to seeing so much. Good job, my friends.

More on this tomorrow. Until then, happy reading.


Downloads: Persuasive essay feedback worksheet

Book report form


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