I teach two regular 9th grade English classes. I have some smart students who could be in Pre-AP classes if they pushed themselves, but that is the problem, lack of motivation.
We recently had a three day weekend for Easter. I assigned two chapters in To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) over the long weekend. My students know that I like to begin class with a short pop quiz just to make sure they read, but most of the class decided not to read anyway.
Unfortunately, I pulled a back muscle over the weekend, so I was not at school. Instead I was lounging in bed, taking Doans, and using a heating pad. The quiz went on as planned because I had already created the quiz in Google Forms and e-mailed it to my 2nd and 3rd block students. I decided to check and see how the students did on the quiz from home. Considering I was in pain and not exactly myself, this was probably not a good idea.
The quiz was one simple question about Chapter 10, the second of the two chapters my students were suppose to read. See a screenshot of the quiz below.
If you have not read TKAM, Atticus shoots a rabid dog in this chapter, and his children find out that his nickname is One-shot Finch. Not bad for a feeble old man.
Some of the answers I received:
Atticus does something that Scout didn’t think he could do.
Scout thought that Atticus was old and old people are always tired, but Atticus proved to them that he was never too tired to play a little game of keep away with them.
Scout thought her dad was a very old and boring person. He did not do anything fun. He just read and stayed at home, but he was a very good player at checkers.
I was not happy that it appeared a majority of my students did not complete the reading assignment. I immediately shot off an e-mail to my students, and I believe I strained my back a little more as I beat on the keys.
I am so frustrated with you guys.
I can tell that the majority of you did not read the assigned reading. Maybe I should make this quiz worth 100 points. Would you read then?
Some of the responses to my e-mail.
If you make it worth 100 points, I will start reading.
Mrs. Seale… I’m very sorry for frustrating you. I’m not having a very good day either, and I promise I’ll read the rest of the book.
My favorite came from a student who is not passing my class anyway.
Yes, I would.
Do I really need to make pop quizzes worth 100 points to get my students to read?
I decided to e-mail 3rd block as well. I explained what happened to my 2nd block students. After several 3rd block students admitted to not completing the reading, I further expressed my frustrations in another e-mail.
Why not read it because it is an American classic? Do you really want to grow up and NOT be considered well-read? Do you really want to be left out of intellectual conversations because you have not developed a reading habit that engages and expands your mind? Is it really that inconvenient to read a chapter or two each night?
And still, their main concern was whether I planned to count the quiz for 100 points or 10 points.
So, my question is this…. is it that important that my students read every chapter of TKAM by the assigned day?
I think it is. Even if the student is not a born lover of books, a student still has a responsibility to come to class prepared. Although I do use many Web 2.0 tools to spice up our lessons, we are currently contributing our thoughts about TKAM on a class Ning, the Ning is just a tool. The real learning occurs when the student picks through the passages and studies the arrangement of each word that Harper Lee uses to effectively communicate. Without learning how to read closely, my students will not understand how to use words to write persuasively or informatively or even understand when someone is using words to persuade or manipulate them. It is imperative that my students study the art of writing through reading great writers.
That is the real power that I want to give them, and it starts with To Kill a Mockingbird.