Back in the 2004-2005 school year, I taught Honors 9th Grade English to the great Class of 2008, and, for one of our spring units, I conducted a Literary Circles study for the first and only (thought I don't know why) time of my career. Students chose from a list of books consisting of The Catcher in the Rye, Bee Season, Life of Pi, In the Time of Butterflies, and probably a couple more I can't remember.
A few weeks ago, when JD Salinger died, a former student who had chosen that book as a 9th grader sent me a message expressing his condolences. That was cool, but what was cooler for me is that he remembered the unit. One of the things I try to get my students to think about is what they will remember from a book 10 years down the line, and this note from a student about a book he had read 5 years previous was a neat little reminder that I should do that sort of unit again.
We no longer have "Honors" 9th grade English at our school, and our class sizes have risen around 25% since that time. Thus, I have a large group of the most heterogeneous group of students I've ever taught, with reluctant, challenged readers along with readers who, say, read East of Eden over the summer. So I needed texts that a number of kids could attach themselves to.
Tomorrow will be the Book Talk day. I'm going to have the books around the room, they'll look at them, hold them, read the backs, and sign up.
I'm excited. I really want my students to not hate reading after my class, and hope this reader choice and self-direction will help create a love of reading.
I'm going to choose 6 from this list:
Does My Head Look Big in This? (Randa Abdel-Fattah)
Annie John (Jamaica Kincaid)
In the Time of Butterflies (Julia Alvarez)
Nectar in the Sieve (Kamala Markandaya)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Salman Rushdie)
Swimming in the Monsoon Sea (Shyam Selvadurai)
Samurai Shorstop (Alan Gratz)
We'll see how it goes!
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