Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Books used in the classroom

What am I reading now?  School Spirits (Rachel Hawkins)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? This is a spin-off from the Hex Hall series, following Izzy Brannick, who is now 15 and gets her first assignment at a high school--not a cool paranormal one--the regular kind, well except that it is haunted. Throw in a love spell and things get interesting.

It's a fun story for a first book in a series. I'd like to see the storyline get more complex, and I really didn't care for the ending, not that it was bad or anything, I was just like, "Huh? Really?" Enough of the story was good that I'll read the next in the series though. I see a lot of possibilities for interactions with Torrin--hope it goes that way!

Books Used in the Classroom

"Word carpentry is like any other kind of carpentry: you must build your sentences smoothly." ~Anatole France

Because I work as a literacy specialist, I often get asked why some books get used in classrooms while others don't. One of the reasons is that publishers and teachers have different criteria for what makes a good book. There are a lot of current books that do get used in classrooms, but many, many more that don't.

Publishers put out books hoping for a broad consumer base, possibly leading to many books that are not complex in text structures or sentence structures so readers of varying proficiency can access them. Often the message and story in those books are good for recreational reading, but not useful for instruction for how to become a better reader.

There is a new emphasis on developing the understanding of underlying structures of the language in the new Common Core State Standards for schools in the US. As an educator, I love the new curriculum! The fact is, to meet these standards, many teacher look toward books published in the past or in the UK because the level of sentence, vocabulary and concept complexity is more challenging for students and fits the curriculum better. It isn't just about story grammar or sentence grammar, but about how an author constructs emotion, tension and inference through using the chosen language structures. 

The books I love to read feel like music in my brain. The words are combined in a complex way that moves me into the meaning and feeling the author is creating. What can I teach from complex sentence construction? Appositives, participles, absolutes, prepositions, openers, subject-verb splits, parts of speech ... the list goes on, but here are some examples of sentences I could use:

Ally Condie, Matched
"His lips move silently, and I know what he says: the words of a poem that only two people in the world know.”

Sarah J. Maas, Throne of Glass
"In the garden, the Captain of the Guard stared up at the young woman's balcony, watching as she waltzed alone, lost in her dreams."

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races
"Finn, valiant soul that he is, vanishes, leaving me to it."

1 comment:

Renae W. Mackley said...

I liked that highlighted paragraph--constructing sentences with emotion, etc. And the last example is short but complex. Interesting stuff, Canda.