Today Mohammed says to me as I walk the room conferring with readers about their reading journal entries, "Tell me you HAVE the sequel!"
A boy at his table said, "What? You finished it? In ONE day?"
He said, "I tried to put it down. After a half an hour I was like, let me see how this plays out. I had to finish it. " Mohammed proceeded to tell us why the novel is so good, fast paced and action-packed.
I thought about breaking into my happy dance and fist pumping around the room, but I didn't want to embarrass the kids too much. Instead I asked Mohammed if I could tell the author. He said yes, so I tweeted. And Matt de la Peña answered us right back.
Mohammed was like...
Score! His table had such a good conversation about the books they were and have been reading that one of the boys convinced Mohammed to try Sandersons' Steelheart next. I preordered the The Hunted.
Part two, appreciation. Last week Donalyn Miller tweet a link to a post I'd written this time last year about creating individualized essay questions to assess students' independent reading.
I mulled that over.
Part three, get cooking. I emailed the eleventh and twelfth grade IB English teachers at a couple of schools in our district. They shared theme lists they use in the Literature for IB. I went through some curriculum materials and sample IB assessments. Then I gathered verbs from standards and AP prompts. I experimented with ingredients. I got my mis en place in order. Then I cooked up a sample chart organized by task, convention, effect, theme or tone to try in class. The directions at the top come from the paper two assessment given by the IB.
I modeled how I created a prompt or question by choosing one task word, one or two convention words, one effect word and one theme or one tone word. I wrote an example prompt: Show how the author's manipulation of time and use of detail conveys the idea that life can be reconstructed after tragedy. I showed students how to turn the prompt into a question by using how does at the sentence's start instead of show how. Then, I used my example question to write about Darnielle's Wolf in White Van in my reading journal. Modeling the process went well.
As we worked today, I added a few words to the conventions and effect columns, so the idea is simmering. Still, students played with creating prompts using the chart. I loved listening to them discuss books as they played with language and thought through ideas.
This year, they will have a "create your own" option when they sit down to write an essay on that synthesizes their independent reading. Later this week, when I hand out their individual essay questions there will be a space where students can write in their own questions. I can't wait to see what they come up with.