Sunday, October 5, 2014

7 Summer Reading Connections

I'm reflecting on summer reading through the first quarter. There are three posts
left in this Sunday series. 
Join the conversation, add a link to your post in comments 
Is it ever too late to connect or reconnect to texts students read for summer reading?  If we've chosen well the one-book, one-grade title becomes a touchstone, an anchor text. Formal discussion or lessons may run the first few weeks of school, but connections to the text are ongoing. 

When I taught ninth grade years ago our shared text was Ender's Game. One reason I loved it was because it was a series that appealed to the students enrolled in the technology magnet. There were years when students would walk into class having read most of the series. We hit a sweet spot with that common title. The same happened with Firestorm. We used Klass' text to talk about the hero's journey and to build bridges to the dystopian society Ayn Rand creates in Anthem. With eleventh graders reading Of Mice and Men,  we connected initial readings to the American dream and classics and historical events that shaped the literature of that time period. We used it to talk about discourse communities and the AR-C (argument construction). Summer reading can be a rich field in which to sow seeds for future learning.

The connections we make in my classroom to summer texts are not just curricular, whole-class sorts of conversations. Students make connections too.  Students bring the books up in conversation with table mates. I especially like overhearing them say things to each other during reading workshop time that go something like this: "Well, if you liked Firestorm then you'll like... (fill in similar title here)." Students capitalize quickly on the shared text. They use it to talk about style, genre and reading preferences. Listening in on such conversations gives me initial data about students as readers.

Today I am thinking about ways I have and ways I can connect to summer reading. Here are seven of my favorites.

7 Ways to Connect to Summer Reading at Year's Start

Word Study. Pull vocabulary from summer reading texts. Have students' choose words from list collected from summer reads and  work with the words. Students will end up with unique word collections they can incorporate into conversation and writing. Assess students with open-ended questions that ask them to use a vocabulary word to discuss an aspect of the reading. A question I have posed is: use one of your vocabulary words to describe a character or conflict from our summer reading title. In their short response, I ask students to use the word, the word's synonym or meaning and support their response with two details from the text. 

Writing routines. Use summer reading as the context for establishing writing routines in class. Together write the first entries for a reading or academic journal. Or choose model text from the summer title to imitate and teach from.

Speaking routines. We do a weekly discussion in my classroom. Using a passage from our summer reading as one of our first texts enables me to teach the process. The cognitive task becomes the speaking protocols  we are using and not the text we're exploring.  

Literary Analysis. Introduce critical approaches and have students work in pairs or small groups to apply an approach to a scene from the shared summer reading title. 

Character Anlysis. Have students compare characters from a shared summer title to characters in books chosen for reading workshop. Discuss, write about or chart how author's develop characters in similar and different ways. 

Poetic connections. Have students read poetry to find a piece that connects to the situations, settings, characters or events from the summer reading title. 

Arts integration.  At FCTE last week I met an art integration specialist from a nearby county. Her story during a writing workshop session reminded me that arts integration is much more than crafts in the classroom. Blend concepts from the arts with reading content. Arts integration enables students learn about art content--styles, artists, media, periods, techniques and more--in the context of a content area. Build students arts background knowledge. Find an artist whose work connects to summer title. Mimic the style of an art period and create pieces that capture a scene. Investigate dance or music as it connects to character or theme(s) of the works read. Browse Edutopia's art integration round up for ideas

Summer reading is not a one and done assignment. It is a starting point, an initial assessment, a shared memory, a story that sustains and connects us. 

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Three more posts to go in this series.   While it feels a little long, like I'm stretching for topics, I still want to assess a piece of student writing, review summer reading research and share students' voices and opinions. It seems as if I've only touched on items from my original list. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to reflect on summer reading with me. I appreciate learning with and from you all. 

Lee Ann  


  1. Part of your love for Ender's Game is what I liked about Firestorm. Thanks for sticking to it and keeping the summer reading issue in front of us!

  2. Having a common conversation around a book is the best reason for a whole-class read. A common text helps create community. As you know, my posts really aren't about summer reading per se since i don't teach classes w/ summer reading mandates. Instead, I'm thinking more about how to build readers so that next summer they will be reading. Having said that, here's this week's post: "A Gift of Words':

  3. I also think a common title is useful in a large school so that students can have conversations around a common thread with students across classes and teachers.