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


Key Points

  • The first days and weeks of school set the stage for what is to come.
    • During this time, teachers help students learn to become a literary community.
    • This is when teachers can help students learn to feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas.
    • This is when teachers begin to develop an atmosphere that enables the high level of student involvement that is a hallmark of an envisionment building classroom.
  • Many teachers begin with experiences that help them get to know their students, their strengths, interests, and needs.
  • Other teachers help students get to know one another and get comfortable with one another.
  • Some teachers use the early days of class to help students understand what will be important and what they will be doing throughout the year.
  • A teacher's knowledge of the students helps avoid difficulties in the formation of literature groups.
  • Choosing a particularly memorable activity for the first day establishes an impression strong enough to last throughout the school year.
  • Establishing rules, routines, and expectations during the first few days gives students a sense of security.
  • Students need to trust that their opinions can be voiced safely.
  • Teachers can ask students to discuss what they know about the class from previous students and to look around the room, interpret what they see, and make predictions about what the class will be like.
  • Teachers use a variety of strategies for introducing students to novels and the literature discussion strategies they will use when they read throughout the year.
    • Many use shared texts, often ones they read aloud, to begin teaching students envisionment-building strategies.
    • Some choose a new publication that they have not read, and read it aloud to the class.
    • Some read a series of teasers from a number of books as a way to help students decide which they would like to read.
    • Some direct a class discussion that explicitly explores the qualities of discussion and conversation valued in the envisionment-building classroom.
    • Some use discussions about movies or television programs to foreground the kinds of analysis and discussion they expect students to bring to their reading of literature.
    • Some have students share journal entries based on literature that has been read aloud to introduce discussion strategies.
  • Envisionment-building teachers help students ask some of the following questions as they experience literary texts: "What did you notice?" "What did you see?" "What surprises you?" "What are your questions?" "What seems significant to you?"
  • Envisionment-building teachers help students explore possibilities. They ask questions and suggest ideas that help students think about other perspectives, motives, or outcomes.
  • Envisionment-building teachers also help students learn to agree and disagree with each other, to refer to and build on what others have already said, and to introduce new ideas for the group to consider.
  • Envisionment-building teachers know it takes time and direct instruction for students to learn to converse confidently and independently about their reading.
  • By the end of the first few weeks of class, students should be able to articulate what is valued in the classroom as well as some of the ways the class will go about enacting those values.

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