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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

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Professional Reflection

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About This Video Clip

"Literature comes alive when kids have a chance to interpret and to interact. It allows kids to not only see themselves as active readers, but as people who can make meaning."
Barry Hoonan
The Odyssey School
Bainbridge Island, Washington

Barry Hoonan believes teaching is much like poetry. It is crafted, it is magical, and it is powerful when shared. As an act of creation, teaching illuminates the tiny details of living and learning. Entering literature discussion groups as a teacher, Mr. Hoonan sees himself as an improvisational artist, listening and responding to student comments and questions. He is on the spot and ready to take the disparate pieces and help students put them together. Moving in and out of group discussions, his ultimate goal is to help students become independent thinkers and learners.

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Trust in students and in their abilities as readers and thinkers is central to Barry Hoonan's teaching. Understanding that students come to his classroom with a great deal of knowledge and information, his approach to literature begins by taking his cue from the students. Although he makes suggestions and adds information to a discussion when necessary, he prefers to have student voices and understandings predominate.

students working in a groupEach literature group has a facilitator, entrusted with keeping things moving, making sure everyone has a voice, and getting the students to develop their insights. However, Mr. Hoonan has learned that too much structure in such groups can get in the way of creative conversation that sparks ideas students may not have had before. Experience has taught him that students respond to overly structured situations by becoming stiff, asking questions and answering each carefully in turn around the circle. The literature discussions portrayed in this video display the organic, respectful, back-and-forth exchanges of authentic conversations in which ideas are offered, tested, and developed.

Mr. Hoonan believes strongly in the importance of community, especially in this multi-age classroom, and feels that literature discussion groups are an important way to foster classroom community. To accommodate a diverse range of interests, ages, and abilities, Mr. Hoonan offers students a choice of 15 titles linked to the theme, "Life's Not Fair." Students are invited to read at least two books and form discussion groups based on the reading of shared titles. In addition, the class read-aloud book Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli further enriches the theme. As a way of enriching literary readings, an important component of the literature discussions involves linking issues from the literature with the students' personal experiences.

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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