Things definitely happen for a reason. It seems like all the stars are aligning at once…hopefully we can pull off this end-of-the-year project.
I’ve been teaching middle school English for nearly four years now. My first year in the position, I was fortunate enough to inherit a rather large classroom library. One of the books caught my attention, since we had so many copies: “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. I knew that I could never possibly read every book that we had in the library, so the idea passed.
As the years went by, we introduced initiatives such as 1:1 class sets of iPads, mobile labs, and BYOD. I found myself relying less and less on our classroom library, and getting more and more techy. Tools such as Actively Learn provided digital copies of many of the same books, as well as several others, so there was never a time when we ran out of copies. Plus, organizing the classroom library was time-consuming, and generally a pain. So, I didn’t put up much of a fuss about passing on our classroom library to a new teacher who inherited my room this year.
(Sidenote: I now recognize the value of a balance of media, both digital and print.)
Interestingly enough, “The Giver” resurfaced somehow in conversation a few months ago, most likely with other English teachers in my PLN. As opposed to picking up a copy in the classroom across the hall, I decided to download it in the Kindle app on my iPhone. It took me a long time to get to it, but I’m glad that I finally did.
I’m not going to ruin the book for you, but let me just say that if you haven’t read it, you probably won’t be disappointed. I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games. This book addresses similar themes, but I do believe it came first. I really enjoyed it, in that it has even more ethical considerations about dystopian societies.
Yesterday, I was pleased to see that it was made into a movie and available for rent from Redbox. I literally just finished watching it…haven’t cried or thought so much from a movie in a long time. Even though I know most of what would happen already, it was magical to see it unfold in front of my eyes.
The school year is winding down, and my students will soon leave for high school. It is a bittersweet occasion…I really wanted to teach this particular group of eighth graders, because it felt like everything was coming full circle. In our K-8 French immersion school, students began taking English class in second grade. For many of them, I was their first English teacher when I came in 2008, so I really wanted to also be their last here.
In addition, over the years, I have worn many hats at the school. I have taught this group of incredible young people in some capacity for at least five years, if not more. As a result, we have formed an incredibly strong bond, that feels more like a family than anything else. Truth be told, I am having a hard time letting them go, but that’s a blog post for another time.
Anyway, another thing that makes this group unique is their ability to dig deep and have rich discussions. This year, we have addressed topics, with wisdom ranging well beyond their years: systematic injustice, abuses of power, media bias, medical ethics, euthanasia, and more. I have never witnessed such a level of maturity and passion. They have taught me just as much as I have taught them.
I always tend to ramble when I talk about my kids…I will attempt to get back on track.
The Grand Finale
In these last days of school, we will not have a lot of class time together, as there are various end-of-the-year celebrations, trips, and other activities. In our curriculum, we are wrapping up the unit on Drama (their final projects are due June 1), and beginning Author’s Study. To be quite honest, in these past four years of teaching middle school English, I have rarely even skimmed the surface of the final unit, particularly because the students get carried away with Drama, and I let them (hee!).
This year will be different.
I already promised my students that their Drama project would be their last assessment grade. However, I never said it would be their last project. After watching “The Giver,” the skies opened up, the angels started singing, and my plan smacked me upside the head.
After the final SRI test on Tuesday and Wednesday, we are going to watch The Giver together, to kick off our author’s study of Lois Lowry. As we do, the students will reflect by blogging about many of the themes in the movie (prompts TBD). This viewing/blogging process will take approximately three class days (quite possibly our last three class days).
That right there could be the end…”have a nice summer, don’t forget to visit,” etc. But for us, it will only be the beginning.
I really want to learn with my students, and read the other three books of the series. Thanks to my PLN, I now know how effective a Voxer book study can be. I’m very excited to use a this model with my students, especially now that group admins have more control.
Our book study will go on indefinitely, open to whomever in the class who would like to join. Hopefully students will take me up on the offer, as I think it will achieve multiple goals. This will allow them to remain in contact, even after they leave the school. In addition, and most importantly, we will continue to learn together. My hope is that when we finish the series, students will recommend other books that we can read.