I really did hit SEND. (Note: Some details have been left out of this email for the sake of my students.)
Dear Ms. Hinton,
Last fall, my 7th and 8th grade students had the experience of a lifetime when Rick D. Niece, author of Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher, visited our classroom and had a book discussion with us.
The day Mr. Niece visited was the very best day of my 19 years of teaching and probably the best day of my students’ lives as well, at least when it comes to school.
The positive influence Mr. Niece’s novel had on my class and myself is indescribable, although I have tried to capture it in my blog.
My 7th graders are just starting The Outsiders, and they’ve already asked the question I was expecting: “Can we meet S.E. Hinton too?!”
While Mr. Niece has local ties to this area, I felt it was only right of me to reach out to you, out of respect and love for my students. I have never been prouder of them than that day when they stood and recited one of Rick’s poems in unison. The moment brought tears to both our eyes and still makes my heart swell.
Not that I wouldn’t love to meet you in person…but I am requesting nothing more than an email or letter encouraging my class to continue to be the amazing “superheroes” they proved to be last fall.
They are, in their own way, “Outsiders” too. They have never had the special treatment they have been given this year, and I want to continue the magic just a little while longer.
The opportunity to read Side-Yard Superhero was a completely serendipitous moment that I almost passed up. But I said “Yes” to the book, and the rest is, well….just amazing.
I have taught The Outsiders for many years, and this year I already feel the anticipation and excitement building in my classroom. Should you be able to send us a letter, our address is: XXXXXXXXXXX
With much respect,
Last week we spent a lot of time talking about the discussion we will have with the author of our book when he comes to visit us. Haven’t heard about that YET??? Click here for more details.
For Wednesday’s Bell Ringer the directions on the SMART board said:
Rick Niece will be here in exactly one week. Write down three appropriate questions you might ask him while he is here.
Of course, many students asked if they could write more than three.
Of course, I said yes.
With this visit, I have three particular learning targets:
- I can prepare for and plan for a class discussion. I can follow agreed-upon rules for class discussions. I can ask questions to respond to others.
- I can use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
- I can adapt my speech to a variety of tasks and contexts. I can demonstrate a command of formal English when appropriate.
After they had time to write their questions, I collected them all, mixed them up, and randomly read them. I had the students evaluate each question and determine if it would be a good question or not, and explain why.
Here is a sampling of the questions from my 7th graders:
Have you ever written any other books before?
Do you go see Bernie Jones a lot?
Do you have any kids?
Was Side-Yard SuperHero your first book?
How many states have you traveled to?
Is there a movie for this book…or do you think there will be someday?
Did you enjoy going to Ohio State University?
How long did it take you to write this book?
Did you read this book to Bernie Jones?
What year did you meet Bernie?
My 8th graders had similar questions:
Are you married?
Do you miss Duke and Fern?
Why did they make the parking lot bigger for the box factory?
Do you ever miss your hometown?
Have you ever written any other books?
How did you feel when you said all your goodbyes on the paper route?
Have you ever been back to DeGraff?
How did you feel when Joyce broke up with you?
Do you have any kids? If so, have you ever told them about Bernie?
Do you inspire others to help people and be friends with them?
Did you want to take Bernie with you?
Do you wish you still lived in DeGraff?
Is Bernie still alive? If he is, do you still talk to him?
Can I get an autograph?
Did you become a teacher like Mr. Bethel told you to?
How did you remember all of these details?
Are you still in contact with people?
Have you visited with anyone from the book?
Many of the questions we could already answer based on our reading, which students were quick to point out.
Other students answered the questions themselves. For example, when I read, “Did you become a teacher like Mr. Bethel told you to?” One 7th grader said, “I already know he did. I googled him!” :::::::Insert heart swell:::::::
I am so glad we did this prior to the visit. I feel like the preparation will be well worth it and we can easily fill the time with no awkward silence.
If not, we do have a back-up question.
One of my boys wrote, “What is your favorite color?”
The whole class sort of groaned, but one excited girl piped up,”Wait! Put it in the emergency pile….in case we run out of things to ask him!”
This fall I will be participating in the One Book, One Community project in our county. They have chosen the book Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher by Rick Niece.
This is the first time I have been involved, and from what I’ve been told, there are really no rules….you do as much or as little as you would like.
I decided to use this book as my first novel for the year. I read it last spring when my assistant principal first asked me to participate. At first, I was dragging my feet. I just wasn’t sure. But by the end, (without giving anything away), I knew this would be a great book for my class.
So this summer I began to pull together resources for a unit. And….there is NOTHING online. Nothing. At. All. So I was forced to make my own unit. Click this link: Side-Yard Superhero UNIT plan for the entire unit.
What I am sharing here is a very rough draft; there are probably typos and incomplete parts (especially near the end), and this is all just a possible plan, as it may not go at all like I think it will.
However, I thought I would post what I do have done in case someone else out there is in the same position I was. Right now I feel like I am completely on my own with this.
And maybe….just maybe…someone out there will be willing to collaborate a little.
If that’s you, please leave a comment!!