Lesson Plan: Life's Not Fair
Barry Hoonan, The Odyssey School, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Hoonan's lesson plan is also available as a PDF
file. See Materials Needed, below, for links to student
activity sheets related to the lesson.
Level: Fifth and Sixth
Life's Not Fair
books in themed sets
by Jerry Spinelli for class read-aloud book
access for background research
Literature Circle Discussions
(this is formatted so that it may be reproduced as an overhead
or as a handout to give to students)
Mr. Hoonan's students are invited to read two books chosen
from the dozen thematically linked sets available. Using their
writer's notebooks and sticky notes, they record their questions
and responses in preparation for discussion. Meeting with
others reading the same book, students select a discussion
group facilitator, share the questions they have prepared,
and determine where to begin their conversation.
the conversation unfolds, the facilitator ensures everyone
has the opportunity to contribute, while encouraging group
members to develop their thoughts fully. At the end of the
discussion, the group lists questions with which to begin
their next meeting. They also decide if they need additional
background for their reading. If so, they frame research topics
to explore prior to their next conversation.
Hoonan wants students to connect issues that emerge from their
reading with their own experiences and world understandings.
Literature discussion groups, he believes, allow for the easy
exchange of ideas that encourage such connections.
enrich the thematic background, Mr. Hoonan chooses a related
book (Stargirl) to read aloud. During these readings,
he may pause and invite students to interpret a passage or
a scene dramatically.
and enjoy literature.
ways to value the particulars in the texts they read and
use them to support interpretive readings.
their writer's notebooks to record their personal responses
to their reading.
connections with their own lives through the literature.
and appreciate the craft of written language.
for discussions by noting key ideas and questions with sticky
language to develop as a classroom community of thinkers
and learners, respectful of views other than their own.
Products From Lesson:
written responses in writer's notebooks: see Using
Personal Writing To Extend Literary Envisionments for
suggested ways to help students respond to their reading
use of sticky notes for comments, questions, and identification
of specific passages
interpretations of literary moments
and/or written response to oral readings and/or literature
group selections which take various forms, including diary
entries, poetry, dramatic presentation of a scene, creating
a collage, artistic representation, writing, and/or the
creation of artifacts representing symbolic representations
of the book
demonstrations of sticky notes and dramatic presentations
during oral reading use
as a tool for making meaning: for comments on ways to use
writing to extend class discussions, see Quick
Writes in Teacher Tools.
sharing of written responses: for a discussion of this strategy,
see Popcorn Reading in
sharing of insights from literature group discussions using
overhead transparency: for a discussion of this strategy,
see Using Overheads in Discussion
in Teacher Tools.
Structure of Class:
Students divide into discussion groups determined by the books
they are reading. If a large number of students is reading
the same book, they might form two discussion groups. A discussion
group might have as few as four members or as many as seven.
Desks are clustered to form a convenient meeting area for
as many students as are in a group.
dramatic interpretations of passages or scenes
to literature in writer's notebooks
for group discussions by marking passages and writing questions
using sticky notes
in group discussions of the literature
visual projects based on the literature
Activities or Culminating Activities:
Artistic response to literature discussion book(s) and Save
the Last Word for the Artist sharing strategy.
Students may be assessed on a daily basis through:
notebook entries, and
responses to literature.
following activities might receive holistic or scaled evaluation
(see Assessment and Evaluation:
Some Useful Principles for a detailed explanation of holistic
and scaled evaluation).
and quantity of writer's notebook entries
and visual responses to literature