I know that your summer has just started and that the last thing you’re thinking of right now is school, but I wanted to give you some guidance about working on your Summer Reading for Sophomore English for 2015-2016. This summer, all rising Sophomores will be reading The Scarlet Letter.
Your assignment for this Summer Reading is to keep a two-column dialectical journal. If you’re wondering what that is, let me show you an example:
A dialectical journal is basically a quote journal. I strongly advise you to set up a notebook for this purpose (a 3-ring binder works fine or something that’s already bound is fine, too–something that you’re not going to lose!). Set up your pages in two columns. The left column should be for the quotes themselves. On the right, you’ll have your response–whether you’re asking a question (what does this quote mean? Why did this character do this? Could this be a sign that this might happen in the future?) or making a point (hey, this is an example of Man vs. Nature!) or just appreciation (I really like the way he used this symbol here or this line just made me stop and read it again). On the example above, you’ll see the quote in blue on the left and my response in black on the right. Then, and this is the more important part, when you’re going back over what you’ve written or if you come to an answer to a question you had earlier or if we talk about a topic or quote in class, you can come back to the right side and add in more comments or answers. That’s what you see in green in the example above.
It might sound crazy or it might sound like extra work, but what we’re trying to do with this exercise is get you to engage with the text. We’re trying to get you to make connections and to think about what you’re reading. The better involved that you get in this process, you’ll find that your reading comprehension goes up, too. Don’t worry–you’ll be getting good at this. You’ll be doing this for everything that we read during Sophomore year (that’s why a binder is a good idea–you can add to it).
Let’s talk about quotes for a minute. When I tell you to find 20 quotes, I’m not just telling you to look in the text for parts where one character is speaking to another. When you’re finding quotes like this, you can find dialogue, for sure, but you might also find a bit of description or narration. Look for lines that you think might be important in the larger meaning of the novel. Look for pieces of the text that make you think or that remind you of moments in your own life. Look for things that you’ve got questions about or that you’re not sure about. Look for places where you really just like the wording or the idea or the symbols. These are all good options for your quote selections.
I’ve also got a couple of optional suggestions for you for this summer reading.
The Scarlet Letter can be dense, and the language might be a little awkward just because it’s so different than the everyday English that we speak today. You might find it very helpful to keep little summary sections in your quote/dialectical journal. You can split this up by chapters, or you could even go smaller–by page. As you finish reading each paragraph and each page, you should ask yourself what you’ve just read and what it means. Ask yourself how it connects to other things that you’ve read or experienced. Ask yourself if there’s something you don’t understand. And if you see a word that you don’t know–by all means, look it up! This is how we get better at reading comprehension, which will serve you short term in my English class and in the rest of the English classes that you’ll take in high school in college, but that will also serve you well in your other classes (you’ve got to read in almost every class right), on standardized tests like the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, and in your work life.
My last suggestion is that you also consider answering these questions for The Scarlet Letter.
They’re not required–I won’t be taking them up. You will be taking a test on your summer reading on Day 2 of school, though, so it might be helpful to you to help remember the novel and to study for the test.
Good luck with your reading! I hope that you enjoy it!