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Hands-on readers

Gordon students don’t simply read books. They reproduce them, rearrange them, chew them up and rewrite them, stage them, investigate them, question their authors and use what they learn to create books of their own.
 
 
Gordon students don’t simply read books.
 
 


They reproduce them, rearrange them, chew them up and rewrite them, stage them, investigate them,  question their authors and use what they learn to create books of their own.
 
 


The fifth grade is reading Wonder, a best-selling novel with a fifth grade protagonist who is growing up with Treacher Collins syndrome. 
 
 


Last week, educator Sam Drazen of Changing Perspectives met with fifth grade classes, talking about his own facial differences, those of Wonder’s Augie, and the support - both technological and social - that both of them benefitted from in middle school. 
 
 


Drazen is a former fifth grade teacher, and he engaged the students effortlessly, pulling information from biology, technology and social sciences into his personal narrative.
 
 
 
Last spring, many of these same students were taking a deep dive into another novel, James Howe’s Bunnicula, staging a full-scale musical adaptation of the book.
 
 
 
In November, the conversation will continue when Mr. Howe arrives on campus as the ninth annual Karla Harry Visiting Author.
 
 
 
In September, seventh grade prepared for James Howe’s visit by taking apart his book The Misfits to inspect the structure underneath.
 
 
 
Their hands-on dissection of novels will continue with Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson; the seventh graders will each rewrite one of the chapters from a different character’s point of view, leaving them with a fully formed alternative version of the book.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Louis Sachar’s novel Holes is getting the Gordon treatment as well.
 
 


The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders are bringing Sachar’s stage adaptation of his own book to life for their fall play, while t weaking  Sachar's themes of race, gender, sin and redemption with some creative casting and staging.
 
 


At the same time, the seventh and eighth grade Ready! Set! Design! elective is taking charge of the technical side of the production.
 
 
 
The elective is one of the largest arts electives in recent memory, with two instructors, and frequent special guests, helping two dozen students answer questions straight out of the script.
 
 


How do the sneakers get hung over the wires?
 
 


What makes a courthouse look like a courthouse?
 
 
 
Does the audience really need to see the holes?
 
 
 
Students make this connection between reading and performance at every grade level.
 
 
 
Last fall, third graders performed Solo Girl for the book’s author, Andrea Davis Pinkney, who was on campus as the eighth annual Karla Harry Visiting Author.

 
 
Earlier that day, Kindergarters had presented “the Chippy play” to parents, their synthesis of several books they had read about chipmunks and autumn.
 
 
 
And later that afternoon, eighth graders had filmed scenes from Romeo and Juliet.

 
 
Every day, in every c orner of the campus, Gordon students take apart texts to see how they work.
 
 


The goal is not simply to make them into critical readers.
 
 
 
The dream is to create new authors, with voices of their own.
 

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From CNN, Vogue, Hulu, the Boston Globe, CBS News and NPR to stages, podiums and winner's circles across the US