Read this in preparation for using it in an Honors English class. The students enjoyed the depth the writer put into Bigger's character and worked harRead this in preparation for using it in an Honors English class. The students enjoyed the depth the writer put into Bigger's character and worked hard to struggle through issues like poverty, racism, and the American justice system. I found Wright's essay on How Bigger Was Born to be instructive on how he sees the issues Bigger faces, not simply a matter a racism, but also a matter of classism. He hoped others would read Bigger's story and realize the poverty gripping our nation then, as it most certainly is now, is just as deep a problem as the incessant racism....more
I read Readicide two summers ago, in the midst of a teaching identity crisis and was working to figure out how to get nonWhy I Chose to Read this Book
I read Readicide two summers ago, in the midst of a teaching identity crisis and was working to figure out how to get non-readers to read again. When I received an email from Stenhouse Publishers announcing the release of Write Like This, I knew it would be well worth the read, because I have adopted many of Gallagher’s ideas from Readicide into my classroom.
A Brief Summary
In Write Like This, Gallagher argues two basic premises for teaching students to write:
Why students should write (real-world discourse), and for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and start writing before, in front of, and with their students, as well as find and use mentor texts to help students learn how to write for authentic audiences.
He argues this thesis by providing research based evidence, as well as, anecdotal observations.
He provides explanations of six pairs of authentic discourses, while stating there are many more than he could possibly mention. The six pairs he chose to focus on as part of what should be in any writing teacher’s classroom are:
Express and Reflect Inform and Explain Evaluate and Judge Inquire and Explore Analyze and Interpret Take a Stand/Propose a Solution
He also briefly covers editing and revising, explaining how and why the two of these are very different steps in a writer’s process.
My Take Aways
Gallagher offers up so many examples—both of his own writing, mentor texts, and student writing—you can pick up the book and immediately have ideas to use in your own classroom.
I was already a big fan of “I do, we do, you do” in a classroom and Gallagher makes an even better argument in regards to writing instruction. My favorite (already tried—with varying levels of success) activities include:
Six Word Memoirs leading to longer Expressive and Reflexive writing A Mistake that Should Last a Lifetime “So What” Paper Congrats Newly Minted _____ (Inform and Explain, great to teach/reinforce satire) Sometimes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover the many ideas offered up about college and career writing using mentor texts like written book reviews, columns from major publications, and many more how to take this writing with real world applications and use it for literature (as so many of us teach reading and writing together)—I particularly like his use of the rating scale activity he uses for consumer products and transfers to literature like Animal Farm
Persuasive techniques, expository, narrative, and persuasive forms of writing are all covered, but in a way to encourage real world applications of such writing. His method of teaching grammar is also one I am hoping to incorporate into my classroom this year. I am always looking for ways to incorporate grammar into my classes and his method may be more effective than some I have tried.
I will read anything of Kelly Gallagher’s. He has not disappointed me yet. He includes real life “combat zone” examples and explanations, which are often more meaningful to me than research based data in the form of numbers and letters. He also writes in an easy to read style, with many metaphors and analogies to help make his ideas make sense. For me, this means he acknowledges, as we should as teachers to our students, his readers are as varied in understanding and knowledge and may need things presented in different ways.
Overall, I give this one a 5 star—any writing teacher, language arts teachers, or teacher in general who wants to incorporate MORE writing into their classroom should pick up this book and find some useful strategies. ...more
This is another Ellen Hopkins YA novel. If I see an Ellen Hopkins book, especially one I haven’t read, I grab it and read it immediately. Ever since IThis is another Ellen Hopkins YA novel. If I see an Ellen Hopkins book, especially one I haven’t read, I grab it and read it immediately. Ever since I first read Crank, I have been hooked. I love Hopkins’ books because:
they are written in verse form they are so poignantly real the characters are fully developed, yet elusive enough for us to fill in with our own background knowledge the themes are ones we all struggle with, or know someone who struggles with it they are thought provoking
I have not yet read all of Hopkins’ novels, but she is one I return to time and time again. My oldest daughter has read them all, since beginning with Crank when it was first published. I read Crank, because she recommended it. And the gritty reality of life with addiction and what it does to those surrounded by it made me yearn for more understanding. I picked up Perfect because it was suggested for a lower level reading student (it’s funny how something with such powerful themes and concepts can be deemed “lower level” because of things like sentence length–which is always short in a verse novel–and how many syllables the words have–but that’s a completely different post!). The student in question did not want to read it, which I think was a good choice, because the themes and concepts written in verse form would have proven difficult for this student. Perfect is a follow up to Conner’s story in Impulse (which I have not yet read, but didn’t seem to get in the way of my reading it).
So, I read it instead. It took me the better part of a semester–because I only read it during the Independent Reading time I use in my classroom, so fifteen minutes here and there added up eventually! I finished it and wished there was more.
Four seemingly independent story lines begin to tell the story and struggle each one faces in the search for a perfect version of themselves, which does not exist. Cara, Andre, Sean, and Kendra each have separate lives, but they intertwine through a variety of relationships. These four characters struggle through some very emotional and adult themes and ideas.
The themes and ideas covered include:
Perfection Homosexuality Eating Disorders Use of drugs to enhance athletic performance Suicide Identity formation Following one’s dreams when they conflict with others around you Rape (touched on) Drugs and alcohol use as a coping mechanism
What Hopkins does so well is develop the characters and have them tell their stories. These characters quickly take on a persona we can all identify with, or at least can consider identifying with. Her words for these characters flow from poem to poem and instance to instance. Her poems build the story up and interweave to tell, at once, individual and collective stories. I discovered, soon after starting it, that the end of one character’s “chapter” (for lack of a better word) alluded to the beginning of the next character’s “chapter” beginning. After reading the first set of “chapters” for the four characters, I knew I could use Hopkins’ carefully crafted characters as a way to show my students how characters are developed through their actions and interactions with those around them.
Overall, this is another Hopkins winner. She creates perfection driven students and leads them on a journey to self discovery every one of us goes through at some point in our lives. My Rating 5 stars! My Recommendations
Anyone who loves Ellen Hopkins Anyone who loves novels in verse form Anyone who loves or needs a good book on identity formation Anyone who struggles with the idea of perfection (which doesn’t exist ;) !) ...more
I really wanted to like this one, as I love all things Fairy Tale associated and a girl who forges her own way, what could be better?
Sadly, I did notI really wanted to like this one, as I love all things Fairy Tale associated and a girl who forges her own way, what could be better?
Sadly, I did not enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I know all stories are based on other stories, but this one seems to be one huge conglomeration of various stories--Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and so many more. And, while I wanted to root for September, I found her to be lacking the roundness her character deserved. ...more
Title: Unholy Night Author: Seth Grahame-Smith Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Publication Date: 2012
Good RReview: Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
Title: Unholy Night Author: Seth Grahame-Smith Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Publication Date: 2012
Good Reads Synopsis
This is the recently released novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fame. I thoroughly enjoy Seth Grahame-Smith’s writing. Ever since seeing the cover for PP&Z and thought “what a clever idea,” I have made sure to read everything he publishes. And, with his newest novel, Unholy Night, I don’t see a need to stop reading him yet. What I find most fascinating about SG-S, as an author, is his progression from a mash-up writer, in PP&Z, to a historical fiction creator, in AL:VH & now UN. He used Abe Lincoln as a historical personality, with an array of real historical sources, to weave a plausible story about why Lincoln became a vampire hunter and why a nation was almost torn apart by vampires.
With Unholy Night, Grahame-Smith uses a real historical event–the birth of Jesus Christ and his being visited by 3 wise men, as the setting for a tale about who those wise men were–one in particular–and what their motives might have really been. All done with a lack of real historical sources. The English teacher in me marvels at his writing territory and how he keeps pushing into new territory with each new novel. I hope the streak continues.
As for the story itself, Unholy Night follows the journey of one of the wise men Balthazar, also known as the Antioch Ghost, and how he winds up not just visiting baby Jesus, but working to make sure no harm comes to him in light of Herod’s desire to kill the prophesied messiah. The story begins with Balthazar having to escape from Herod’s dungeons and does so with the other two “wise men,” Gaspar and Melchyor. Grahame-Smith weaves together another convincing story of why Balthazar stumbled across Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, and why he decided to help them escape to Egypt.
I thought this book would have some Christian conservatives up in arms about this story, much like the controversy surrounding other books, like The Da Vinci Code. I am glad they have either not noticed this book, yet, or have allowed it to hold its place in fiction literature, as it should. There is nothing overtly outrageous and most of the factual story is kept factual. He simply takes the story of Jesus’ birth and the story of the wise men to expand on what doesn’t exist–the story of why 3 wise men were wandering the desert. It also brings to light, which I think is easily glossed over in church teachings, the horror of the times when Jesus was born. The history teacher in me enjoyed the historical references to Herod’s rule, as well as the rule of the area by Rome.
I also read in the story the growth of Balthazar’s own faith. He begins with a lack of faith, actually he’s almost agnostic–there is a higher power, he just has no idea if it is the Jewish God or not. The journey he makes through the story and his going back to save baby Jesus even after he has no individual need to-in fact, his life would be easier if he didn’t-shows his growth in faith.
Seth Grahame-Smith writes in an energetic, keep-the-story-moving, prose. The story begins with an ibex watching a cloud of dust and ends with an ibex watching what happens to Rome. SG-S’s inclusion of such an innocuous symbol pulls the reader in and makes one sit back and wonder at the wonders surrounding us everyday. I heartily recommend this book to any one who likes a good chase story, a good feel good story, a good story about “wise” guys ;-) .
I plan on sharing my love of this story with my students when school returns in the fall. I checked the book out from the library and I will make sure our school library purchases a copy, if they haven’t already!
The one downside to the book has more to do with editing, rather than the actual writing. There were more than a handful of spelling errors littered throughout the book, which should have been caught by a proofreader or editor. This is beyond mildly irritating, simply because of the number of errors. I don’t expect every book to be perfect and can let a few errors slip by unnoticed, but this one had far too many. It displeases me that a publisher would allow a work to be published with so many errors still apparent. My Rating 5 stars! My Recommendations
Anyone who loves a good chase/journey story Anyone who loves Seth Grahme-Smith Anyone who loves good historical fiction Anyone who wants to imagine what Jesus’ first few days were like ...more