One of the most important elements of our summer reading initiative (Read Around the Block) is building community among our students, faculty, staff, and administration as life-long readers. The discussion that is held about the books after they are read is vital to deepening understanding of the texts, honoring different perspectives, and strengthening communication skills.
To facilitate this process, an adult member of the faculty, staff, or administration participates in every book group, as a reader and as a supervisor. That individual is trained in the assessment of student discussion before the Read Around the Block discussion day. The adult faculty, staff member, or administrator assesses the students' contributions in the discussion based on quality of participation, active listening, preparation, and knowledge of the book.
A student discussion leader will also participate in each group. These student leaders, selected from rising juniors and seniors, have been nominated by their teachers as excellent candidates and will be trained during the summer on how to encourage all students to participate, how to respect differing opinions and perspectives, how to maintain the focus of the discussion on the text at hand, and how to facilitate a supportive, team atmosphere within the group. While the student leader will guide the group's work, on the adult participant will assess any student work.
Reading is an amazing way to engage the imagination, explore unknown worlds, connect to others, understand history, increase vocabulary, inspire creativity, unlock mysteries, and discover more about ourselves and our world. When writing is incorporated into the experience and students are asked to synthesize their ideas into a formal, written response, deeper, more significant learning is possible.
For Read Around the Block, each student is required to focus on one aspect of the study of literature as it applies to his or her text and write an essay that demonstrates his or her understanding of that aspect. There is great variety in the texts selected for Read Around the Block 2015; therefore, there are two different prompts available for students at each grade level, geared towards specific topics and skills for that grade level. Each student should choose the prompt that is most relevant to the text or about which the student feels most strongly. The process of organizing ideas about a topic, supporting claims with evidence from the text, and presenting a finished product requires a student to engage in high level thinking - exactly the type of thinking for which we strive at St. Benedict Prep. Each student's written response for Read Around the Block is assessed based on those components: completeness, evidence of textual support, organization, presentation/mechanics, and discussion questions. Students are asked to consider questions they have about their texts while they read - questions without easy answers, questions that raise interesting issues, questions that will stimulate discussion.
The finished essays and the discussion questions are shared, with names and identifying information removed, with the adult and student group leaders prior to the discussion in order to introduce the wide range of responses to the text and guide the group discussion. Thoughtful essays and questions lead to rich discussions.
Assessment of the writing portion of Read Around the Block is completed only the student's current English/Language Arts teacher, who is aware of expectations inherent to a particular grade level and who works with inclusion facilitators as needed to accommodate individual needs or modifications. Thus, sixth grade essays are graded by the teacher of sixth grade Language Arts while junior essays are graded by the teacher of American Literature.