Adlai E. Stevenson High School
Our Vision, Our Process, and Our Program
This year the Communication Arts Department has undergone a thorough review and revision of our summer reading program. Our systematic and procedural review process has resulted in teachers in the division devising a vision statement for the program as well as developing specific guidelines and text inclusion criteria to help develop the program that we feel best meets the needs of our students.
At the beginning of the year, members of the division reviewed our summer reading program and a variety of other summer reading programs from around the state and around the country. We generated a list of criteria to guide the development of our program and distilled these criteria into a vision for our program. Ultimately, teachers within the division developed the following statement to guide the development of our program.
The Communication Arts Division’s summer reading program is designed to provide
high-interest, high-quality texts that encourage thinking, life-long readers.
With our vision in place, teachers within the division began developing our summer reading program.
Our Program Guidelines
In keeping with Stevenson High School’s commitment to nurturing Professional Learning Communities that authorize teachers to continually reflect upon and refine our curriculum, the Communication Arts Division developed specific guidelines to assist each curricular team in developing summer reading for every course we teach in the Communication Arts division. In designing summer reading for each course, our curriculum teams followed these guidelines:
• Teams determined the curricular nature of summer reading as a means of selecting reading materials.
• Teams determined the summer reading texts based on the level of the course, the objectives of the class, and the level of the class.
• Teams developed meaningful activities in order to motivate students to read during the summer and to align any assessments related to summer reading with course objectives.
• Teachers worked to fashion summer reading as a meaningful aspect of our instructional program.
• Teacher aligned summer reading with a vertical sequencing of literacy skills so that incoming ninth-graders are preparing for what ahead in ninth grade, 10th-graders for 10th grade and so on.
• Teachers developed activities and assessments related to summer reading in a way that provides teachers with baseline data, or a "snapshot" of student learning, so that teachers can start addressing the needs of each student at the beginning of the school year.
• Teachers determined the extent to which summer reading assignments will serve as assessments that contribute to a student’s overall grade in a course.
• Teachers developed activities and assessments related to summer reading that recognize that there are differences between reading that is integrated in classroom instruction during the year and summer reading that is done outside of the classroom and beyond the school year to foster independent reading skills that are augmented by subsequent instruction when the school year begins.
How We Determined Which Books to Use
The books selected for summer reading were selected by teachers and subjected to a series of criteria that teachers use to help determine the extent to which each selected text serves the needs of students and the extent to which the text supports our curriculum. Texts selected for summer reading were selected according to the following criteria:
• How does the text help students develop more mature responses about the course’s themes, ideas, and conceptual framework?
• How does the text support the instruction of the reading, writing, listening, speaking, or viewing skills of the course?
• How does the text appeal to the level of difficulty of the course? Is the reading level appropriate for the skill level of the class?
• To what extent is the text aligned with the developmental stages and sensitivities of the age group that will be using the text?
• Are there potentially controversial elements associated with the text? In what manner will these elements be addressed in the classroom?
• How does the text promote learning in the sense that it helps students move from simple to complex, from concrete to abstract, from personal orientation to multipersonal orientation, from literal to symbolic, from absolute to relative?
• How will the text be used to assess learning targets and course outcomes in reading, writing, listening, speaking and viewing?
• How does the text support student understanding of cultural and community issues and differences that promote the acknowledgement and respect of perspectives and behaviors of others who cultural upbringing has been different?
• How does the text appeal to what students find interesting and worthy of inquiry? How are these interests linked to the themes, ideas, and the conceptual framework of the course?
• How does the text support a student’s social and emotional learning, specifically in the areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making?
• To what extent does the text reflect the interests and knowledge of the teachers on the course team?
• To what extent does the text support the division’s commitment to selecting texts that exhibit a range of textual forms and types?
• To what extent does the text support the division’s commitment to utilizing texts that exhibit a variety of authorship or different points of view, canonical works as well as works from underrepresented traditions and cultures?
The Means By Which We Link Summer Reading with Learning and Assessment
Members of the Communication Arts Division, along with the teachers and administrators throughout Stevenson High School, have been reflecting on the means by which we engage students in the learning process and the means by which we assess student learning. These school-wide discussions about formative assessment have stressed the importance setting clear learning targets, designing assessments that are aligned with those targets, and providing feedback to students in a way that allows students to reflect on their work in a meaningful way that helps them contribute to the ongoing cycle of inquiry, reflection, and learning.
Where We Are Now
All of the considerations discussed here have played a central role in the development of Stevenson High School’s summer reading program. Even though we have done outstanding work this year, we know that our work is just beginning. Teachers still have a variety of ideas and plans to keep improving summer reading and by convening a Communication Arts Summer Reading Committee at the beginning of next year, we will be able to continue reflecting on our work and refining the program to meet the ever-changing needs of our student population. Teams have begun developing feedback mechanisms that will allow us to hear from the students about their summer reading experiences so we can continue to refine and improve our program.