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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About This Video Clip

Featured Texts

Classroom Snapshot

Classroom Lesson Plan

Professional Reflection

Teacher Tools
Additional Resources

Classroom Snapshot

School: Picacho Middle School
Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
No. of Students in School: 907
Teacher: Flora Tyler
No. of Years Teaching: 21
Grade: 6th
Subject: Language Arts
No. of Students in the Classroom: 20

Picacho Middle School in Las Cruces, New Mexico is founded on the principles of collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. Students in grades six through eight work with cross-curricular, thematic units that have bearing on children's daily lives and decisions. The school hopes to help students learn to make smart choices based on facts, not myths and misperceptions. Classes are also designed to help students feel good about themselves through a sixth-grade team emphasis on multiple intelligences. As proof that this philosophy works, the school touts its high daily attendance and active programs in music, art, athletics, and community service.

students in the classroomThe student body is predominantly Hispanic, with smaller populations of Anglo, African American, Native American, and Asian students. While some children come from affluent households, many are from migrant families or live in shelters and other temporary housing. Language barriers and a lack of staff to conduct home visits complicate the process of contacting parents. Although a few schools in the area have begun dual prep programs where all students are taught in two languages, Picacho continues to use an ESL approach in which students are mainstreamed with help. As required by the state, all sixth-graders take the New Mexico Writing Assessment, in which students have three hours to respond to a writing prompt. The state also mandates that students in grades six through eight take the TerraNova, which helps determine what rating a school receives.

Class size at Picacho ranges from 23 to 25 in 85-minute blocks. Teachers at each grade level are divided into two teams, each responsible for 120 to 150 children. They have one 45-minute common planning period. In Flora Tyler's sixth-grade team, teachers collaborate to sketch out the highlights and themes for the year's curriculum, including at least two weeklong interdisciplinary units per semester. The team's emphasis is on challenging all students through individualized expectations and support. Ms. Tyler also works with the second language arts teacher to plan common objectives for each quarter, although their classes usually take different routes to arrive at these goals. Ms. Tyler's classroom is a celebration of different learning styles. She frequently uses music, art, and imagery to set a mood or make a point — for instance, reinforcing the meaning of punctuation by having students click, clap, and snap the different rhythms each mark produces. Students are required to incorporate multiple ways of knowing into any presentation, and may ask their classmates for their help and expertise in completing a project. Ms. Tyler's goal is to instill a sense of self-worth in each of her students by helping them to discover and develop their areas of strength.

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