Our students at each grade and level read three books over the summer. You can check out our summer reading brochure here (pdf) to see our requirements and recommendations. We have latitude regarding assessment of summer reading, but we are encouraged to evaluate students’ understanding of one book through an objective test and to evaluate a second through an essay. The third book is discussed and studied in class prior to assessment.
My 9th grade students will have to read A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This coming year will be the fourth year I have taught 9th grade at my school (I had previously taught ninth grade for four years in other schools with no summer reading requirement). We changed our selections this year. Last year, incoming freshmen read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway rather than the Gaines and Twain novels. As The Bean Trees was the book I liked best among those three, I have taught that novel prior to discussion the past three years, and indeed, had planned to do the same this year. However, after reading A Lesson Before Dying, I decided this book has some real meat for discussion and might appeal more to both boys and girls (girls tend to favor The Bean Trees, while boys tend not to). You can read my review of the book at my personal blog.
I created a UbD unit plan for A Lesson Before Dying today, and I’d appreciate feedback. I had quite a bit of trouble with Stage 1 (the standards were easy; figuring out what I wanted students to understand and how to frame essential questions was hard).
In my searching today, I found a UbD plan for The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible (pdf). This year will be the first in my high school teaching career that I haven’t taught American literature, but one of you all American literature teachers may want to check it out and see if it is something you are interested in trying.