Archive for Literature

THIS is why I teach . . .

It’s really not cool — not at all — to cry in front of 8th graders.  So I didn’t.  But today I came mighty close.  Today was the last reading of Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue, a novel I chose carefully as our debut read aloud for the year.  As we gathered on the carpet, Reader’s Notebooks ready for response, I proceeded to read the last two chapters.  It was magically quiet as we stepped inside Tess and Aaron’s world for one last summer day.  I read the last sentence in its brilliant three word simplicity, then closed the book reverently.  Silence — for a good 2-3 seconds (which can seem really long) — followed by spontaneous, heartfelt applause.  Eighth graders generously clapping at the end of a read aloud.  Just because.

It’s a privilege to share story with kids, even “big kids.” And it’s a pleasure when I observe teen readers already picking up Ms. Lord’s Rules because they know and trust this author will deliver a good read.

Silvya already asked what I was going to read next.  I don’t know.  For now, I’ll linger in the afterglow of this book for a few days, knowing the commitment of time for read aloud and response has been rewarded.

Don’t let anyone tell you 8th graders are too old to succumb to story!

A few more pleasures . . .

Some day, when I return to Bellingham, I hope I’ll remember unexpected pleasures such as these:

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA— “I love you, Katniss!” shouted at the top of his lungs by 13-year-old Siddhanth (better known as Sid) as he lunged off the Tower and plunged into the sea at Telunas a week ago.  This is a kid who not only devoured The Hunger Games trilogy, he bravely admitted to the entire class that he read–and loved–all of the Twilight books (which set off quite a commotion — and permission for a few of my other guys to admit they read ’em too!).  Sid is an avid reader, a gifted poet, and he lights up a stage as an actor/actress (as we discovered during skit night at Telunas when he stole the show performing a female-jive version of Little Red Riding Hood).  Sid’s a gutsy kid who’s earning acceptance for his unique talents — I’m fortunate he’s in my class.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA— Catching Mallari under my desk when I returned from lunch.  When I asked what she was doing, she sheepishly admitted she’d “stolen” our one-and-only copy of Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue because she needed to find out what was happening to Aaron and Tess, the main characters. Don’t (ever) let anyone tell you that 8th graders are too old to listen to a story, especially one with characters they care about.  Yesterday afternoon as I hustled to return a book to the library minutes before class, another student stopped me on the stairs:  “Are you going to read Touch Blue today?”  Our ritual in RLA 8 is the read aloud three times a week — but now that we’re just six chapters from the end, they want more.  How satisfying is that?

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Missing my MRT stop (and other pleasures)

My end-of-the-work-day ritual in Singapore of reading during the commute home reminds me of my pleasures as an elementary school kid.  I used to turn down a ride home so that I could walk and read the mile or so from Shorewood Elementary School to our house on Standring Lane.  Yep, I was that kid who longed for uninterrupted time to read whenever and however I could find it.  Even if it meant reading while sauntered mostly downhill at the end of the school day.  Some things change very little.  At the end of last week, I missed my stop on the MRT, completely invested in Allan Stratton’s novel Chanda’s Wars (the sequel to his brilliant Printz Honor book Chadra’s Secrets).  No problem.  I just backtracked a few stops on the red line and was rewarded with extra time to read.  Tonight I nearly repeated this behavior, caught up in Dana Reinhardt’s recently published The Things a Brother Knows.  I’m trying to keep pace with my avid reader students, and so far I’m managing (thanks in large part to my commute and my gotta-read-before-turning-out-the-light habit started in graduate school).  My reading log lists twelve YA novels completed since the school year started.  That’s over two a week — a pace I probably can’t maintain all year long, but it certainly affords me plenty to chat about and recommend to my 8th graders.

Other pleasures from last week included a remarkable Saturday night Band Exchange Gala Concert at SAS where we experienced 45 minutes of lively performance by the combined middle school bands from the Singapore American School and the International School of Bangkok.  Early into the second piece in the program, I turned to Fred and asked if he’d ever heard a more inspired middle school band concert.  No clarinet squeaks or wayward percussion “movements.”  These kids rehearsed with focus and performed with skill and passion.  We agreed this topped any school band concert we’ve heard  . . . ever. Kudos to the over 130 students and teacher directors for the hours invested in making beautiful music.  The written program included a quote by composer Malcolm Arnold, “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.”  Observing these talented teens from two international schools, both on stage and afterwards as they reveled in a job well done, reminded me of the many ways humans “speak” and find connections, even from richly diverse lives.

Other recent pleasures include:

— A trip to the Furniture Mall on Beach Street preceded by a spectacular, inexpensive lunch (S$26.50 for four = US$19.80, complete with four entrees and lime juice for everyone) at an undisclosed location [promises to Jimmy for not divulging the name of this secret hideout restaurant for fear it’ll be overtaken by Westerners. Can’t say I blame his concern.  This place is plenty crowded with locals.].  Fortified by lunch, we bought a bed for our guest room (finally!). After Saturday’s delivery we’re ready to welcome guests!

— A birthday celebration where we joined Gretchen, another “newbie” colleague as she celebrated her 30th birthday accompanied by her Mum from Down Under and loads of SAS teachers.  The party started at Morton’s (love those happy hour steak sandwiches), then proceeded to the Loof rooftop bar, and then continued somewhere else, but us “oldsters” only lasted as long as the first two venues.  From all accounts, the party finally wound down around 3 a.m.  I think I remember a time when I stayed up that late for Saturday night events.  Not happening nowadays unless I have insomnia . . . or am in route overseas.

Happy 30th birthday Gretchen!