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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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Envisioning


About This Video Clip

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Classroom Snapshot

Classroom Lesson Plan

Professional Reflection

Teacher Tools
Additional Resources


About This Video Clip

"…My goals are to have them have meaningful interactions with texts, to have meaningful interactions with literature, to frame literature the same way they might frame talking about…something as common as…wrestling or a TV show."
Joe Bernhart, Teacher
Fondren Middle School
Houston, Texas

Students in Joe Bernhart's classroom explore literature in book groups, each one selecting a novel to read from a set of 10 choices. Students often receive their first or second choices.

View this video==>

Mr. Bernhart teachingIn this lesson, students are at various stages in the book group process that Mr. Bernhart has structured for the class. This process begins with teacher-directed mini-lessons about literary concepts. In this case, Mr. Bernhart introduces foreshadowing as hints in a text that help readers predict what might happen next in the plot. Students are then asked to apply this concept to their individual books. Students read aloud their books during class time, working through the books together. This allows students to discuss the books as they experience the literature, constantly reshaping their initial interpretations of the works, as well as apply new concepts. Students set new daily and weekly reading goals and consult with the teacher about their progress, questions, and accomplishments. Each group appoints a leader and recorder for group discussion. The students' OWL logs — or discussion guides that focus on their observations, wonderings, and links to real life — serve as a guide for rich dialogue about the literature. Students select from a wide range of creative book projects to demonstrate their understanding of their books' plots, characters, themes, and literary concepts. Students are assessed through their OWL logs, as well as their book project presentations to the entire class.

The role of the teacher in all phases of these literary activities is that of facilitator, knowledgeable reader, monitor, and coach. The teacher also utilizes mini-lessons to provide brief segments of whole-class, direct instruction on a variety of literary concepts. Students are then expected to apply new learning to the novels they are reading in their groups and later in culminating projects and performance assessments.

Students in Joe Bernhart's classroom are empowered to make their own reading choices, monitor their own reading progress, and take ownership over their own learning. Students are expected to challenge one another, ask questions, take risks, and think about what the literature means to them. Students are invited to open their minds to multiple perspectives, as they consider their peers' interpretations and a variety of other vantage points.

Through all of these rich literature experiences, students hone their critical literacy skills, construct deep understandings, make connections to their own lives and the world around them, and participate in meaningful conversations about literature with their peers and the teacher.

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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