It's here again! The celebratory opening event happened yesterday, and we, along with thousands of other Valley residents as well as visitors from other areas, rushed to the location out in the middle of corn and cow pastures to search the entire warehouse before everything new and popular had disappeared.
Yes, all of you from the Valley already probably guessed it--it is yet again time for the Green Valley Book Fair. (Thanks to Richmond Magazine for the photo, which shows just how amazing of an experience this event is.) For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to experience this extravaganza firsthand, let me just say that this event happens six times a year, and it is a gigantic warehouse full of books that have been reduced to 60%-90% of the original price. There are two huge floors with over 500,000 books, and they cover every genre you could possible imagine. It is a book event unlike anything I have experienced prior to moving here. Sound too great to pass up? It's open through October 20th! Can't make it by there this month? Don't worry, there's still one more opening this year from November 29th through December 15th.
This time, we actually made it out there on the first day of the sale, which means that I was able to pick up a new set of the Beautiful Creatures series for myself and a friend as well as a box set of The Lord of the Rings plus the Hobbit. When I first started going, I had virtually no idea what was popular in the young adult literature world, and I was overwhelmed. Each time I go, I learn more about what's popular, as well as the range of Young Adult literature now available to our students. By now, I'm starting to feel like a trained professional going in there ready to peruse the thousands of books with a keen eye, able to discern which purchases would best serve the students and enhance my classroom library.
Among this weekend's finds was The Shining, which I'm glad to provide since the long-awaited sequel by Stephen King, Dr. Sleep, has now come out. Last time I went, they had several of Cassandra Clare's books, including the first of her Infernal Devices series. This time, there were a couple more of the Mortal Instruments series, which I'm glad to add to my collection. I was also thrilled to find A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, which I heard about on NPR. I was glad to find more by Lisa McMann since I have several students currently completely obsessed with her books. After hearing Phyllis Renolds Naylor at the National Book Fair, I was glad to pick up one of the books in her Alice series. I was also thrilled to find more of Matt de la Peña's work, and I was glad to pick up books by Jenny Han and Kristin Cast, since several students have been talking about both of those authors. I'm still anxious to get a hold of copies of Lauren Oliver's books, which I loved and which have been a raging success with students. I'm also on the look out for Matt Quick's work after seeing him speak in DC at the National Book Fair.
As far as this weekend's finds, I'm already halfway through Love is the Higher Law by David Lavithan, and I'm loving it. Next up (after I finish the other 2 books I'm currently reading), Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories collection Interpreter of Maladies followed by A Long Walk to Water and the next book in the Cassandra Clare series. I also need to read OCD Love Story next week, which we're discussing in our faculty book club soon. So many books--so little time! My list keeps growing.
Here's a full list (in addition to Beautiful Creatures and the Tolkien box set) of what I bought for my classroom library this time:
Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia Persistence of Memory
Atwater-Rhodes, Amelia The Den of Shadows Quartet
Bissinger, H. G. Friday Night Lights
Cast, P.C. and Kristin Cast Chosen
Cast, P.C. and Kristin Cast Betrayed
Cast, P.C. and Kristin Cast Marked
Chbosky, Stephen The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Clare, Cassandra City of Ashes (The Immortal Instruments: Book 2)
Clare, Cassandra City of Lost Souls (The Immortal Instruments: Book 5)
de la Peña, Matt Mexican White Boy
de la Peña, Matt We Were Here
Han, Jenny It's Not Summer Without You
Han, Jenny The Summer I Turned Pretty
King, Stephen The Shining
Lahiri, Jhumpa Interpreter of Maladies
Levithan, David Love is the Higher Law
McMann, Lisa Dead to You
Mitchard, Jacqueline Look Both Ways
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds Incredibly Alice
Park, Linda Sue A Long Walk to Water
Walls, Jeannette The Glass Castle
Woods, Elizabeth Choker
Almost all of these books were selected because of student recommendations or because I had read and loved other books by the authors. For more information about good young adult literature for the classroom, check out the other YA lit posts. Coming soon, there will be a page on the site with all of the books that I have in my classroom library as well as a list of those that I have read and taught. I can't wait to get these new books onto the shelves and into the hands of students!
Also, as another factor that makes the Book Fair amazing, they are now selling copies of the Broadway High School 2013 literary magazine! We have some copies left over, so they are willing to give selling them a try. If it goes well, we can order more next year with the intent of partnering with them to sell to the wider community! For more information about the literary magazine, see this post. The distribution of the magazine to a wider audience, along with the students' web pages (which can be accessed through the class web page), is really teaching them about writing to a real audience and it's giving them exposure to the publication process.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thank you so much for all of the emails and comments regarding this post and the materials I created. As of 9/4/14, the materials are now available on TeachersPayTeachers at my (newly created) store, Teaching the Apocalypse. Please check it out and download the materials from there (you'll have to create an account to download the materials). If they are useful to you, please RATE THEM on this page, and leave comments. You can FOLLOW ME on TpT, where I will soon post more materials and activities.
"We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."
As you are likely aware, Divergent by Veronica Roth is a young adult dystopian novel that was first released in April of 2011. The second in the series, Insurgent, was released in May of 2012. According to my students, the next book, Allegiant, will be released in October of this year. The first novel, which is what I will focus on in this post, revolves around the choices that a teenage girl must make as she moves toward adulthood. It is set in a dystopian futuristic Chicago where the society is divided into factions based on which attribute they most value (bravery, truth, peace, knowledge, or selflessness). At the beginning of the book, the main character must choose her faction, and once she makes that choice, she must learn to live with the impact of that decision. Meanwhile, the world around her is rapidly changing and deteriorating in ways she only begins to discover. For more information about the book series, you can see Veronica Roth's page. Here's the trailer for the movie to be released in March 2014.
Above all else, I judge teen lit by how much excitement it generates in my students. We read Divergent in August, and I still had students talking about the movie and showing me images of the new book cover as late as May. I had three copies of Insurgent for the classroom, and they were constantly in demand and read (voluntarily) by almost half of my students. This book series resonates with the students and generates a tremendous amount of interest and excitement in reading. It is exciting and dares students to consider their own bravery, but it is also the story of a teenage girl discovering love and romance, which the students enjoy as much as they do the intensity of the action.
Last year, I began the year for English 9 with Divergent. The unit revolved around active engagement and how to make choices in the classroom and in the community. One of the things I loved about beginning the year that way was that students used Divergent during our SSR (sustained silent reading) time. That made it easier for them to adjust to SSR, and it was also nice because it allowed students who flew through the reading to move on to other books while giving students who took longer to read the support and time that they needed to get through the novel.
The novel focuses on choice--the fact that above all else, the choices that we make determine what happens in our lives. It also highlights the interrelationship between choices and the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Because it was the beginning of the year and the beginning of my students' high school careers, we focused on parallels between choices in the novel and choices that they were making in their own lives and as citizens within the school community. I used nonfiction and poetry supplements to enhance the novel and highlight the skills that we were developing.
The unit revolved around three essential questions:
As far as skills are concerned, I focused on point-of-view, characterization, tone, inference and close reading skills (including annotation). As we moved toward the end of the novel, we focused on theme and finding textual support to prove theme statements. The students completed plot questions and double entry journals for homework (I've attached a sample of that assignment below). For assessment, I used quick reading quizzes and daily formative skills checks. We had discussions and practiced the skills with supplemental readings. As far as major assessments, I used two skills assessments. The first was an excerpt from a major scene in the novel and the second was a cold reading passage. We also had a Socratic discussion at the end of the novel for which the students prepared, and the students wrote responses to some guided questions on Schoology prior to the discussion. For more information about Socratic discussions, see my previous post.
The document below includes the way that I broke up the reading, a description of their homework and a model of the double-entry journal. It also includes the homework for chapters 1-4. In the journals, the students moved from practicing inferences to tone and finally to theme statements. If you like this activity and are interested in having more of the packet, please feel free to contact me directly. These journal entries could certainly be modified to use in class as a way to reflect on and respond to the reading.
The final project required students to create their own factions. It was a research project and it included a group presentation. The students had to come up with the faction characteristics and create a name with a complex meaning. They had to find a possible representative from real life of that faction and research the person's life as an illustration of how that person demonstrated the traits of the faction, and they had to make connections to the novel with passages from the book. Here is a PDF of the assignment sheet, the rubric for the projects, the audience participation guide, and the peer and self-evaluation that I created last year.
Phew! That just about sums it up, I guess. I do have more materials and activities that went with the unit (in case you're interested), but I tried to include the major assignments and the general approach. As far as changes for this coming year, I will likely NOT teach tone as one of the main skills with this novel. I discovered that because the novel has so much dialogue, many students became confused between characterization and tone. They would focus on a character's specific tone in his/her words instead of finding the tone of the passage, and it was challenging to explain the nuances of the difference. They found clarity as we looked at descriptive passages, but it was perhaps an unnecessary confusion. I might also drop the double entry journal entries down from two entries to one (or have them do one at home and one in class). The length of the novel was overwhelming for some students, so I will do more next year to help them with modifications as needed. We have a couple of copies of the audio of the novel, and one of our ELL teachers created chapter summaries of the novel that we'll use for struggling students. I'm also considering teaching Romeo and Juliet first this coming year so that students can take a field trip to see the play at the amazing Staunton replica of the Blackfriar Playhouse before it leaves in November, so I will likely introduce some of the concepts such as inference and close reading skills at an earlier time.
As a final thought, I'd like to encourage teachers considering teaching YA lit in the classroom to take the plunge. At my school, many people are very supportive--in fact, this last year, we purchased Divergent and the whole school read it at some point during the year. I know that may not be the case everywhere, but I find that we as educators can continue discovering the balance between classical, canonical texts and contemporary texts written for teens. Many students (both boys and girls) told me that Divergent was the first book that they had honestly read from cover to cover, and that paved the way to a much more prosperous year as far as silent reading and setting individual reading goals. What I love most about YA lit is the way that the stories address complex issues (such as why wars happen and how to make difficult choices and face your fears) in ways that are accessible and appealing to teens. I've read SO MANY amazing YA books that would work well in the classroom. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare is amazing, as is the Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (how do I not have a post on that novel yet? Coming soon...) would be an awesome novel to teach, and it would work nicely as an exploration of text-to-text comparisons with a focus on audience since the film and novel are quite different. I also love the idea of teaching the first book in a series because that gives students a great jumping off point for their own reading. As far as realistic fiction, I just read Hold Still by Nina LaCour, which addresses the impact of suicide on a community, and our department discussed teaching John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which includes teen romance, the role of fate, and illness.
Have you taught (or are you considering teaching) any YA lit novels in your class? Please share your comments and ideas! I look forward to learning what others are doing with this amazing genre.
“There is no great secret. You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” ~Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices Book 3), Cassandra Clare
Summer is here! I thought for a while, especially after the feet of snow that we had in March, that it would never actually get here, but as I sit on the balcony at the beach in SC, I realize the incontrovertible truth that summer has finally come. Woohoo! I have big plans for this summer, including a ridiculously long reading list (I've brought home a giant crate of books along with another massive bag holding the overflow) and a gigantic revision of my writing. I just finished The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, a novel I started in March but just now came around to reading. It was awesome, and well worth the wait. I'm now plowing through four of Lauren Oliver's books, which I'm sure I'll write about soon enough. But alas, I did not sit down at my laptop to write about summer, or the current novels. I sat down here to write about the phenomenal series I read a few weeks ago, The Infernal Devices series (also familiarly called the Clockwork series) by Cassandra Clare.
Where to begin with this? First, a confession (that may lower your view of me as a literary person): I do not particularly like Victorian literature. I've never been big on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, or even Charles Dickens (though I did find myself strangely in love with Great Expectations when I was a sophomore in high school). I've never been a big fan of third person omniscient narration, nor have I enjoyed reading about the way that things were in the 1800s. In college, I focused on Postmodernism, and I was fascinated by deconstruction of metanarratives and the notion of the simulacrum in literature. In essence, I could not have been more removed from the study of Victorian literature.
If you have not read this series, my rambling about literature undoubtedly seems irrelevant, but this all comes around to the fact that Cassandra Clare accomplishes a phenomenal feat in her series; she echoes the tropes and style of Victorian literature while creating a science fiction/ fantasy world full of suspense, mayhem, and intrigue that rivals anything in YA literature today. Set in late 1800s London, these novels include famous passages from the time period at the beginning of each chapter, and echo the style and description of the time period. They simultaneously challenge the traditional tropes of fiction, and Clare forces readers to grapple with the implications of stories and the way that we are all drawn into them.
Translation for the teen reader and the classroom: I should say that these novels were recommended to me and brought to me by one of my freshmen students. She told me that I would love them, but to be honest I was a bit daunted by the size and by the notion of reading all of them before the end of school (you know what May is like for teachers). When I started Clockwork Angel, three different students approached me in the hall or during my parking lot duty to tell me that those novels were the best series they had ever read. I will say that the first one in the series takes a bit of work to get into the world of the characters, but it is well worth the investment. From about page 150 through the end of the third novel, I could not put them down. I haven't read The Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones) yet, so I cannot compare them. However, I can say that these novels address many issues, such as: discrimination, deception, the value of life, revenge, and the complexities of love. I can also say that they introduce students to the tradition of Victorian literature while also creating a world that is completely fantastical and that escapes from our own. I hope that you will place these novels on your summer reading list, and that you enjoy them!
“You know that feeling,” [Tessa] said, “when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing tight around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage and you cannot let go or turn the course aside...I feel now as if the same is happening, only not to characters on a page but to my own beloved friends and companions. I do not want to sit by while tragedy comes for us. I would turn it aside, only I struggle to discover how that might be done.” ~Clockwork Princess, Cassandra Clare
K. Ashley Dickson-Ellison is a former high school English teacher (who is now an instructional technology teacher) interested in exploring the integration of trending young adult literature into the English classroom experience. Ashley is also a member of the podcast Unabridged; check out the podcast site below.
Please note: All ideas and opinions are my own and do not represent my current or past employers.
© K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All thoughts and ideas are the author's and do not represent any employer.