When I was in the seventh grade, I read Helen Keller.  There are many books on her, but this is not my point.  When we were instructed to read a book, it was for pleasure.  It was to experience a story from the author’s point of view.  I remember reading when Helen fell ill, when her nurse Anne came, when she could spell water with her hands.  I don’t remember everything, but I do remember many details about where I was when I read it, and what was happening in my life.

I was at Janelle’s house.  It was after school, and we were eating saltines right out of the bag.  We sat there with our books; we read because we liked it.

Here’s the trouble I’m having.  Reminding the blog reader that I’m new to teaching this subject, I will say that reflecting on every stinkin’ page they read is not what I want my students to do.  Yes, I’m oversimplifying.  What I really desire is for them to have the book for lunch, to read for pleasure and relaxation.  Yes, even to escape.

No book reports, no exams.  Just reading for the pure joy of it.

Today, I created a First Line wall.  The students took the very first line of the book, wrote it out and put it on the picture of a book cover.  It was beautiful.  We talked a lot about what the first sentence of a book does for you.  I told them that if they are reading a dog, to put it down, and exchange it.  Life is too short to read bad books.  

Yeah, I understand that they must understand plot, theme, setting and characterization.  I get that.   It’s my belief that they will get this when they’ve skipped through a fine piece of written work that speaks to them, not when I’ve forced a book down their collective throats.

Can you guess this novel?  Click the link for the answer.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

My very favorite book, and I never wrote a book report about it.  Not one.

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8 thoughts on “Books: The Old Fashioned Way

  1. Geez.
    Too bad you don’t teach my English IV Honors class….

    And, as I was inspired by how you taught your class, I decided to post the letter I wrote to my English teacher this year.
    (I think you’ll like it.)

    dylanrants.wordpress.com

  2. Oh, I like it very much. Anyone who happens by, please go read his letter.

    Dylan, where are you a student?

  3. I’m a student over in the town of Darlington, South Carolina. It’s a application required magnet high school focused on math, science, and technology.
    (Although their English Department is better than any of the other departments there.)

  4. I didn’t click for the answer, ’cause I know what it is: The Old Man and the Sea.

    If you can get your students to read for pleasure, will you share your secret with me? 🙂

  5. CTG you are sooooo smart!!!

    We started a Reader’s Workshop this week. I always do the read aloud, and then do a mini lesson on characterization or something.

    The first line wall is gorgeous. They had a ball drawing their book covers.

  6. Yeah I read that book in 7th grade. I didn’t like it too much but it was alright.

  7. HEY MRS. VERMULEN. iTS KAyLA. DANggg iTS BEEN A LONg tiME. i SEE yOUR NOt dOiN SO HOT. 40% tHATS NOt ALOt. WELL iM jUS HERE tO tELL yOU i FiNALLy gOT My ACt tOGEtHER. iM PASSiN ALL My CLASS wiF A’s ANd B’s. gO ME. WELL i MiSS JR. HiGH. BUt HiGHSCHOOL iS BEttER. tHANX FOR ALL yOUR HELP.

    <3:yOUR FORMER StUDENt KAyLA R. AKA BABiKAy

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