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NewsDepth A+: Reading & Writing Rights

Amherst Junior High School’s 8th grade English and Language Arts class earns our A+ Award this week for its innovative and creative approach to reading and writing.

Eighth grade English and Language Arts teacher Katie Shullick posed this question to her students: What rights do we need as readers and writers?

The students put their ideas on colorful sticky notes and posted them underneath the prompt on their classroom wall.

Ms. Shullick compiled the answers and came up with the class’ reading and writing rights.

Number one on the list: books and writing topics of our choice.

This meant that instead of reading a single book as a class, students are reading books of their own choice. Also, in keeping with the reading and writing rights, students are given quiet time each day in class to read their books.

For students, it is a change that has motivated them to read more.

“It’s important. If you don’t like your book you won’t get into it and you won’t want to read it,” said Maddi who says she likes mystery and horror books.

“I like getting to choose what books I get to read. I will be able to stay on topic more,” said Ainsleigh who prefers mythology and fantasy books.

Students share their book reviews and recommendations with one another on a virtual bulletin board or padlet and operate a library out of Ms. Shullick’s classroom.

Students in their reading and writing rights also asked for the opportunity to do creative writing. This led Ms. Shullick to teach creative writing first rather than later in the year.

She says the switch will make tackling writing essays easier.

This is the first time Ms. Shullick has approached her curriculum this way and she says she found the inspiration, appropriately enough, in a book.

“It was a little hard for me. But the feedback I’m getting, I’m hearing at conferences, some parents said that their child before did not like language arts and reading and now they’ve changed their mind.”

Submit your ideas for our NewsDepth A+ segment to newsdepth@ideastream.org for consideration.