Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reading required

At first I was puzzled. Then I laughed.

Last week I offered my eleventh grade students an opportunity to earn extra credit. Some of them have whined about having to read Frankenstein. Since they obviously have an opinion about the subject, I asked them to write a persuasive essay about whether the novel Frankenstein should continue to be required reading.

Today I collected the essays (all four of them). When I came to one essay, a sheet of line paper three-quarters covered with scribbling, I read and re-read the first few sentences. My student had interpreted the prompt to ask whether Frankenstein should be required to learn to read. I laughed and laughed.

He supported his opinion that Frankenstein should learn to read by noting that if Frankenstein married, his wife would want him to know how to read. Also, if he had children he could help them to learn to read.

Before the students handed in their essays I had them write the three strongest aspect of their essay (from a list of seven possibilities including organization, conventions, presentation) on the top of their paper. I told them I would grade their essay according to the criteria they had noted. The student who placed Frankenstein in the remedial reading class can be thankful that he chose voice, presentation and sentence fluency rather than ideas or conventions. 

I was generous and gave him half of the possible points.

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