Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Individual Workshop Descriptions

1. Introducing our Literary Community
2. Encouraging Discussion
3. Going Further in Discussion
4. Diversity in Texts
5. Student Diversity
6. Literature, Art, and Other Disciplines
7. Assessment
8. Planning and Professional Development
9. Starting in September...

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Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading

Extension: Classroom Connection

Student Activities
Try these activities with your students. Each activity is designed to help students start talking about literature.

Book Talks
Ask students to perform a 10-minute book talk about their favorite book, persuading their classmates to read the book. Ask students to briefly tell about the book and why they like it. Require them to perform a dramatic read aloud with a small segment from their book. In addition, ask students to create a visual presentation, which may be a poster, puppet show, prop, video creation, or costume that represents their book. Model several book talks for your students ahead of time so that they understand your expectations. Consider providing a presentation rubric or scoring guide and asking students to submit a book talk presentation summary for your approval before the actual book talk.

Quick Write
The next time you read a piece of literature with your students, ask them to respond to it with a quick write. Remember that a quick write is meant to be a brief initial written response to literature, no more than five to six minutes in length. Students may need assistance with initial responses, so you may offer a question or topic for them to consider. Once students are more experienced with quick writes, they will be able to get started on their own.

You may use the students' quick write responses as a discussion starter for class. Remind students that they can respond in a variety of ways, including short phrases, lists, or webs. Model the quick write process for your students before this activity. Utilize the activity sheet Sample Quick Write Response "Let America Be American Again Teacher Resource" as you plan for this activity. (See the Appendix in the Support Materials.)

Sticky Notes
One strategy for preparing students for class discussion is to use sticky notes. The next time you assign a segment of reading for homework, ask students to use three sticky notes to record three unique initial impressions, questions, and interpretations of what they read. Students should post the notes next to the passage that sparked their response or question. Utilize the students' sticky notes the next day in class as the cornerstones of class literature discussion. Model this strategy before assigning the activity.

Insert Method
The "insert method" is a strategy for responding to literature that prepares students for discussion. Here, readers use symbols to represent reactions to passages of text throughout a reading. For instance, if a reader is surprised by new information in a passage, they may mark or insert an exclamation point in the margin near the passage or use a sticky note with an exclamation point. These symbols serve as reminders of the reader's initial response to the text. You may provide a bookmark with symbols and their meanings for students' first experience with this activity.

Demonstrate the "insert method" and practice this strategy in class before asking students to try it on their own. Once students are comfortable with this approach to responding to literature, invite them to create their own symbols or expand the ones you have provided in class. Utilize the Insert Method Bookmarks Teacher Resource to get your students started. (See the Appendix in the Support Materials.)

Teacher as a Reflective Practitioner
Videotape a discussion of literature in your own classroom. Analyze the discussion. Write your response in your workshop journal. Consider the following in your analysis:

  • What about the discussion was successful?
  • What parts of the discussion need improvement?
  • Did the discussion flow through you as the facilitator or did students converse with one another? Think about how this occurred and why.
  • How was the class physically structured? Whole groups or small groups? How did that structure contribute to the success of the discussion?
  • Were all students actively involved in the dialogue? Did some students involve themselves by listening alone?
  • How were students prepared for the discussion and how did that contribute to the overall success of the discussion?
  • How did you prepare for the discussion? What would you do differently next time?

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