Novels to Knowledge:
Teacher: Holly Van Houten
Materials Fees: $40
Homework: Reading 2-3 hours; Writing 1-2 hours/week
This course offers students a chance to explore wonderful works of literature with friends their own age. Even the most reluctant readers will enjoy these Newbery Award novels, filled with adventure, humor and historical significance. Discussing them with friends will make them all the more memorable and organizing their ideas through their writing will help each student hone their analytical skills. The reading selections for this semester are as follows: "Hatchet," "Island of the Blue Dolphin," "The Sign of the Beaver," "My Side of the Mountain," and "Julie of the Wolves."
As we read, students will not only have an opportunity to express their ideas, argue their opinions and demonstrate their understanding in our class discussions, but they will also organize and develop those ideas in their writing. For our class projects, we’ll be incorporating the "literary circles" approach -- where each student takes on a specific role (Character Analyst / Passage Illuminator / Historian-Biographer / Summarizer / Thematic Advisor) for each novel. Over the course of the semester, students will write five 2-3 page essays related to their “role” for each book. There is always a wide range of writing abilities in a class like this and every student just writes at their own level, challenging themselves to develop and mature as thinkers.
Throughout the semester, students will practice their writing and revision skills as they prepare and complete a special “Literary Analysis Portfolio” to display at the Huck End of Semester show. The workshop structure of this course will provide students with an audience to make their writing more meaningful and encourage class discussion. They’ll receive feedback from each other, as well as from me in class and learn revision techniques to help improve their writing skills. These workshops not only allow students an important opportunity for feedback, but allow them to be immersed in the writing of their peers as well. This requires each student to sharpen his or her own analytical skills as they consider how others may improve their essays. Over the course of the semester each student will complete several writing assignments and critique many more in class – a process that will improve their writing, whatever their current level, by leaps and bounds.
Because the best writing comes through revision, all students will need access to a word processing program. Typing assignments makes revision far easier and will encourage good habits and organized thinking. Students will have many opportunities to practice their persuasive and analytical writing skills in this course and enjoy some amazing books along the way!