Reading is the key to learning; no other skill is more important to your success in school, not only in literature courses, but in all your studies. The way to become a good reader is to read, and read, and read, and keep reading. If you only read what is assigned to you in school, you will never read enough to become a good reader; you will never develop the vocabulary, reading comprehension skills, literary experience, and general background knowledge you will need to succeed in Grades 11 & 12, and beyond. I want you to develop the habits of reading widely, reflecting on your reading, and jotting down your reactions to what you read. To help you do this, I am requiring you to do “Independent Reading”, and your mark for Independent Reading will account for about one-third of your overall grade for English 9.
For Independent Reading, I want you to read novels.
As a rule, I expect you to do Independent Reading for at least 15 minutes every day, seven days a week, including holidays, on your own time. If you choose instead to read for a longer time only on English homework days, you may do so, but you will find daily reading to be easier, and more beneficial. When you finish reading each day, log your reading in the Independent Reading section of your Homework Diary. I will check the HW Diary every lesson. To encourage you to take this seriously, Independent Reading will be—almost always—the only homework I assign.
You must have my approval for every book you choose for Independent Reading. I will allow you to choose your own books, but I will also require a few books for everyone to read. Be careful: if you read a book without my approval, I may not give you credit for reading it! You can find lists of recommended books in the Independent Reading section of my website; if the book you want to read is not on one of these lists, ask me first, before you spend time reading it. In general I expect Grade 9 students to read works of good literary quality.
If you have a reading disability such as dyslexia, speak with me and we will work out an alternative scheme for your Independent Reading.
To receive credit for reading a book, you must post an Independent Reading Journal entry on the class blog and enter the book on the Book-Rating Sheet (see below). Your journal entries must be organized in the following way:
First: the author, title, and number of pages you have read.
Second: either a description of one of the main characters, or a discussion of one of the major themes of the story. Minimum 80 words.
Third: an analysis of the author’s tone (attitude toward his or her subject). Analysis of tone almost always involves a discussion of the author’s or speaker’s diction. Minimum 80 words.
Fourth: Your personal reaction to the book. Minimum 80 words.
Please note that you are NOT asked to write a plot summary of the book; so don’t.
Journal entries provide excellent practice writing about literature in the ways that teachers will repeatedly require of you: character analysis, thematic analysis, analysis of tone, personal response. Good analysis makes specific observations and supports them with detailed references to the text. If you give examples from the book to illustrate your assertions, you will have no trouble meeting the minimum word counts.
If you start a book and then decide it’s not for you, you don’t have to finish it. Write a journal entry about the pages you did read, fill in the Book-Rating Sheet, and I will give you credit for those pages.Turn in the book when you post your journal entry to receive credit.
As soon as you finish an Independent Reading book, write the journal entry, post it on the blog, fill in the Book-Rating Sheet, and hand in the book to me.
The book-rating sheet is a Zoho spreadsheet on which you enter the author’s name, title, number of pages you read, your rating of the book’s difficulty and your enjoyment of it, and the date you finished reading.
Independent Reading will count for about one-third of your coursework grade each term. This grading scale may vary slightly (usually to your advantage) with the quality of the books you read.
1-4 pp/week = 1/10 (Criterion A) = Very Poor
5-19 pp/week (2 pp/day) = 2/10 (Criterion A) = Poor
20-34 pp/week (3-4 pp/day) = 3/10 (Criterion A) = Not Satisfactory
35-49 pp/week (5-7 pp/day) = 4/10 (Criterion A) = Not Satisfactory
50-79 pp/week (8-11 pp/day) = 5/10 (Criterion A) = Satisfactory
80-94 pp/week (12-13 pp/day) = 6/10 (Criterion A) = Good
95-114 pp/week (14-16 pp/day) = 7/10 (Criterion A = Good
115-159 pp/week (17-22 pp/day) = 8/10 (Criterion A) = Very Good
160-189 pp/week (23-27 pp/day) = 9/10 (Criterion A) = Excellent
190–> pp/week (28+ pp/day) = 10/10 (Criterion A) = Outstanding
Checking Your Progress
You can check to see how you are doing very easily. Let’s say, for example, that after four weeks of Independent Reading you have read 440 pages. Divide 440 by 4: you get 110. This means that you have averaged 110 pages per week. Now look at the grading scale, and you will find that 110 pages per week will earn you a 7/10 for Criterion A, which is “Good”—i.e., about a 5 on the 1-7 IB scale.
There are no deadlines. However, you are expected to read daily and to write a journal entry every time you finish a book. Four times during the year I will assess your Independent Reading mark based on how many pages you have read up to that point, as shown on the Book-Rating Sheet (remember, you get no credit for the pages until you write the journal entry). I will remind you frequently and check your Homework Diary, but in general you need to take responsibility for staying on track.
•Read every day.
•Write your journal entry as soon as you finish a book, fill in the Book-Rating Sheet, and hand in both book and journal to receive credit.
•If you don’t like a book, stop reading it! Write a brief journal entry and fill in the Book-Rating Sheet to receive credit for the pages you have read.
There are many, many wonderful books out there waiting to be discovered. One or two of them might even change your life. Independent Reading is your chance to find them, enjoy them, and earn credit for it, too! All the while, you’ll be improving your reading skills and increasing your store of background knowledge. It’s like becoming strong and fit by eating ice cream!