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 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

"Literary reactions in a whole-group setting are important because students get a chance to gauge the opinions of their peers. They get to see how their thinking rates with everyone else. It also puts them in a position where sometimes they have to defend what they're thinking."
Dorothy Franklin, Teacher
DeWitt Clinton Elementary School
Chicago, Illinois

Students in Dorothy Franklin's urban Chicago classroom participate in a quarter-long study of Black History, spanning slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and modern events. In order to meet the needs of the diverse student population, including newly proficient ESOL students, special education students, and students reading at or above grade level, Ms. Franklin uses a variety of instructional approaches, including independent reading of books and small book group and whole-class seminar discussions.

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a student listeningIn this lesson, students participate in the second part of a seminar discussion focusing on the short story "Passing" by Langston Hughes. In part one of the seminar, students discussed the short story "Guests in the Promised Land" by Kristin Hunter. This lesson preceded the one you will see in this video clip. Both stories deal with Black oppression and lend themselves to a natural pairing. In preparation for discussion, students independently respond to questions in writing before the seminar, so that they can thoughtfully offer their opinions and provide supporting evidence. Ms. Franklin encourages students to express their unique perspectives, to respectfully disagree with her and classmates, and to explore possibilities that they may have not considered on their own. In response to the seminar experience, students are asked to compare and contrast the actions and motives of the protagonists in the two stories. Ms. Franklin hopes to provide students with an opportunity to examine how two different Black characters responded to their circumstances of oppression. The students in the seminar model many of the hallmarks of a classroom community focused on literature: their ideas are at the center of the classroom; questions are viewed as central to the literary experience; it is assumed by both the teacher and the students that they will build on the understandings they came to class with; it is assumed that multiple interpretations are both expected and helpful.

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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