By D'Evelyn Student Council
We would like to congratulate our amazing Jaguar community for raising $7,725.04 during our Wish Week campaign this year to send Alice, our three-year-old Wish Kid with a brain tumor, to Disney World! We are still working towards raising $10,000. If we do this, not only do we make Alice’s wish come true, we earn the honor of bringing her to D’Evelyn next year to participate in one of our school events. If just 20 Jag parents sign up to donate $10 a month for one year, we can raise more than enough money to make this dream a reality! Every donation, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated! To donate, grab a donation card from the front office, have your student drop donations off to the financial office, or call our financial office to make a credit card donation: 303-982-2619. Donations are due by February 28.
By Kelley Young, English Teacher
With the support of the D’Evelyn Education Foundation, I attended the biennial conference for the International Society for the Study of Literature (IGEL) in Stavanger, Norway this past July. Reading was the particular focus of this conference, and my desire to attend stemmed directly from my recognition of the challenges our students face with required reading, as well as the increase of negative attitudes associated with that reading. Research presented at IGEL indicates required reading quite profoundly affects the attitudes of the reader. Here are some Danish 8th graders on required reading: “I skip pages, “I lose my spot,” “It’s like a pile of ****coming right at you.” Even D’Evelyn graduates at the 2018 convocation made a point of roasting the English Department by claiming they had never read a required reading novel in its entirety, if at all. Well, if there’s any degree of truth to this, then from Danish 8th graders to D’Evelyn graduates, required reading is a challenge.
Over the course of a school year at D’Evelyn, the English curriculum challenges students to read at least three required novels, in addition to required short stories, plays, and poetry. Let’s say then that at least three-quarters of D’Evelyn’s English curriculum per year consists of literature. At that percentage, required reading constitutes the most significant learning opportunity of any year of English class, but it’s also probably going to be the most challenging part of the school year. Required reading means there’s no choice in the matter, and, just like having to eat their vegetables, required reading can get top marks from students for being repulsive. In the classroom, English teachers mitigate that negativity by helping students access the meaning and the craft of literature, but, outside the classroom, students must mitigate any negativity on their own in order to meet the independent practice learning goals of the required reading units. The research presented at the IGEL conference offered some proof that the following methods of support increase student success in accessing their required reading.
Text: Imagine being required to read your email or watch Netflix on a device with a cracked or shattered screen. Would it bother you? This is the same situation students are in when they try to read a copy of a required text that has already been annotated. Their brains don’t like it. It translates as too much “noise” interfering with their ability to “hear” (comprehend) the text. To give your students the best possible first step towards success in English class, make sure each and every one of them have crisp new copies of their required reading novels--but not just any crisp, new copy. Teaching required reading in the classroom demands that teachers point out and explicate quotes and passages from the texts. If a student does not have the same text as the teacher (which will be the one sold through the school) when the teacher points everyone to say, page 88, that student must hunt and try to find the same passage in their book, and many simply cannot find the same passage, or if they do, the class has already moved on. Please, spare your student this classroom frustration.
Time: Students most likely need to read outside the classroom at least 20 minutes a day during a novel unit, and often they will need 40 to 60 minutes. Vocabulary decoding, annotating, maintaining focus, comprehending the words on the page as a story--all of this is your student’s homework. Help them plan reading times and places: they will develop good habits; respect their reading times by maintaining a hushed environment to limit distractions: turn off devices, no radio in the car, turn off the TV, no music; feed their brains: make sure they have high protein and healthy carb snacks to fuel those comprehension engines in their heads.
Talk: Be a reading buddy. Ask your student about what he or she is reading. Just like news stories or movies or gossip, reading provides conversation. Ask the kinds of questions that signal engagement: what was your favorite moment? Who is your favorite character? Who is a character you can’t stand? Who or what confuses you? What are you learning about the world? Some parents even read the required novels along with their students, which is a great way our English program promotes life-long learning for families as a whole.
When students are unable to meet the challenges set before them, they become irritable, stubborn, and negative. I hope the suggestions offered here help decrease these negative responses to required reading and replace them with more positive responses, perhaps along the lines of “I never skip pages,” “I never lose my spot,” and, if we are really lucky, “It’s like a pile of opportunity coming right at you”! The required reading selections of D’Evelyn’s English curriculum offer students the opportunity to read and experience literature of the highest caliber that has withstood the tests of time and changing cultures. By taking required reading seriously today, we can help our students meet the challenge and keep literature in the hearts and minds of the future.