I decided to start this group as I read the discussion going on concerning the appropriate reading level for the book "Night". It occurred to me that it might be nice to hear from other teachers and find out what books they teach and at which grade levels in their schools. So I'll get the ball rolling, and I'd love to hear from all you English teachers! :) To prevent the error message, saying I'm too long-winded, I'll just do one class at a time!
7th English in my school reads the following lit books:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Magician's Nephew
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Scarlet Pimpernel
We also work through the 7th grade "Voyages in English" textbook by Loyola Press.
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I'm all for challenging students with great literature, but I, too, am concerned about reading such advanced works at such a young age. It's not quite the same, but I read lots of books considered classics so early in my life (without the benefit of teachers or class discussion to help me process them), and I always felt as if I read them but didn't really benefit from the experience because I was just too young to appreciate so much of what I read. Even with help, I wonder if I'd lived enough life to appreciate them. My additional concern stems from the issue of time, frankly. This reading list is prodigious, and I assume it's more than just surface teaching, especially with seventh-graders. So I'm wondering whether they're doing the other things their high school teachers need them to be learning and practicing in the areas of writing and more. I'm certainly not implying you're not doing these things, as well, but I am wondering how you manage to get it all into a mere 180 days! Good for you, in a world of dumbing down and lightening up, to be encouraging quality reading. On a much lighter note, Stargirl is a great choice for middle school students.
Hamlet and Night in 7th grade?! This sounds crazy to me. How in the world can middle school kids possibly begin to appreciate either text? Night is a 10th grade text in our district, and some immature classes still have a hard time taking it seriously enough to appreciate it.
Hamlet - again, great to introduce Shakespeare so young, but also dangerous. I fear many students would have such a hard time with comprehension that it would forever turn them off to all things Shakespeare, and Hamlet is one of my favorites.
I've been recommending Ender's Game to middle school teachers for several years. I try to incorporate it in 9th grade and some weaker 11th grade classes. That book has single handedly earned me a reputation for being a "cool" teacher. I haven't had a student yet who didn't like it.
How about some Grade 12 works:
Beowulf and extracts of epics
A range of short stories
Pride and Prejudice
Independent Studies project based on a comparison of either Jane Eyre or Great Expectations and a book of the student's choice
Great ideas - and I'm pleased to say we do read some of those in other classes - A Wrinkle in Time is in 6th grade English, The Call of the Wild is in 9th grade American Lit, and The Bronze Bow is read in 5th grade Ancient History.
Funny thing about The Scarlet Pimpernel and Little Men - those have typically been two of the most popular books in that class! I still have kids come back and ask to borrow copies of The Scarlet Pimpernel to re-read as they enjoyed it so much.
I'm definitely going to check out The Slave Dancer - I've seen questions posted about it on eNotes and it sounds really good!
Other suggestions, if you are allowed more modern works:
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Other older works that may be appropriate:
Call of the Wild by Jack London
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
I'm glad to see someone addressing the middle school level! I like your selections, though personally I'd probably axe "Little Men" and probably "Silas Marner" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Not because they aren't worthy texts, but b/c they the language can be dense and description-laden.
Can you add more modern texts to your list? If so, I highly recommend Madeline L'Engle, particularly "A Wrinkle in Time." Ms. L'Engle died last year. As Barrie Hardeman said on "Talk of the Nation" yesterday, she "wrote books in genres that are often sneered at — fantasy, young adult, science fiction — and made them challenging and readable. In fact, the genre in which they really belong, is simply literature. A Wrinkle in Time — her children's classic — is a very dense book, that asks complex philosophical questions, yet it's still a rollicking mystery filled with beautiful prose... The most important lesson she communicated to the legions of her young fans (and now older ones), is that thinking deeply, and asking questions, is profoundly moral, whether you get the answer or not."
Read or listen to the interview at
More suggestions on another post!
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