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Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Video Library, Grades 6-8

Individual Clip Descriptions

1. Introducing the Envisionment-Building Classroom
2. Building a Literary Community
3. Asking Questions
4. Facilitating Discussion
5. Seminar Discussion
6. Dramatic Tableaux
7. Readers as Individuals
8. The Teacher’s Role in a Literary Community
9. Whole Group Discussions




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About This Video Clip

"I like kids to write their own questions because…they're more involved. If I always come up with the questions…[we] wouldn't get to what is important to them."
Tanya Schnabl, Teacher
Sherburne-Earlville Middle School
Sherburne, New York

Questions are at the center of classroom discussion for Tanya Schnabl's students. Because they are learning how to make connections and inferences independently, Ms. Schnabl supports and models the process for them. She asks students to prepare for discussion by writing questions on sticky notes while reading. She uses these questions to center the discussion and poses her own to help students connect personal experience with the practical and ethical dilemmas presented by the text.

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a student listeningMs. Schnabl believes that integrating subject areas makes learning meaningful for students and tries to find ways to connect themes from science and history with their reading. She contextualized Among the Hidden within a class theme centered on the tensions between government limits and personal freedoms by helping the class understand and explore the implications of China's "one child" policy. She used discussion to help students decide if they would be for or against a two-child policy in the United States. They each then created a poster defining and supporting their positions. Displayed around the room, these posters provided visual links between their positions and the situation in the book.

After students read and discussed the novel, Ms. Schnabl introduced them to Jeffrey McDaniel's poem "The Quiet World." This poem presents a world in which the government has limited the speech of each citizen to "exactly one hundred/and sixty-seven words per day." In small groups, the class examined the ways in which the poem related to the novel, and then reported their observations to the class as a whole. As a culminating activity, the students wrote their own poems based on the 167-word rule and shared them with their classmates.

The role of the teacher is that of facilitator. In addition to organizing and supporting discussion directly, Ms. Schnabl's presentation of outside materials that link to the novel at hand helps students expand their understandings of the issues involved and the impact of (often seemingly reasonable) government edicts on human lives.

For resources that can help you use this clip for teacher professional development, preservice education, administrative and English/language arts content meetings, parent conferences, and back-to-school events, visit our Support Materials page. There you will find PDF files of our library guide, classroom lesson plan, student activity sheets, and other Teacher Tools.

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