Summer Reading

This summer I had to pack up my classroom library.  No, I’m not moving classrooms.  I actually did that in the middle of the year. :)  And I am not changing schools, either. (Thank goodness!).  Just normal end-of-the-year cleaning.  Because I dread putting everything into boxes, I posted a message on our school’s electronic BBS and said that any students interested in borrowing books for the summer could come sign them out over a 2-day period.  I expected a few freshman to take a book or so each but I didn’t have high hopes.

Umm, approximately 25 students came and borrowed books.  I signed out close to 100 books for the summer!  Some students took one book, others took closer to 10 books!  How awesome is that?  Freshman, sophomore, and junior students came to the shelves and browsed, signing out anything that interested them.  My students are all brilliant and heavily involved in lots of extra-curriculars.  They told me that they were looking forward to taking some time to relax and read this summer.  More than one of them came in with a list of books that they were hoping to read, books that had been on their must-read lists for most of the year.  Other students came in and asked for recommendations, both from myself and other readers.  It was awesome!

I’ve never lent books out for the summer before because my sixth graders moved onto a new school after leaving my classroom.  It’s nice to have the ability to loan books to students over the summer.  Do you loan books out of your classroom library for the summer?

Integrated Summer Reading

I realize I haven’t posted much about school and my new job this year, but I promise to remedy that as the school year winds down.  Just as soon as I dig out from under this pile of essays and short stories that need to be graded….

I am very excited about everything this year.  What I really love is that our freshman curriculum is integrated across four subjects- English, History, Biology, and Software Applications.  We have a common planning period each week and work hard to integrate as much as possible.  We do a ton of joint projects, work out schedules together, and share resources.  In addition, I co-teach with my history partner and our curriculum revolve around each other.  It’s fascinating to read The Canterbury Tales while my students are studying the Middle Ages.  It really brings a whole new dimension to class discussions and activities.

Recently, our team sat down to hammer out summer reading.  (nota bene: I am not a fan of prescribed summer reading, but I do believe that students should read during the summer.  I believe in choice. Plus, my students are highly motivated and expect to read!)   I wanted to capitalize on our inter-disciplinary team and I’m so thrilled with what we came up with.  First, we decided to have One Book, One Class. All of the incoming freshman will be reading Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive for two reasons.  First, Brian is an alum and we expect the kids to love that.  Second, the book (review coming soon!) is a perfect composite of our cross-curricular team.  It covers science, language, communication, computers, history, and so much more.  All of the freshman will have this touchstone text and the teachers will be reading it, too.

In addition, each student is asked to select one fiction and one non-fiction title from the list we provide.  On the list, we also noted our own favorites, in case students were seeking guidance.  I am thrilled with this list- it provides a wide array of choices in a variety of genres and across many levels (keep in mind my students are all accelerated, so while it is a 9th grade list, it may read more like a 10th-11th grade list).  Come September, the students will be meeting with others who read their book(s) and producing a project related to it.  All of the books are connected to our school theme and inter-disciplinary team.  I am looking forward to seeing how the assignment is received.  I ran the list by a few current freshman and they loved it, and they’re the best judges!


*I should note that these aren’t paired in any particular order.  Students are free to choose any F and any NF- they don’t have to choose them both from the same line.  One of the activities I am considering for the first few days/as an icebreaker, is having the kids come up with ways to pair the books, after reading them!

Fiction J Nonfiction J
A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  

by Douglas Adams


Collapse or Guns, Germs and Steel 

by Jared Diamond


Ender’s Game  

by Orson Scott Card


* As The Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth 

by Juan Enriquez



by Jennifer Donnelly

How to Read Literature Like a Professor 

by Thomas C. Foster


House of the Scorpion  

by Nancy Farmer


by Malcolm Gladwell


An Abundance of Katherines  

by John Green*


Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith  

by Deborah Heigelman


Nectar in a Sieve  

by Kamala Markandaya

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  

by William Kamkwamba


Life of Pi  

by Yann Martel


The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements 

by Sam Kean


The Road  

by Cormac McCarthy

Measuring America  

by Andro Linklater



by Terry Pratchett

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future  

by Daniel Pink



by Neal Shusterman

* Omnivore’s Dilemma  

by Michael Pollan


The Monstrumologist  

by Rick Yancey


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* 

By Rebecca Skloot



Summer Literacy Packet

Last year I was inspired to put together a summer literacy packet after reading about a few other blogger/teachers who used them with great success.  I had a few students complete the packet last year and I awarded them 7th grade survival packs when they mailed the completed packets back to me.  Because my students move on to a new school after spending the year with me, I don’t expect to receive many completed packets.  However, I do like to give my students the option.

This year I updated the packet a little.  I added a new week of activities that focuses on Shakespeare, because my students will be expected to read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 7th grade and I decided to give them an opportunity to become familiar with some of his work.  

Week Seven: Shakespeare


In 7th grade, you will be reading some of Shakespeare’s magnificent work.  William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright who is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.  His surviving pieces include approximately 154 poems and 38 plays.  He wrote three types of plays- tragedies, comedies, and romances (also called tragicomedies).



Writer’s Activity Choices Week Seven (pick one & put your initials):

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,

Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

         Imagine the scene as you read the piece. What do you see? You may need to look up some brief          definitions of unfamiliar words – for instance,  “woodbine” (honeysuckle) or “eglantine” (sweet-  briar).  In your writer’s notebook illustrate the scene you imagined, using the text as a reference.       Be sure to color it in! (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)


  • Many of Shakepeare’s most famous quotes are still used today.  Choose one of the following quotes and in your writer’s notebook, write a paragraph explaining what the quote means.  In another paragraph, explain why this quote is still relevant to kids and teenagers today. (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)


                                          -“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
 By any other name would smell                                                                           as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

                                          -All that glitters is not gold.”  The Merchant of Venice (II, vii)

                                          -“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness,                                                                              and
 some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.”  Twelfth Night (II, v, 156-159)


Reader’s Activity Choices Week Seven: (pick one & initial it):


  • Go to the library and check out a book based on one of Shakespeare’s plays.  A list of possibilities is below.  Shakespeare is tragic, gory, violent, and romantic.  It just depends on which story you choose!  Write me a letter-essay telling me your thoughts about the book.         (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)

1.     Romeo’s Ex: Rosalind’s Story by Lisa Fiedler

2.     Dating Hamlet: Ophelia’s Story by Lisa Fiedler

3.     Ophelia by Lisa Klein

4.     The Wednesday Wars by Gary S. Schmidt

5.     King of Shadows by Susan Cooper

6.     <The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

7.     The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

         You may also read any age-appropriate non-fiction or a middle grade version of one of his plays. Talk to the librarian or bookseller for more ideas.          


I really hope that the students who choose to complete the packet do the Shakespeare activities because I think it will open up a whole new world to them.  The y seemed excited about the idea of it today, but the summer is long.  :)



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