Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade readers are book clubbing these days.  See your child’s teacher page for details about the specifics!

This unit also provides a great opportunity to read aloud a short text  or to listen to an audio book as a family to continue literate conversations at home…

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The Power of the Games

 “The Hunger Games is an unstoppable force. Get a kid or adult into that novel,

 and you have created a life-long reader.” 


Mary Ehrenworth, Deputy Director for Middle School,  

 Reading and Writing Project, Columbia University

The Power in the Games

In her February 2011 NY Times blog post, Tara Parker-Pope shares the findings of a Temple University study on teenage brains and risk-taking. In order to  “test how the presence of peers’ influences on risk taking, the researchers asked 14 young teenagers (ages 14 to 18), 14 college students and 12 young adults to play a six-minute video driving game while in a brain scanner…The children and adults played four rounds of the game while undergoing the brain scan. Half the time they played alone, and half the time they were told that two same-sex friends who had accompanied them to the study were watching the play in the next room.”

Dr. Laurence Steinberg co-authored the study: “The presence of peers activated the reward circuitry in the brain of adolescents that it didn’t do in the case of adults.”  The findings also revealed that “the brain system involved in reward processing is also involved in the processing of social information, explaining why peers can have such a pronounced effect on decision making” in teenagers.  

It’s not surprising, then, that one of the primary ways teens choose books is to accomplish a social goal. If they read a book together, they are united by a common experience, and they form a concrete connection to their peers.  They are also motivated to maintain that connection by sustaining talk (or text!) about the book in the hallway, on the phone, over Facebook, etc.  Beautifully, all the latest reading research shows that reading and rereading a text and sustaining conversation around it, results in deeper comprehension for all readers –  particularly those in middle and high school.

I believe that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the most important book for young adult readers written since the halls of Hogwarts came readers’ way. In her 2010 article, “Fresh Hell: What’s Behind the Boom in Dystopian Literature for Young Adults,” Laura Miller suggests that dystopian literature enables adolescents to lean in to their particular, complicated place in human development: “the world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure. Teens yearn for adventure. And they yearn to be different than they are.” The Hunger Games “operates like a fable or a myth…for universal experiences…” But it’s not about being “didactic.” It’s about “persuading the reader to stop something terrible from happening – it’s about what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader.”

The book’s themes are also undeniably current: the role of violence in a culture, the presence and purpose of reality TV, loyalty, and disparate rights among socioeconomic classes. In his March 20th Miami Herald article, Rick Bentley labels the book “a cautionary story of what happens when people start to lose touch with their humanity.” These are big ideas – the ideas that, when wrestled to the ground, help us understand what it means to be human and to live well together. 

So tomorrow our 8th grade class will head out during class time to watch The Hunger Games on opening day.  We will celebrate some community literacy. We will analyze our reading and understanding and compare it to the filmakers’ interpretation. And most importantly, we will wrestle with the big ideas.

– Emily Rietz

Bentley, Rick. "“Get Ready for the next big movie franchise: ‘Hunger Games’.” N.p., 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. 
Miller, Laura. "“Fresh Hell: What’s Behind the Boom in Dystopian Literature for     Young Readers”." The New Yorker 14 June 2010: n. pag. Print. 
Parker-Pope, Tara. "Teenagers, Friends and Bad Decisions." N.p., 3      Feb. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. 
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Two Down…

Believe it or not, we near the end of our 2nd trimester in MS Language Arts! Don’t forget to sign up for a conference slot online and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

You can check out our class pages for specifics on content and due dates!

Mr. Dia and Mrs. Rietz

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MLA Works Cited

Creating a MLA-formatted Works Cited page can be tricky business!  Please use the reminders found in the GoogleDoc at the right menu bar on this site.  Remember that “Noodle Tools Express” is a great resource to help you create MLA citations…

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‘Tis the Season

As the Christmas holiday draws near, we wanted to update you on due dates and holiday homework … keep reading for details!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas,

– Mr. Dia and Mrs. Rietz

6th grade persuasive essays on co-ed sports are due on Friday, December 16th. 6th graders should also review their grammar notes over the break.

7th grade biographies will be turned in on Friday, December 16th. Student work is to be submitted in MLA format! Students will adapt their biographies into comics once we return!

8th graders will turn in their 2nd literary essay by Friday, December 16th.

Over the holiday, we expect ALL STUDENTS to be reading regularly in their independent books because who doesn’t love curling up with a good book in the chilly winter when school is out?!

Students should also keep a record of that reading throughout the holiday!

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May we Recommend?

Trapped by Michael Northrop … what happens when seven kids are trapped in a rural high school during a rare nor’easter?  Nothing good, that’s what!  Think Lord of the Flies meets Castaway!

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien … set in a dystopic society, this book follows a young midwife in a mystery surrounding missing babies and an elite group of citizens living in “The Enclave.”  Will Gaia have the strength and courage to uncover the truth?

Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Prince Award winner) … imagine a culture with no middle class and a lower class where your only means of income comes through scavenging.  This plot involves kidnapping, attempted murder, and an honest look at rich v. poor.  A true adventure!

Matched by Ally Condie … this story considers what life would be like if the government determined your life partner for you.  Think a less violent Hunger Games!

(Crossed, the sequel, is just out in hard back.)


Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley … a historical fiction novel about Thomas Jefferson’s children with his slave Sally Hemmings.  A must-read and super intriguing!

Cherub Trilogy by Robert Muchamore … for fans of the Alex Rider books – this is the tale of a British-intelligence unit for teens set in London!

Hate List by Jennifer Brown … this book looks at bullying from the point of view of the victim after a traumatic school shooting.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams … think TLC’s Sister Wives … this thriller of a story follows the protagonist who is living in a polygamist cult and has been told she has been chosen to become a seventh wife.  Join Kyra as she fights for her freedom!


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