Teacher resources and professional development 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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Envisioning


Introduction

Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading


Introduction

"There is power in the written word. There is power in learners finding their own voices."
Tanya Schnabl
6th Grade Teacher, Sherburne/Earlville Middle School
Sherburne, New York

Imagine driving down the highway, faced with flashing emergency vehicle lights and slowing traffic. Immediately, you begin to develop a hunch about what is happening around you. The lights from the police cars and ambulances are clues of an accident scene ahead. Your prior experiences help you understand why the traffic is slowing down, as motorists take time to survey the accident. Emergency vehicles bustle towards the wreckage. You might recall a car accident that you experienced in the past. You are sizing up the situation. You are predicting how long it will take you to reach your destination, based on the pace of the traffic. You consider alternate routes for travel.

This process of creating an understanding is not so different from what effective readers do when they interact with literature.

Dr. Judith Langer spent over a decade examining how readers interact with texts, how they make meaning out of what they read, and the processes effective readers go through to create complex, rich understandings of literature. Her carefully researched observations are described in a process she refers to as building envisionments. In building envisionments, readers formulate a dynamic set of thoughts about a text, including their impressions, questions, judgments, predictions, and connections to their own lives. This recursive process occurs from the moment readers pick up a text and continues beyond the reading of the literature. Readers continue to think about the text. They discuss the literature, wrestle with it, and continually grow their interpretations of it.

This first workshop program in a series of nine introduces the hallmarks of the envisionment-building process. Dr. Langer explains ways that teachers can support and encourage this process to help students become better readers and thinkers. Eight middle school language arts classroom teachers also reflect upon their own teaching of literature. These classroom teachers grapple with the authentic, everyday challenges of middle school language arts instruction. They examine demands in education, needs of their students, and their beliefs in the power of literature to shape critically literate members of society.

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For a complete guide to the workshop session activities, download and print our Support Materials.

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