Are summer assignments common in the US?

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Posted 7/31/2013 by Cake Diva in NSBR Board
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Cake Diva

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:19:52 AM
My oldest just graduated high school, and my youngest is in Grade 6. So we have been in the school system in Ontario for 14 years now.

Not once, ever, has there been a summer assignment or reading list of any kind.

I don't know of any friends whose children had them either.

Is this a common thing in the US? What is the reasoning? What happens if they don't do them? Do they count towards graduation?


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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:21:02 AM
I have a 23 and 18 yo boys and neither one ever had a summer assignment. I don't know if it's common, I just don't think it's common here.


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PeaNut 232,220
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:28:41 AM
I can't speak for other schools since I've lived in the same town since I was 4 but only the advanced or honors classes have had summer work and it is usually only in the English department. Really it's just reading the books you'll be discussing during the year. The idea is that you come in on the first day prepared to work and as the year progresses you read the books again for a better understanding.

In our district there is a test over 1 of the books on the first day of school but you don't know which book.


PeaNut 16,888
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:30:52 AM
I have a 21-yr-old and two 19-yr-olds. They never had summer work for any class, and they took honors/AP classes.


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PeaNut 74,479
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:31:56 AM
I'm also in Canada. My oldest is entering gade 3 and we have never had a summer assignment, but she's young.

When I was t the book store last week, though, there were a few mom/son groups looking for the books on their summer adding lists from school - they were from private schools. My dd attends a private school but we don't have reading lists or assignments in the summer.



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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:34:07 AM
We had a "suggested reading list" in junior high school.
In Russia there was a massive mandatory summer reading list. If you didn't do it then you wouldn't be able to participate in discussions and assignments so obviously you'd fail the class.


sunny 5

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:35:28 AM
one kid in honors english. always had summer reading..usually two books. had to be ready for essay on first day of school.
she usually read them the day before school started.


PeaNut 4
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:36:28 AM
Very common in my area.

DD ALWAYS had a math packet and reading assignments, going back to 1st grade.

In high school, kids in AP classes always seem to have summer work and plenty of it.

There were summers when I resented the summer reading in particular. I felt that summer should be a time when she could read whatever she wanted. Between required reading in school and in the summer, my dd developed a distaste for reading. She rarely had time to read for enjoyment from around 3rd grade through 6th grade. It only changed after 6th grade because we started homeschooling.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:37:10 AM
I think it has increased since No Child Left Behind came into effect. I had it when I got to more advanced classes in high school (16-17 years ago) but my niece has had it every year.

To me its not a big deal, she spent an hour to two hours a day working on it five days a week. She finished a 15 page math packet, and reading two specific books and accompanying essays by mid July. She does have to make a tetrahedron, which I admit is a PITA, but won't be done until right before school starts, to lessen the chances of accidentally destroying it.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:44:27 AM
We had them starting around middle school in my daughter's private school (up to 8th grade.) They were usually to read a book, and maybe to write something up about it. I don't know what the consequences were if they didn't complete. My uncle had kids in the same system and refused to allow them to do summer assignments, and they didn't flunk out, so I'm sure there was little consequence.

In High School, they just seem to be for the honors and AP classes so far. She had to read an annotate a book for Honors English and has had 2 assignments for AP US History where she has to watch a video lesson and answer questions on it. For those, it would affect her grade if she didn't complete them.

I'm all for them, I think kids lose too much in the summer, and everyone has time for a little school work over a 2 1/2 month vacation.

Typical Liberal

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:45:35 AM
Only for middle school and up, here. Realistically, though, they can't make you do them, which means that they amount to little more than "rigor theater" - the appearance of a more rigorous curriculum to appease the NCLB gods or anyone else who thinks that more work automatically equals better education.

We only have them for reading/writing at my daughter's middle school. We had to acquire all three of the books necessary (two were unavailable through the public library, so I had to purchase them) and purchase some supplies as well, so I'm sure there are lots of kids who don't do the assignments simply because no one is willing and/or able to get them the materials they need.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:50:05 AM
I think it's a fairly recent thing and not all schools do it. DD's school just started it this summer. I'm not thrilled. There was no notification to parents, just a pack sent home with the kids. Dd didn't tell me, I saw it a week or two after school got out when another parent who was confused asked on the PTO's FB page. Many others didn't know and are just now hearing about it right now.

I'm annoyed as dd has some minor learning issues and I had come up with a plan for math and reading that would be more at her level and more useful with what she needs to catch up on. But no, she's doing the school stuff as it's required and will be graded.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:50:42 AM
My experience is that they're busy-work. The teachers either never take them up, or if there is any kind of grade it's not until the third week or so of school, and if just one kid says "I never knôw about the assignment" the blow the whole thing off.

Busywork. Part of the "No Child Left Alone" smoke and mirrors.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:56:29 AM
Our school has always had summer reading assignments for middle school and high school. Some kids read them, some do not. The first week's instruction is centered on these assignments. For many of the advanced placement courses these assignments are critical. We only have 45 minutes periods and especially in the sciences it is very difficult to complete the curriculum on time. These summer assignments allow the teachers to get a Headstart. There's often a quiz or test over the material the first or second day of school.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:56:58 AM
I never had a summer assignment growing up. Sure we were encouraged to read and Sure we had to do some sort of thing when we got to school in the fall about what we read, but we did not have a specific assignment.

My kids however have had assignments from 5-8 grade and all honors lit classes have summer work 9-12 and then any AP classes have summer work. Apparently it seems to be the 'thing' these day but I dont see the reason for it.

I hate it.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:59:15 AM
For advanced/AP classes, yes. My DS doesn't have any this summer, but he did the previous two. No big in our world. I already have my children reading books throughout the summer. They have plenty of time to play outside and have sleepovers and all that plus read.

The work associated with them -- essays, short answers, quizzes -- was very definitely graded. If they didn't do the assignment, they were dropped from the class.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:59:40 AM

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:02:59 AM
IME, in high school grades (9 - 12) and for more advanced classes, yes. Particularly English or Social Studies classes. Not so much science or math.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:12:15 AM
In my county (in Northern VA) there is always a math packet in elementary school, all grades (elementary is K-5) but no required specific reading, just the suggestion to "read as much as you can". In middle school there was always required reading, usually two books from the list of suggestions. Our public library was always good about having lots of copies so I don't ever remember it being a problem to get hold of a copy, as long as you didn't leave it till the last minute. In high school it varied by subject. Most of the IB and AP classes had summer work.

I hated summer work. Totally.

One year when ds was in middle school he was supposed to read some classic that I can't remember now. He didn't, as usual. They had the test on it on the first day of school and he got an "A". The reason? It was because he remembered the story from when he used to watch "Wishbone" on TV in elementary school.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:33:51 AM
No summer assignments unless you went to summer school, took classes at the community college during the summer or were part of the National Honor Society (I know they want a certain # of volunteer hours and many students do them over the summer).

Reading lists are commonly handed out and many schools, especially elementary schools (at least in my area), will have contests where if you read a certain # of books by the start of school, you can win a prize and/or be entered into a grand prize drawing. One school gave away a Wii and you had to read at least 10 books over the summer to get an entry. I remember in high school, extra credit points being given to students who could prove that they read certain books (had to turn in a report within a few days of school starting).

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Posted: 7/31/2013 10:56:02 AM
My girls are 19, 17, and 14 and we've never had summer assignments. Thank goodness because I think it's crap. Do adults get assigned work to complete over their vacation?

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:00:44 AM
Yes, and it's a weed out.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:05:00 AM
My boys are going into 8th grade. Starting two years ago - so summer before 6th grade - they had to read one book over the summer. There was a list of about half a dozen books for each grade level and they had to choose one. Their only complaint has been that the books are not challenging.

There are math packets that have been sent home starting at an earlier age, but they are not required. Some teachers will offer a treat to any kid who brings it back complete, but there is not penalty for not doing it.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:05:05 AM

DD has been given a reading list each summer, but she has never once been asked to turn in her completed forms about the books she read. I do want her reading, and I want to have her exposed to books that she might not have chosen herself. However, she reads above her grade level and has often read the books on that year's list in previous years. As a result, I have typically let her read from an older grade's list, creating a never-ending cycle.



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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:08:40 AM
My kids have been in public schools in the Philadelphia suburbs and in farmland, Illinois and have never had summer assignments.

Our teachers in Illinois always send out a recommended list for summer reading but it isn't required. Its a "hey, heres books that are appropriate for the age/grade/reading level for your kid if he wants a book to read" kind of thing.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:11:38 AM
Our rising 6th grader attends a private school & has been assigned summer work (math packet & novel with required analysis/paper) since 3rd grade! Although I always insist he complete the work & submit it the first day of school, it has consistently been returned ungraded & without comment. It's my understanding parents complain every year because the assignments somehow interfere with their family's vacation plans, so the summer work is effectively cancelled. However, the school still cites the summer expectations as an indicator of its academic rigors during the admission pitch to prospective families. UGH!

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:15:20 AM
My grandson is going into 8th grade next month and has always had summer assignments. Before he learned to read he had a "bridge" workbook with a little of each subject to do over the summer. After that, it's always been on required book (grade level) and 3 books of his own choosing.

This year they've included magazines and newspapers as part of the elective reading choices. He gets USA Hockey and Sports Illustrated so he's golden

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:23:34 AM
It's not common where I grew up (or wasn't) and it is not common in our school district. And frankly, I would not be happy if it were.

Teachers always say they think kids should not be missing school for vacation time, but if ours were to start giving homework over vacation time, then vacation time would be whenever I felt like taking it, regardless of the school schedule.

I love public schools, am a strong advocate of them, support teachers, vote in support, etc. But I would draw the line right there.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:28:25 AM
We are in a suburb of Phoenix. Two of my three had summer assignments this year. Incoming Freshman and Junior. DD had to read To Kill A Mockingbird and answer pages and pages and pages of questions, some one sentence response, some a few paragraphs. I think she will then be tested on it during the first week of school. DS had to test and write an essay when he had summer reading for 9th grade, but he didn't have to answer all those questions she did (diff school, same district).

DS this year is taking AP chem and had a work packet for that as well as work for APUSH, I think.

I don't think it's unreasonable or outlandish. They are out of school for 2.5 months. It takes very little time per day on average to get the work done. The work become part of their grade for the first semester. So if they don't do it, they'll get a zero and hope that they can average that out with the rest of the graded work for the semester. It also gives the teacher a good idea of what kind of student you are right off the bat. Overcoming that hurdle might be even harder than making up a zero.

I don't see why one wouldn't do it, though. 2.5 months is more than ample time to get the work done.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:51:30 AM
I never had summer work for my AP classes. Of course that was back in the dark ages.

I am wondering how this works for a very mobile population. If a student registers a week or less before school, are they not placed in advanced courses that require summer work?

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:02:11 PM
Yes, it's common here. Starting in elementary, it was the math packet, handwriting practice, and required number of books to read.

In middle school, it was read 2 books from a list of 20-30 books. A slow reader would be done with a book in about a week of reading before bed. No biggie. My kids were done in 2 hours a book - one afternoon of reading while it poured down rain during a summer thunderstorm and we couldn't go to the pool.

In high school, 2 books in regular English class, and 4 books for honors. They analyzed the books and wrote papers. It really helped get the class moving quickly, and gave the girls time to read the next book for the beginning of September. AP American History and AP World History both provided the novel list, and most students read those 4 books over the summer as well, AND outlined and annotated the first 3 chapters of the textbook. It just made their life easier when school started, not having to worry about all that reading. Now, they even start work on their science fair project over the summer before their sophomore year.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:03:13 PM
Only for AP high school classes.

Jess A

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:16:49 PM
DS going into 1st: nothing

DD going into 4th: 500 minutes math activities; read novel and answer packet questions; read second novel of choice and do project

DS going into 8th: read two novels and complete multiple blog entries; research, write paper, and conduct experiment for science fair; research primary sources for history day project; 500 math minutes; 30 service hours

It's a lot. They hate it, and it does not inspire them to learn. I'm a teacher, and my high school students are not required to do anything.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:19:59 PM
In elementary school my kids had Math packets to do over the Summer. In middle/high school they have reading assignments that need to be completed.

AP classes have extra assignments.
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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:27:00 PM
We never had them when I was growing up, but my kids have them. Agree with the others that it's generally for the accelerate/honors/AP classes. My oldest wasn't in those classes and he had very little summer assignments. I have a senior and an 8th grader who have had them every year since around 6th grade I think. They get larger and harder as they go. My ds, who is a senior has four books to read this summer.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:29:22 PM
We have it every summer and have since the summer before first grade. I wouldn't mind it as much if the teachers actually took it up on the first day, but they always give extra time to the kids who didn't finish, so my DD resents spending summer time to do it when many other kids get class time to work on it. I've spoken to the principal and got brushed off about this.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:30:26 PM

I am wondering how this works for a very mobile population. If a student registers a week or less before school, are they not placed in advanced courses that require summer work?

I'm a teacher and I wonder this same thing every time I hear about required summer work.

Doesn't every school have kids move in at the beginning of the year? To give a test on a summer reading book the first days of school seems odd. I understand the whole "lots to cover, not enough time, so get a jump start on it" and being prepared for discussion right off the bat. I totally get the loss that can occur over the summer (I'm a reading specialist so see it all the time.) but how in the world do you even know for sure who will be in a class, and no school has any idea about which students will be moving in and what their requirements might be. Would you deny a top-notch student placement in the appropriate class just because they had no knowledge of required summer reading or projects? It's certainly not universal, so many parents wouldn't even think to check if they were moving to a new area/district.

little mama

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:36:47 PM
DS is going into his sophomore year. Last summer, he had to read one book for Honors English and be prepared to discuss, write a paper, or be quizzed on it on the first day of school. This summer, he has to read 2 books for Honors American Literature, and has to be ready for the same things on the first day of school. He also had an assignment packet for AP Government, which he will be tested on on the first Friday after school starts.

The only classes with summer assignments that I have heard of are Honors English and all AP classes.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:43:26 PM
Growing up (mid-late 90s), I had assigned summer reading each summer for highschool English classes. I was in Honors or AP classes. It was very common in my county. I think there was only 1 book for 9th grade, but I know I had 4-5 in 11th and 12th grade. I'm blanking on what I had to read in 10th grade.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:15:43 PM
I graduated high school in 1997; my brothers in 2003 and 2005. No summer assignments for us.

My kids' school (private Christian) assigned the Gospel according to St. Matthew as summer reading. For the little kids, they suggest reading to them from a translation they'll understand. For older kids, there are focus questions, etc. I don't think it's a bad idea.

ETA: My son (rising Kindergarden) came home on the last day of school with a workbook. It was suggested we use it over the summer, but was presented as very optional.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:21:28 PM

DS going into 8th: read two novels and complete multiple blog entries; research, write paper, and conduct experiment for science fair; research primary sources for history day project; 500 math minutes; 30 service hours

Good grief. I'm sorry for your ds.

The best summer reading my kids ever had was going into 7th grade. (the both had the same 7th grade English teacher, three years apart. She always gave this same summer assignment.) The assignment was "read something that you enjoy and be prepared to tell me about it in the fall." As part of the instructions it said something like "if you start a book and don't like it, stop. Find another book. The library is full of books. Find one you like."

That was a good summer.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:23:02 PM
When I was a public school student, there was a suggested summer reading list. (I'm 42.)

My son is in 5th at a private school. He's had a specific reading assignment every summer since first. This year, the required book is The Watson's Go to Birmingham 1963--a story related to the civil rights movement. There will be a quiz as soon as school resumes and a field trip to several key civil rights movement sites in Birmingham Alabama within the first three weeks of school.

We choose to do some math skills tests throughout the summer just to keep those skills sharp too.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:32:04 PM
So what happens to the new kids coming into the school that didn't get the work? Do they just let the fail those first day assignments or are they exempt from them? Doesn't seem fair...

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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:38:58 PM

I am wondering how this works for a very mobile population. If a student registers a week or less before school, are they not placed in advanced courses that require summer work?

And that's why these assignments are totally bogus. There will always be kids who weren't there the previous year, didn't get the assignment, weren't able to get the materials, etc. So the earliest they can realistically make any projects/papers/assignments based on the reading due is a month into school, at which point ... why did we do all this over the summer? It's stupid.

FWIW, my kid has no idea I feel this way about summer assignments. With her, we don't want to go down the road of "it's ok to blow off school assignments if you think they're stupid and pointless," because she's the type to take that and run with it. We do the summer assignments and turn everything in before school starts (she just mailed off a paper and postcard about one of the books today) as requested.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 1:52:06 PM
I agree with Merge. Smoke and mirrors. I'm not a fan as a teacher or as a parent and these assignments don't happen in our district, in honors classes or regular ones.
As a teacher (first grade), I do give rewards for reading over the summer. When school let out in May, everyone in my classroom got a reading log and instructions to bring it to me for a reward when school starts again but it's completely optional.

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Posted: 7/31/2013 2:26:10 PM
They are here in South Orange County.

DS has A LOT of work this summer. A LOT.

He will be tested during the first week of school on his assignments and books

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Posted: 7/31/2013 2:29:01 PM
I agree with Shelly -- here it's a weed-out. The honors and AP classes are limited in size and hard to get into. If a kid wants the class, they do the requisite reading. If they don't, they get weeded out early on. As far as mobile populations -- my older sons are in a private school and registration closes in May, so the new student who had no advance notice is a very rare thing. My son who is in public school -- the way his class was managed, the kids who had read the books were in the core discussions, those who had not went to a study hall to read the book so as to catch up with the rest of the class, as a lot of the discussion for the remainder of the semester built off that book.

I'm sure there are some schools where summer assignments are busy work nonsense, but I think it can be done well.


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Posted: 7/31/2013 2:47:37 PM
We always have reading lists here in our public school district. They have to then choose two or three books and write about them during the first week of school.


PeaNut 396,315
October 2008
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Loc: South Florida

Posted: 7/31/2013 3:07:14 PM
I graduated high school in 1997, my sister in 2003 and we always had summer reading. 2-3 books, discussion first couple of days of classes and essays due the Monday after school began.


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PeaNut 210,654
June 2005
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Loc: Connecticut

Posted: 7/31/2013 3:56:35 PM
I will say my niece's school does not blow this off. All assignments have to be brought to orientation (a week before school) and handed in to her advisor.

It is their first math grade for the semester.

As for the book, they start discussion on the grade level book right away, and the essay is the first grade.

The other book they have to read is any book written by a specific author (this year it's Sharon Draper) who will be visiting in September. Each grade gets a sit down discussion with her. My niece said last year it was really awesome.

She goes to a small magnet school (100 kids per grade) so it's more manageable.


I just don't see why people think I'm too patronizing (that means I treat them as if they were stupid.)

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