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 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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Professional Reflection

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Classroom Snapshot

School: Fondren Middle School
Location: Houston, Texas
No. of Students in School: 1,000
Teacher: Joe Bernhart
No. of Years Teaching: 6
Grade: 7th
Subject: Language arts
No. of Students in the Classroom: 32

Fondren Middle School in Houston, Texas, is an urban magnet school for math and science. Tracking divides students into a magnet (or honors) program, a pre-AP program, and a general program. While most students in the general track can walk to school, many magnet and pre-AP children are bused from outside the immediate area. The majority of children are either African American (60 to 65 percent) or Latino (20 to 30 percent), with a range of other ethnicities, including Asian, accounting for the rest of the student body. The school has only a small percentage of Anglo students. Although Fondren's enrollment has decreased in the last few years, it stands at more than 1,000 students, packed into a building designed for 800. All the lockers have been bolted shut, and the school uses portable T buildings to house some classes.

students in the classroomClass size ranges from 30 to 35 students, creating a challenge for teachers like Joe Bernhart who employ collaborative learning strategies in their classrooms. Nevertheless, the set-up of Mr. Bernhart's room emphasizes the importance of students working together. Depending on the activity, students sit either at pairs of desks facing each other or in groups of four to five desks pushed together. Because the school uses 90-minute periods on an A/B schedule, Mr. Bernhart has ample time for student-centered activities. He draws on a mix of informal and authentic assessments to gauge children's progress. Students can demonstrate mastery through such alternatives as skits, talk shows, scrapbooks, acrostics, and movie recommendations to a character.

The district mandates certain skills that teachers must cover, but does not require the use of particular texts, leaving teachers free to select the books they will use in their classrooms. With his seventh-grade magnet and pre-AP students, Mr. Bernhart tries to introduce engaging young adult literature, often with a Latino or African American protagonist. Although students must pass the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), Mr. Bernhart does not teach directly to the test, believing that he addresses the necessary skills through his regular curriculum.

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