Who Knew You Could Get So Excited from a Comment?

My school has recently instituted the concept of literature circles. Briefly explained, this consists of groups of books from which the kids pick their own reading material and then, in groups, explore and discuss them. The concept sounds good, the idea being that if kids pick their own reading, they’ll be more interested in it. That does, however, assume interest and initiative, both of which are in short supply at the end of the year and not present in abundance year-round.

When the seniors did literature circles, my circle was small. Three, counting me. There are various roles in literature circles, the pursuance of which is supposed to facilitate discussion. We were reading FRANKENSTEIN and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE in an abridged version. I know my boys read the books, mostly because I read them aloud, but they certainly didn’t want to discuss them, so the way they filled out the sheets for their roles was by my telling them what to write down, the process of which made me wonder who learned what.

Given my experience with the seniors, I wasn’t looking forward to too much with the freshmen. They are reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Today was our first day in circles, and it consisted of my reading Chapter One to them. I am so excited!!

Here’s what happened. There’s a girl in my group who has been uninvolved in instruction pretty much the whole year. She slept through ROMEO and JULIET. Needless to say, she also flunked the tests she took over it. Not so with MOCKINGBIRD, though, at least so far.

In the first chapter of the book, Scout Finch, the six-year-old narrator of the story, starts first grade. Scout knows how to read. She tells us that she spent many an evening on her daddy’s lap reading the paper with him. She can’t remember when the symbols his finger pointed to turned into words and she began reading.

ANYWAY…the fact that Scout can read irritates her teacher, MIss Caroline. As a matter of fact, it irritates Miss Caroline so much that she tells Scout to tell her dad to quit teaching her and reading with her. Scout loves those times in the evening with her dad, and Miss Caroline’s words really upset her.

They upset the girl in my class, too. You have to remember that reading is LABOR for the kids with whom I work. This young lady just couldn’t understand what was going on. “You get yelled at for knowing how to do your work? What’s up with that?” she said.

A little later on, Miss Caroline finds out that Scout can write in cursive, and that, too, is taboo. The reason Miss Caroline gives is that kids print in the first grade. They don’t write in cursive until the third. (Again, maybe I should tell you that many of my kids cannot write or read cursive writing).

Anyway, the girl in my group was upset again. I didn’t care. She was talking. She was involved in the story. She even asked me what “sojourn” meant!

Today’s experience gives me hope. I still have a lot of reservations about literature circles. I don’t see kids self-selecting books that we consider classics, and I wonder if, by offering them in abridged versions, we are giving them the vocabulary that they need. But if the safety of the literature circle gets kids involved, maybe the circles will be worthwhile after all.


8 Responses to “Who Knew You Could Get So Excited from a Comment?”

  1. 1 the nephew April 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    both mockingbird and frankenstein are great books!

  2. 2 the nephew April 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Every once in a while, we get to see the long term consequences of our work “in the now.” I think God does this so that we don’t go nuts while we’re following His Will. How’s my English?

  3. 3 Becky April 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I have new appreciation this time around for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, in particular, You’re right–both are great books.

    Thanks for the hopeful take on things. As for your English–yours is fine and, for the record, I do try not to proofread all the time. 🙂

  4. 4 the nephew April 22, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    actually after reading your blog about it i was thinking about it the rest of the night. i had to read it in junior high and i really enjoyed it then, but there were gaps in the story in my head because it has been so long, so i started rereading it last night. i’ll see what new stuff i pick up this time just becasue of the age difference and life experience between 13 and 23.

  5. 5 Becky April 22, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    I will be interested in your feedback.

  6. 6 the nephew April 22, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    sorry i guess this is part 2 of the pervious comment. :o) i have also been finding that i have a new desire to reread all of the books i read while i was in school (the ones i remeber enjoying and even 1 or 2 that i didn’t particularly like). it seems that even though i enjoyed them the 1st go through there was still an element of work/pressure envolved because i had to do it and get a good grade. in the 2nd go through i seem to not only enjoy them much more, but i remeber the different things the teachers were trying to accomplish with each book and i understand it even better.
    so maybe even that is a little hopeful to you with your students. they might not have the grade motivation i did or maybe any motivation for that matter, but they might look back and remeber and maybe even desire to look at it again of their own accord later on. because even if you think they are not listening something even if it is a little iota of information is getting into their heads. they might deny it now, but even if they aren’t paying attention 100% in class their ears are still hearing and their brain is still processing some if not all.

  7. 7 Rochelle Ritzi April 22, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    How great! I love when we can catch a glimpse of these sorts of things! 🙂

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