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New York Times 3rd Annual Narrative Writing Contest

12 Oct

The New York Times invites middle and high school students ages 11-19 to tell a short story about a meaningful life experience in 600 words or fewer. Contest Dates: Oct. 13 to Nov. 17, 2021. For this contest, they invite you to write a personal narrative of your own about a meaningful life experience. Please click on this LINK to read more about this contest and the rules.

Works Cited:
Josie, Melinda. “The Winners of Our 2nd Annual Personal Narrative Contest.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021, Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.

Readicide (Book Review)

26 Sep

Read-i-cide (noun): The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Readicide – How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher is a fantastic book that I should have read many years ago. It was published in 2009, and while some of the references to the the state of educational initiatives and politics seem a bit dated, the information and approaches are spot on. This year, I have returned to teaching Language and Literature. This book would make any Humanities, Language Arts, or Middle School/High School English teacher reflect on his/her practices. It is centered more on the teaching practices in the U.S. but I also think the anecdotes fit a lot of what I have observed in American international schools during my career. Parts of the book that resonated with me, include:

  • The over-analysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. This “chop-chop” curriculum or step-by-step approach that we often see in novel studies bombards students with ‘goals’ and ‘habits of thinking’ is a recipe for readicide.
  • The over-teaching of literature prevents students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be – the reading flow.
  • The need for authentic reading, sustained silent reading or DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read), and the 50/50 goal of having students read for pleasure 50% of the time, while the remaining 50% is focused on classes reading a novel that focuses on the skills needed to unpack that novel.
  • The need to build classroom libraries, in addition to amazing school libraries. The middle school language arts classrooms at the American International School Chennai (India), my former school, has incredible classroom libraries and spaces to read. I felt like I was walking into a independent book store.
  • “Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals, and as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school” (Gallagher 59).
  • The importance of finding the balance between over-teaching and under-teaching a novel or text and what this looks like.

Along with The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, a book I read several years ago when I taught Humanities, Readicide gave me a lot of practical ideas and things to ponder about how we literacy skills. I have often observed very different philosophies between school divisions in how they view the teaching of reading. I feel like this book could bridge the divide and for departments to come up with common agreements and understandings that promote a love for reading while also supporting students to become better readers.

Sanctuary (Book Review)

19 Sep

I am teaching MYP 3 (Grade 8 ) Language and Literature this year and really enjoying it. In class we are currently reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and our unit is called The Human Condition. I will write more about this book when we are are finished with it. Part of our class includes D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time. On the eighth day of our eight day cycle, our class also goes to the library to find new books, return books and to do mini-lessons. DEAR time is something I value, and it’s important to me that my students read a wide variety of genres and books outside of the required novels and texts we read in our class. I look forward to sharing book talks and reviews from my students on my blog this year.

During a recent library visit, I picked up Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher, a new book that was purchased by our library. As a Social Studies/History teacher and news junkie, I am very interested in topics around migration, immigration, refugees, identity and poverty. I am teaching MYP 4 (Grade 9) Individuals and Societies this year too! My goal is to read more Young Adult (YA) novels this year, outside of the books selected for our Language and Literature novels and readings. My plan is to share some of these books here, and to encourage others to read them.

This is my short review on GoodReads. I gave it five stars: I LOVED this book! I would recommend it to adults and teens. It touches on some of the biggest stories of our day – immigration, migration, poverty, government infringement on our freedoms, your identity, etc through a beautiful (yet frightening) dystopian thriller that is set in 2032. It feels like a blend of The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and the Netflix series, Black Mirror. I could not put it down. From the jacket cover, it is as “haunting as it is hopeful in envisioning a future where everyone can find sanctuary.”

From Penguin Random House, the publisher (LINK) of Sanctuary, their description, which is featured on the inside of the cover (the dust jacket flap or flap copy): It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee.

Now on the run, Vali and her family are desperately trying to make it to her tía Luna’s in California, a sanctuary state that is currently being walled off from the rest of the country. But when Vali’s mother is detained before their journey even really begins, Vali must carry on with her younger brother across the country to make it to safety before it’s too late.

Check out this book! I really enjoyed it.

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