Tag Archives: literature

The one book EVERY kid will read (and it’s not Harry Potter)

24 Jun

BooksWhen I was in sixth grade, there was a book that every kid in the grade read, discussed, dissected, and analyzed with the academic attention of a Shakespeare scholar. There was only one copy of this book available, and by the end of a day, it was ripped to shreds by eager hands fighting over who would get to read it next. It was an all-out sensation.

You might be wondering: was it Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? Ender’s Game?

Nope. Not even close.

It was fellow 6th grader Mike Palmer’s journal. (Which I am now certain Mike left lying about with the specific intention that it be “discovered” and shared among all the twittery, crush-happy girls of the grade. At any rate, he seemed very pleased with the attention.)

The fact is, kids don’t always care that much about what adults think of the world, but they always care about what their friends and peers think. If you are having a hard time getting kids excited about reading, all you have to do is let them read something written by their friends. At Deep, we help kids write books that are both artistically valuable and also exciting for their peers to read, and the results have been exciting. More than half of our students say that being in Deep and reading their peers’ work has inspired them to read more in their free time.

Do you remember reading notes and stories by your friends when you were younger? Do you think it’s a good idea to spend more time letting kids read each other’s work in class? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

4 Questions That Get Kids to Read Like Writers

20 Mar

At Deep, we are all about the craft of writing. This means that, while most reading teachers ask their kids to read like guests of a book (asking questions like, “How are you, Book? What are you about?”), we writing teachers want them to read like thieves holding the book at gunpoint (asking questions like, “What have you got, Book? What can I steal from you?”)

This approach has a ton of advantages. It gets kids excited about reading, it gives them a clear and fun purpose as readers, and it improves their writing skills. In my workshops, I run the exact same discussion every time we read a new text. It goes like this:

  1. What is the writing skill that we just learned? (Usually, I’ll have just taught a mini-lesson on  figurative language, telling details, or something similar.)
  2. Where does that skill show up in this text? Get your kids to circle it wherever it appears! Have them offer a few examples to make sure they’re identifying the right things.
  3. What effect does it have? Usually, I offer a non-example and ask them about how this author’s work has a different effect. (For example: “This author describes his friend as ‘so tall that he constantly stooped forward as if afraid of the ceiling.’ How is that different from if he had just said, ‘my friend was tall’?”)
  4. What are you going to steal from this author in your next piece of writing?

It’s a simple, fun discussion structure, and it leads to great results every time! I would love to hear your ideas, too–how do you get your kids to read like writers?

Top 3 Reasons Kids Hate Writing (And How to Change Their Minds)

28 Nov

Writing

So many teachers tell me that their students hate to write, but I don’t believe that. (More on that here.) When students say they hate writing, what they really mean is this:

1. They don’t think they can write.

2. They are not allowed to write about what interests them.

3. They are not allowed to write in their own voice.

 

Luckily, all three of these have straightforward fixes.

1. Offer your students lots of opportunities to succeed at a writing task, and praise them loudly when they do. This can be as simple as starting every week with a fill-in-the-blank metaphor contest (“Mondays are a….”) or as involved as creating a pen pal program where your students write letters to each other every week. Try to give at least three pieces of praise or encouragement for every piece of criticism.

2. Give your kids as many chances as you can to choose their own topics for writing assignments. While learning to write on assigned topics is important, so is learning to invent topics and brainstorm ideas. Try to give students at least one “free” writing assignment (poetry, journals, letters) for every topic-driven essay assignment.

3. Give your kids opportunities to write in their own voices, with their own spelling and punctuation rules. While learning to write in standard academic English is important, so is learning to find your voice and distinguish “home talk” from “school talk.” Give your kids free writes and creative assignments in which they can write in whatever voice they like, without being criticized for non-standard English. This even includes allowing slang or profanity, if the student feels that this is the best way to express his or her ideas. (I have some advice for dealing with that here.)
How do you get your kids excited about writing? I’d love to hear your ideas!