What do you do for summer reading if you assign summer reading at all? Do you assign more than one book? Do you give them several options? Do you give assignments as well?
I'm trying to get my summer reading planned. I'm one of two high school English teachers in my building, so the two of us are trying to come up with ideas. For some of my older kids I'm assigning the memoir My Escape From Slavery by Frances Bok and Ella Minnow Pea. I chose those because they aren't on Sparknotes yet so the kids will actually have to read the book!
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This year, I am going to assign 2 books. I will assign one book and let students choose the other, possibly from a list. Students will annotate one book and do an essay on the other. I will test them on the book they annotate in class during the first week of school. This way, they won't lose the annotation skills we teach all year and annotating the first book will not be necessary. The first month of school is always so hard!
Most of our kids are required to read a book (choices vary by grade and level), identify and define literary devices, and keep a reading journal. Our English department members wanted to come up with a meaningful assignment that the kids would enjoy and would be forced to do on their own. (We wanted to avoid the sparknotes-type summaries that many kids tried to submit before we changed the assignment.)
My AP kids do summer reading with a short assignment for each work, then we do some subjective writing and discussion once school starts. Old Man and the Sea isn't read anywhere else in the curriculum, so it's the shortest work in the bunch. They're to write a one-page journal entry as if Santiago wrote it. They also read either Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, and their assignment here is to write a page comparing the book to one of the movies made for the novel they read. For Grapes of Wrath they are to select one symbol from the novel and write an explanation. (I know--plenty of room for cheating here, but class work shows the fakers pretty quickly and they pay a price then.) I require a parent to read one of the works, as well, so I add Sherlock Holmes' "The Hound of the Baskervilles" with no assignment except to enjoy. Finally, we do very little mythology in the younger grades, so they read The Odyssey and work with a partner to create a visual representation of Odysseus' journeys. This is the first objective test I give when school starts again, and it's a killer if they haven't read. We stay in touch, and they know I'm reading with them as the summer progresses so they don't feel so alone--that also ensures I don't hear much whining!
For British literature, my students read during the summer 1984, Pygmalion, and either Jane Eyre or Brighton Rock. My colleague and I found Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene, to answer the guys' complaints about Jane Eyre. This book really works well for discussion. We discuss these works the first week of school, and refer to them throughout the semester. Pygmalion, though, is one that I think would do better with in the classroom rather than as summer reading. Students seem to read this play only on a superficial level.
The teachers teaching British literature/AP language administer a fairly Sparknote proof objective test during the first week back from summer. Scores are mostly high, and judging from the discussion, most students have read the works rather than taken the shortcuts. Of course, there are always a few . . .
Later on in the semester, students may choose one of the summer works for his/her research paper.
I like to assign 2 books that have similar themes, but different style and treatement of the themes. Two that work really well are Pride and Prejudice and the Awakening. Both books deal with society's influence on the individual, in particular the role and position of women. They are also both about the importance of marriage. Obviously, one has a happy ending and the other doesn't, but that is part of the discussion. What changed in society of the 100 year span between these two books that allowed Chopin to write the book she did, while Austen would never have had such an ending. It is also nice to have a satire balanced with a book of American Realism. The students get some laughs before they are brought down to the grit of the Awakening, and yet both books have such strong language and writing that they are both challenging.
My response is very similar to #2 with similar issues of monitoring and making sure students just haven't read (or skimmed) them and written bad essays in the last couple of days. At least giving them a choice of works and maybe a little bit of information about each one gives them the chance to select the kind of books they would like to read.
When I assign summer reading, I usually assign a longer book. Crime and Punishment is one I like to use. This is because during the year I try to use shorter text to help them manage their work load. Over the summer, all they have to do is read my one giant novel. That also allows you to start out the year writing rather than waiting for students to finish a book.
My district requires summer reading for students enrolled in honors English classes. Our summer break is only 9 weeks, so we give them a list of titles from which they have to choose 2. They're required to write an essay on each book before the end of the fall semester. I know, most will wait until the last minute to read and write, so if you do end up requiring your students to read, you'll need to think of a way to monitor them.
Summer reading and other summer assignments are pure, malicious evil. Schools and teachers have zero authority over students outside of the regular school year.
Shakespeare for the Summer
We had one summer class last summer, just a few hours a day. It was 5th-12th, so I had to make it fairly simple in part. We used a few activities from www.handsofachild.com/ Shakespeare lapbook for history of the time, biography, and types of Shakespeare works. We read several synopses from E. Nesbit's Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare and the Lamb Tales From Shakespeare, then we read the full length of several comedies. We watched Romeo & Juliet, then compared it with story lines based on that theme. We watched two Taming of the Shrew films, and compared them with 10 Things I Hate About You. We read Comedy of Errors, and parts of other plays, discussed what a sonnet was, and everyone picked one they liked to read aloud. We chose a few dramatic scenes to read, "High-schoolers had to read Hamlet on their own. We supplemented with photos of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and pictures/stories from a walking tour of London.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable study, and got everyone ready for the Shakespeare that was to come.
We have used a set of pages for history that I have changed to work for readers, too. Instead of a "blow=by=blow" summary of the book, students do the following:
-Pick a character, then write about his virtues & vices [or character traits]. Illustrate the character, or some of the tools/books/etc used by the character.
-Write something about the surrounding history of the book. If it is not time specific, then write about the place the action takes place. Use descriptive words.
-Choose a major situation in the book. Explain what you would do, if you were one of the characters. Would your choices change the outcome of the book? If you would act the way the character did, then why? What would you be thinking?
-Describe in detail one of the following. Choose one different from your life: the dress, the food the people ate, the form of transport [car, ship, horse], the prejudices or beliefs of the people, the form of government.
We read lots of historical fiction or embellished biographies. The stories are so interesting, that they can remember these details. We are reading Beric, the Briton by GA Henty. I had a 7th grader fill out a lapbook section on Roman life--what they wore, ate, gods they worshipped--and she did it from memory out of the book.
We do make use of literary device, since we read together. Sometimes I stop and ask. What did that chapter foreshadow in your opinion? At the end, we see who "guessed" correctly.
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