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Literature Exhibition — Too Much or Just Right?

May 26, 2020 | Brent Harris

When I was interviewing for Mustard Seed’s 7th grade Homeroom and Middle School Language Arts Teaching position, Tom Postema mentioned to me that students are required to read one book a week AND write a Reader’s Response about it. Secretly, I thought the expectation was crazy. I remember mentioning to Lauren that “the students can’t possibly read that much and still get their other homework done. There’s no chance.”

It took almost no time at all to realize I was sorely mistaken. I remember having a similarly incorrect opinion when I was looking through the Literature Exhibition expectations last year. I thought, “There’s no way that 7th graders can write a 1000 word minimum essay, create an artifact AND do a 15-20 minute presentation. That’s ridiculous!” Again, after last year’s Literature Exhibitions, I realized just how wrong I was.

7th grade students are dangerously capable. I’ve come to learn that they’re entirely more capable than many people (including former versions of myself!) give them credit for. They are thorough, thoughtful, practical and analytical. 7th grade students at Mustard Seed are fully prepared to complete the Literature Exhibition. They’ve practiced public speaking on an almost daily basis; they’ve read books upon books; they’ve had countless conversations about the books they read… they’ve done it all so many times and with so much success.

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If you’re curious, here are the expectations for the Literature Exhibition:

  1. Write a minimum 1000 word Compare and Contrast Essay about two fiction books of your choosing.
  2. Create an artifact that overlaps with your two chosen texts in some way.
  3. Give a 15-20 minute presentation that explains the similarities and differences between your two books, talks about the authors, unpacks your artifact, and gives a brief summary of the texts. 

I don’t blame you if you think that this is a lot to accomplish! It certainly is. This is what I told the 7th grade students when I explained to them the expectations for this exhibition: “I understand if you’re stressed or overwhelmed by how much there is to accomplish. There is a lot to accomplish! But if you stick to the checkpoint process, you are going to do amazing. You’re already so prepared for this and you’ve already done similar things this countless times before. You’ll all be just fine.”

So, I guess in conclusion, there’s a lot expected of the 7th grade students. But the students are fully prepared. I’m excited to see what connections they create!

Brent Harris

Teacher, Grade 7; Language Arts, Seventh and Eighth Grades

Brent Harris has been teaching Middle School students since 2015. He loves teaching students how to understand the world through literature and writing. He teaches English Language Arts, but he likes to teach other things too! Both of Mr. Harris' parents are educators, and despite trying his hardest to avoid following in his parents’ footsteps, he graduated from Calvin College with a Bachelor of Arts with a Major in English Education and a Minor in Physical Education; as a result, Brent is a great argument piece for any “Nature versus Nurture” debate.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Harris enjoys playing guitar and drums, listening to music, spending time outside, playing sports, and hanging out with his kind and loving wife, Lauren. A native of Ontario, Canada, Mr. Harris stays true to all the Canadian stereotypes by being extremely kind and perpetually sorry. He has been a director and counselor at multiple children’s camps in Canada and Michigan, and he appreciates the idea of teaching students and campers in a place where there is freedom to entertain new ideas and try out new things. Mr. Harris has enjoyed coaching volleyball, soccer, and baseball, and while he loves nature, he is being slowly converted into a city boy.

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