Redesigning summer reading

I’ve been thinking about a redesign for our summer reading program; at least for my students (perhaps just rising sophomores). For the past several years students have been reading a poetry anthology and then responding to prompts to create a handwritten “journal.” It really comes out feeling more like a giant collection of worksheets, which was not our original intent. It is quite a lot of work, which is okay, but many students leave it till the end of the summer and then try to cram it all in one week before Labor Day. Grading them all in the first week of school while also assigning new work means that the students can’t possibly get as much feedback as they deserve.

My new plan is to ask students to read some number of preselected books and then blog about their reading regularly over the summer. We would create a central website for this project with links to all of the blogs and RSS feeds, too. I and the other teachers would post prompts and comments, recognize extraordinary posts, etc. We could offer a couple of novels and definitely a Shakespeare play. Ideally, we would pace this such that everyone was (remotely) reading more or less the same chapters (acts) at the same time. Maybe the first two weeks of vacation would be for text 1, and so forth.

There are lots of potential problems (besides the obvious pushback from colleagues). Some students travel to places over the summer where their access to the web is restricted or non-existent. I actually think that’s great and don’t want to appear to be frowning on the healthy escape from screens and technology while away at camp, for instance. There are all of the other usual problems with students posting things on the internet. Privacy, appropriateness, web footprint vis-a-vis college applications, etc. I’d like to think that these can all be overcome, however, and that the project would eventually redound positively for the school and our students.

Next step: Write a proposal for department meeting.

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