Curriculum Details for
Spaghetti Book Club
Content Expert Reviewer
Sara Pollock DeMedeiros works as the Assistant Program Director at Tenacity, a youth development program that supports Boston youth in the summer and after school by fostering their literacy, tennis, and life skills. She supports staff in structuring high quality after-school programs for middle school students, and leads the development of Tenacity's literacy curriculum and instruction. Before coming to Tenacity four years ago, Sara taught 7th grade English as a Second Language in Washington, DC, and received her Masters in Education from Harvard University's Risk and Prevention Program.
- Teaches students how to write and illustrate their own book reviews which they can then publish on the Spaghetti Book Club (SBC) website.
- Students and teachers can choose the books they review.
- The program also seems compelling for teachers, providing an opportunity to publish student work online with little technical knowledge.
- Reading books, then writing about and discussing them in an informed manner.
- Making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
- Critically reading others’ reviews of books.
- Editing and revising.
- Using checklists to track progress toward completing a task.
- Specific format for writing a review.
- Organizational skills in thinking about how to create a coherent piece of writing.
- Love of and engagement with reading.
- Use of technology.
- Builds self-esteem.
Alignment to Standards
- Curriculum is generally aligned with English Language Arts standards of analyzing, comparing, critiquing, and reacting to literature.
- While the particular lessons that cover these concepts are optional, the final product which students are expected to submit to the website requires that students have used these skills.
- Checklist for students and teachers to use to assess the completion of a review.
- Opportunities for students to continuously collect and respond to feedback from their teachers and peers.
- These assessment strategies seem to primarily assess content.
- Curriculum is somewhat structured.
- There are recommended lessons that are very easily adapted to a program’s needs, but the product itself that the students create must follow a very specific structure.
- Content is flexible: students may pick what books they would like to read and review.
- Lessons are an even mix of teacher- and student-led. Teachers are encouraged to teach a prescribed combination of lessons, but students are encouraged to choose their own books.
- Curriculum is also student-directed in that reviews themselves hinge on students expressing their own opinions.
Addressing Diverse Student Needs
- Curriculum is adaptable to student needs.
- Teachers can alter the order and use of the lesson plans to match the needs of their students and program, or omit them altogether.
- Students can also work in groups to write reviews. This can allow teachers to match students with different strengths or give extra support to students who need it.
Learning Styles Addressed
- Targeted to students in grades K-12. Lessons can be tailored to specific ages.
- Reviewing books and sharing opinions appeals to all ages.
- All reviews have the same expectations, regardless of age. Writing these reviews may be advanced for the youngest students.
- There are guiding checklists for different grade levels (K, 1-3, 4-6, and 7-12).
- The curriculum appeals to many learning styles.
- Teachers can use visual cues, including the books themselves as well as overheads and examples of reviews, such as other students’ already published reviews online.
- Interpersonal learning: Students work together to create book reviews. The curriculum hopes that books will create bonds between different students who might not otherwise work together.
- Artistic learning: Students all create a self-portrait that accompanies their review, and are encouraged to create pictures that correspond with their reviews.
- Diversity is not explicitly addressed, although teachers can do so by offering a wide range of books for students to review.
- The curriculum requests that student self-portraits, accompanying reviews, show the students’ different skin colors. It can be assumed this is to allow students who are reading others’ reviews to see a variety of backgrounds in the online community.
- Language diversity is not mentioned.
Strengths and Challenges
Challenges and Drawbacks
- Gives students the opportunity to publish their writing in a more public forum.
- Can give students a sense of meaning to their work.
- Teachers can create a class website without starting from scratch.
- Students become members of a safe and structured online community.
- Curriculum depends on having easy computer and internet access.
- Entering work on computers can be time consuming for a group that has few computers or students who are not skilled typers.
- The publishing process could become overwhelming and time-consuming for an unorganized teacher.