Reading Workshop

Teacher:Julian Spiro,
Extra Help:Thursdays 3-4 pm and by appointment

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” 
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” 
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Course Overview:

Do you find it hard to get interested in books picked for you by your teacher? Do you wish you had more time to read in school? This workshop is designed to give all students, from reluctant readers to avid readers, an opportunity to read more. Our class will be a community of readers, discussing books, recommending books, and, most of all, reading books. While all students will be pushed to read a variety of books and try new things, students will always have a great deal of freedom in determining what they read. In addition to reading, students will get practice writing (a mixture of reflective writing and writing about books), speaking (short presentations on books) and discussing literature (small group discussions of shared books).

Major Course Goals:    

Build your reading stamina
Build self-knowledge:  What books do you love?  What are your reading habits and goals?
Build your knowledge of genres, conventions, authors and styles
Become a dynamic and polished public speaker (reading out loud)
Experience membership in a literary community

Essential Questions:

What are you like as a reader?  What do you like to read?  What are your goals?  
What do “good” readers do?  (And what does it mean to be a good reader, anyway?)
Why read?  What can reading help us accomplish?


Unit I:    Why do we read, and how do we read?
 We will begin by acclimating to the routines and practices of a reading workshop, setting goals, and paying attention to our preconceptions about books and the act of reading.  As a class, what do we like to read?  What kinds of readers do we hope to become?  As we begin writing and talking about our readings, we will also discuss strategies for finding and choosing books.

Unit II:    Comparing Literature:  Genres and Conventions
You’ve found a new favorite book, thrown another off a bridge, and begun to explore a new interest in traditional Chinese medicine in fiction.  Now we will think about trends -- the elements of style and craft that commonly appear within and across various genres.  You will choose an area of interest and use your topic to help guide your reading selections, as we discuss how genres and common practices inform our expectations as readers.  

Unit III:   Contrasting Texts
What makes a particular book special?  How do authors create a personal style, and how do authors defy our expectations?  What happens when authors ignore the conventions of genre?  These are some of the questions we will consider, as we continue to chart new territory in our reading practices. 

Major assignments:

There are three major assignments for this class (see project sheets for detailed information).   Due dates subject to change.
Reading Wide Project
For this project, you will need to find and read at least one or two books that are different from the kind of book you usually read -- read them -- and write about your reading in a summative memo.
Due:  November 8th   

Reading Deep Project
Choose a topic that interests you and read books on that topic.  Acceptable topics include genres, authors, places, and time periods.  You will write about what you learned, and about your reading experience, in an essay.
Due:  December 4th   

Book Club
Find two to four classmates who have read the same book as you, and meet outside of class to hold a literary discussion.  As a group, write a book review using techniques drawn from model reviews.
Due:  January 6th  

    Throughout the units:

    You will need to spend time reading at home, in addition to the reading we do in class.  The minimum expectation is 45 minutes of independent 
    reading between each class (or about 20-25 minutes per night).  
Formal and informal written responses, including journal entries and blogs
Record keeping; maintain a record of lesson notes and a personal vocabulary list

Grading and strands:

Analysis  (35%)
Students are asked to read and understand “texts” in a variety of genres and media. All analysis begins with comprehension: a solid understanding of facts, ideas and themes. Students build deeper and more complex analysis by looking carefully at contexts, by drawing on their own personal experience, and by developing their understanding of genre and conventions.   

Composition  (20%)
First and foremost, students work to write with clarity and coherence, showing an understanding and respect for their readers. Furthermore, students work to express ideas in a range of media, from business letters to poetry and from podcasts to film. In all their works, students pay close attention to content, structure and convention.    

Oral Expression  (20%)
Throughout English class, students must express ideas orally, in formal and informal discussions, in debates, in presentations, and even through acting. Oral Expression assessments ask students to speak clearly and thoughtfully, and to listen closely to the ideas of others. Students are expected to demonstrate respect, poise, and clarity in the way they address their peers and teachers in both formal and informal settings.    

Work Habits (25%)
The Work Habits strand reflects the effort students put into completing homework, studying regularly, and working in class. In English, we put special emphasis on reading thoroughly and consistently and on working hard throughout the writing process, including in brainstorming, planning, and revising stages.  

Class Expectations:

In order for this course to be a meaningful experience for all of us, please: 

Come on time and prepared.  Always bring your  book.
Read often, and read widely.
Listen to others in class with engagement and respect.  Be kind.
Don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts and writing!
Ask for help when you need it.
Complete assignments on time and with effort.


Please see the attached document for honors requirements.

POLICIES (see student handbook for extended explanations):

Revision Policy
Major assignments will be eligible for revisions, at teacher discretion.

Put your phones AWAY during class.  Laptops and tablets should only be used during designated times, and only for class work.
Academic Honesty
Plagiarism includes copying and pasting without citing, paraphrasing without citing, and using work that you have already submitted for another class.  When in doubt, CITE!  If it’s in the gray area, it IS plagiarism.   For more information on the Academic Honesty policy, please refer to the student handbook.  Please know that I will take cases of plagiarism to Dr. Arnold with the first offense.

Late Work Policy/Extra Credit Policy
In order for an assignment to receive full credit, it must be turned in on time.   Regular, graded homework assignments will lose 50% credit per day late. Large projects and papers lose 10% credit on work habits per day late.   Large assignments will continue to be eligible for full credit in all other strands.

I will grant extensions on major assignments, no questions asked, when circumstances allow -- as long as you communicate with me at least 48 hours in advance of the class when the assignment is due. 

At the end of the semester, the lowest work habits grade is dropped to account for emergency circumstances.  If you are failing the course due to missing work, you may complete honors work for extra credit, but I will not create additional work.

Course Documents