Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wrap-up Post

Well, I can't believe the semester is almost over! I went by so fast.  Getting all of the reading in this semester was difficult.  I was reading A LOT for my English classes, but the reading was not Young Adult related so it was harder to make time for all of the different reading requirements for each of the classes.  I really enjoyed getting to read all of the Young Adult novels I did, though.  It was a nice break from all of the tricky, 'think about it' texts required for most of the English classes.  I do enjoy those readings, but they can be mentally exhausting, the YA novels gave my mind a breather.  I also really enjoyed Readicide.  My eyes were opened to a lot of things through that book.  I had no idea there are schools who do not read novels.  I always did, and all of the schools I have observed read novels, plays, and other forms of literature.  It was shocking; honestly, I did not believe it at first until Gallagher repeated it multiple times and gave all of those examples.  I really wish states could figure out something besides typical state assessments to measure students growth.  There has to be a better way.

I do not feel that I have changed as a reader, but I do feel that this assignment helped me to pay more attention to the kinds of books my students will be reading, and to think about the types of novels I need to read so I can provide them with books and ideas for reading.  I want my students to have every reading opportunity they possibly can to enjoy reading.  How would I be able to help them choose novels if I don't know what is out there.  Plus, Young Adult Literature is just fun to read.

I loved the blog assignment; I loved the reading and the ability to be as creative (or not) as I wanted with it.  Designing the blog was part of the fun.  I think this would be a fun idea for students instead of just having spiral notebooks for them to journal in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 12: The Catcher in the Rye

I finished The Catcher in the Rye, and it was really strange, although it was very good.

Students who have difficulty being in school, relating to their parents and friends would relate to this book, to Holden Caulfield. Holden cannot stay in any school, he cannot be honest with his parents or with his little sister or his friends. He talks about everyone being “phony” even though he is not being honest with himself or with anyone else.

Holden is kicked out of three schools, he hates everything, and cannot even get along with people he has known for quite a while. He is very straight-forward with people about how he feels, often offending them, but expects them to be there for him in his time(s) of need. Most of the story takes place in New York in the span of a few days while Holden is hiding from his parents, waiting on them to get the letter that he has been kicked out of Pencey Prep.

The book was very interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. I really want to know what is going on with this kid, though. There is obviously something that does not jive well with Holden, something that makes him not want to be anywhere, something that makes him not quite fit anywhere. He sees a “psychoanalyst” at the end of the novel, which is where he is telling his story from. As a teacher, I know I will have students similar to this, and I want to know how to help them in any way I can.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 11: Readicide

I am still reading The Catcher in the Rye, but I wanted to finish it before I blogged about it again.  Instead, I am going to share some of my thoughts on Readicide.  I really enjoy the book, and the obvious points that Gallagher is making.  I think, in some parts, he is generalizing because I know that, from first grade through my senior year, we read books as a class and read books of our own choice independently.  Gallagher mentions, however, that schools are not reading novels.  I realize now, after our discussion on Friday, that some people did not read like this.  He also states that students need to be reading longer, more difficult texts, and writing more instead of filling out bubble sheets or circling the best multiple choice answer.  I agree with him, but I also feel that not only do these novels need to be discussed so the students grasp the importance and the themes of the books, the students also need to be tested over content.  Did they really know what was going on?  Did they really read the novel or just Sparknotes?  The best way to do this is a multiple choice test.  The best way to test their understanding of common themes and what the novel was really about is definitely essay questions. 

As much as I like this book I do feel like Gallagher gets a little repetitive at times.  That being said, I feel like if I would have gone without ever reading this book, I would be doing a disservice to my future students.  I want to be the teacher that makes them love reading; the teacher that provides so different novels and types of novels for my students they have no choice but to become engrossed in reading.  Will this happen for ever student?  No, but that does not mean I cannot try!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Week 10: The Catcher in the Rye

This week I began reading The Catcher in the Rye; I have heard several people talk about and/or reference this novel, but I have never read it myself so I figured this would be an excellent time to do so.

I have currently read through the end of chapter nine.  So far, the story is told by a 17 year old boy named Holden Caulfield.  Holden at the time the story is being told is 17, but the story he is telling us revolves around the 16 year old Holden, and how he got kicked out of his third school, Pencey Prep. 

When I first started reading I was not sure if I would truly enjoy the novel, but I am starting to like it much more.  Holden does great in his English class, but is failing the four other subjects he is enrolled in.  I am starting to think he might have some sort of disability.  Plus, he tells the readers a story of his younger brother, Allie, who died at the age of 10 from Leukemia, which I am sure had a huge effect on Holden's life.  I am really getting interested now, though, and cannot wait to figure out what happens to Holden.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Week 9: Water for Elephants

Just an update... I finished Water for Elephants earlier this morning.  As I neared the end of the novel I was sad due to the events which were taking place, but the book resolved itself.  I was very happy with the ending.  The part of the story-line which was sad to me was the part which followed the "ninety or ninety-three" year old Jacob.  He was very upset and depressed because of his life in the nursing/assisted living home and the events which cause him to miss the circus; however, things work out, and it turns out to be a rather happy ending.  Again, some of the parts of the book were very vulgar and descriptive.  I loved the story, but I am not sure I would even be comfortable teaching this novel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week 9: Water for Elephants

     I have already read between 5 and 7 hours this week (starting Sunday) and cannot seem to put this book down.  Water for Elephants is a really great book; it is set in the 1930's era during the depression and follows a young man (age 23) named Jacob Jankowski on is journey to becoming part of a circus and what goes in while he is part of this circus.  The reader is presented the story through the "ninety or ninety-three" year old Jacob's flashbacks to the time when he was 23 and a part of the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth. 
     Although I love this book, I think I would have a hard time teaching to a class of snickering high school students.  There is a very descriptive/vulgar scene where the prostitute of the show is dancing or stripping, rather.  Jacob describes every part of her body, every action she is making, and every reaction the men in the "cooch tent" are having.  He is in shock, as would be most of the class.  There are several other vulgar, descriptive scenes which do not leave any room for the imagination because Jacob's descriptions have already told the reader anything and everything he/she might want to know.  I know I read books in high school which contained sections about prostitutes, sex, and the like, but I think this book is much more vulgar.  Parents would have a heyday with a novel like this one. 
     It really is a good read, and I love that it shows so much of the Depression's characteristics as the circus travels from town-to-town all over the United States.  Even some of the circus members and other characters are shocked and appalled by the state of the United States.  Also, it shows the reader how Jacob copes with the accidental and shocking death of his parents.  There are definitely parts of the novel which students can relate to, but it would definitely be harder than the other novels I have read because of the age of the main character and the other characters, for that matter.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Week 8: The Giver

I just finished the The Giver.  It was an absolutely wonderful book!  I love that everything works out in the end for Jonas, and that the Giver understood the same way Jonas did that Sameness is not the best way to do things, or that controlling everything was not what people needed.  By living life in such a controlled way the people were missing out on color, love, true happiness, true family, and much, much more!  It is really strange to think about life from Jonas' perspective; to think about what it would be like if we could not freely read whatever material we chose, or not exaggerate when speaking.  To not be loved by my family sounds terrifying!  They are my everything; without them I am pretty sure I'd be an emotional/mental wreck.  Truly scary thoughts.  Anyway, the ending is really great because Jonas gets to experience all of the things he saw in his memories from the Giver.  Also, he gets to help the baby he truly cares about and loves, Gabriel.  Happy endings are the best.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Week 6: The Giver

I began reading The Giver at the end of last week and love it! The novel is great, it completely puts the reader into Jonas's world.  Jonas is an Eleven and about to go through the Ceremony of Twelve where he will be told what job he will have for the rest of his adult life.  The story follows Jonas from a third person point of view so the reader knows how Jonas is feeling, but also what everyone is saying and thinking around him as well.  This "community" or society is very different from the one we experience today.  This novel reminds me a lot of Brave New World and 1984 where the reader is presented with a society of the "future."  Things are different.  In The Giver there is climate control, different levels of importance, jobs are assigned and rules are followed.  Certain aspects of Jonas's community life are similar to ours but on a much less extreme level.  It is also a very easy and enjoyable read!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Week 5: The Skin I'm In

I began reading The Skin I'm In today and could not stop!  This is an extremely easy read, but very intense.  I have read 20 of the 32 chapters and it touches on multiple subjects which young adults deal with.  No, not everyone is made fun of and bullied all of the time but it is very common for teenagers to be teased.  Maleeka is thirteen, in seventh grade and attends an inner city school.  Most of the kids in her school are black, but her skin is even darker than most of theirs.  One of the kids, John-John, who has skin as dark as hers gets jealous for some reason and begins making fun of her.  The joke never stops.  After her fathers dies, her mother tries to save money by sewing Maleeka's clothes for her; this also causes her to be the object of ridicule.  To slightly avoid persecution by her peers she becomes friends with the 'cool' girl, but it doesn't help much and she is miserable.  This book would be easy for teens to identify with; they could relate in many ways.  Also, the chapters are short and the print is large.  The book is not very long so it would be good for a student who does not really enjoy reading.  I love it so far though!  I have changed my mind for my project for class on Friday (9/24) though, and I haven't quite figured out what I want to do with this book, but I am definitely using it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Week 4: To Kill a Mockingbird (5)

I have had the chance to read for several hours this week, and am nearly finished with To Kill a Mockingbird.  I am excited to see how the book ends!  At this point, I have read completely through the trial scene, and really like the way Lee set it up.  The trial scene, like the rest of the book, is presented to us (the readers) through the child-narrator's eyes.  I believe this is important because the reader sees all angles and sides of the trial.  The child is only eight or nine, and does not completely understand what is going on so, even though she is biased towards her father (and wants him to win) she tells everything she sees in the courtroom.  Also, because she is with her brother who is a few years older than her, but still very innocent, the reader is shown how a slightly older child would react to the situation, and believes the defendant will be proven innocent even though the odds are against him.  I also love that this book does such a great job of laying out exactly how things would have been in Alabama (and most of the South) at the time.  The author was extremely straight-forward and laid everything out for her readers to see.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 3: To Kill a Mockingbird (4)

I just finished Part One of To Kill a Mockingbird.  It was excellent!  The children, Scout and Jem, are continuing to grow in their understanding of the world, racism, and people in general.  Both children are dealing with their father being made fun of and chastised for defending a black man in court; they are learning to cope with the situations that come about and be "gentlemen."  Also, Jem has an encounter with an old lady who lives down the street and learns about dealing with people's negative remarks, and about suffering the consequences of negative actions.  It's very easy to relate to for the young adult reader; education in disguise!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Week 3: To Kill a Mockingbird (3)

I am still reading To Kill a Mockingbird.   I was able to read for an hour and a half today and got through a few more chapters.  At this point I am really beginning to see the development of the characters, especially the narrator, Scout.  Scout is about seven at this point in the novel and has recently started second grade.  She hates going to school, but, without her realizing it, school is opening her up to an entire new world--the real world.  In the previous section Scout, her older brother Jem, and their friend Dill were attempting to get a man to come out of his house.  Through the grapevine of small town talk they have heard that this man is crazy and attempted to kill his father with scissors; they call him "Boo" Radley (his name is Arthur).  No matter what they try, though, they end up getting caught by an adult, usually Scout and Jem's father, Atticus.  The point of this brief summary is to explain something which, as it was meant to be, was ironic; however, it was also a let down of sorts for the children.  One night there is a fire at a house across the street from Scout and Jem's.  While everyone is outside and taking precautions to prevent the rest of the neighborhood from catching fire the kids are standing in front of the Radley home.  While standing there freezing, Scout gets a blanket put around her shoulders by "Boo" Radley, but does not realize it until they get home.  The children are devastated.  The book is full of little moments like these, however, that people of any age level could relate to.  It's wonderful!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 2: To Kill a Mockingbird (2)

I cannot put this book down.  I only needed to read for another half hour but I can't stop!  This is one of those books which is easy to get into and follow along with.  I am to chapter seven and I can already identify with the characters.  Although my childhood was much different than theirs, my brothers, cousins and I had similar outings and similar feelings.  Also, I can feel what they are feeling.  One of the main characters, Jem, sneaks out at night and his sister, Scout, is very anxious and nervous waiting for him to get back.  I felt the same way.  I realized, after Jem made it home safely, that my heart was beating a little faster, and I was holding my breath!  Any book that can make you feel that type of emotion is a good book.  Laughing and crying with because of what happens in the plot line of a book is wonderful, but actually feeling what the characters feel... that is a well written book!  I am excited about following these characters throughout the rest of the novel and watching them progress.  This is a great book for high school students--they could easily identify with the characters.  I am not sure why I never read it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Week 2: To Kill a Mockingbird

I began reading To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee yesterday evening and have read for about an hour so far.  For some reason (I cannot remember why) I did not read this book in high school, but I love it!  I think it is very interesting that the story is told from a six year old child's point of view and that the same person is the narrator.  So far I am only about four chapters in, but think the book does a great job of expressing what life was like in Alabama during the time period in which the book is set.  The themes of the novel make it easy to relate to students in high school.  In just these few chapters the book has already addressed race (although we live in 21st century America, race is still a problem), and the struggles/challenges of people of varying socioeconomic status.  I am sure the book will deal with this even more as I read on.  Also, something I enjoy about this book, is flow.  It is easy to read and easy to follow.  There are words which could definitely be used as vocabulary but the dialogue also uses the dialect of children and people of the area.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week 1: As I Lay Dying (2)

I read for another 15 minutes Friday and 30 minutes today.  I am approximately a quarter of the way into the novel and I hate it.  The characters who are talking and narrating the story do not make sense.  Their speaking vocabulary is low; the rest of the novel, however, uses large words which most students would not understand.  I do not even recognize some of the words being used.  If the novel is not holding my attention how is it going to hold the attention of a high school student or keep them interested enough to do a project over it.  I think part of the problem with this book is that there is nothing for me to relate to.  It is set in the past and I have grown up and lived in a very different way than the characters in the book are growing up and living.  Instead of trying to understand this novel I am going to start a new novel this week (I am not sure which one yet). Hopefully I will enjoy it much more!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Week 1: As I Lay Dying

I have begun reading the book As I Lay Dying and am about 34 pages in after approximately 45 minutes of reading.  This book is broken down into chapters based upon who is talking/narrating the story.  So far I have met five characters: Darl, Cora, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Tull.  I have yet to figure out how each of these characters relates directly to the woman who is dying.  I do know, however, that Darl, Jewel, and Dewey Dell are all the dying woman's children.  The book is slightly difficult to follow because of the low syntax level which helps to establish that these people were poor and had to work hard for a living.  Hopefully it becomes easier to follow as I go.  I guess we'll find out!