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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Envisioning


About This Video Clip

Featured Texts

Classroom Snapshot

Classroom Lesson Plan

Professional Reflection

Teacher Tools
Additional Resources


Classroom Snapshot

School: The Odyssey School
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
No. of Students in School: 125
Teacher: Barry Hoonan
No. of Years Teaching: 19
Grade: 5th and 6th grade cluster
Subject: Language Arts
No. of Students in the Classroom: 31

The Odyssey School is an alternative public school on Bainbridge Island, eight miles from Seattle by ferry. It is one of four elementary schools serving this community of 20,000. When it opened five years ago, it had 75 students in grades one through six, organized into multi-grade groupings known as clusters. This year, the school grew to 125 students with the addition of a 7/8 cluster. Class size at Odyssey is on a par with that at other island elementaries. Students are looped, staying with the same instructor for two years. Although approximately 80 percent of parents commute to Seattle, the school represents a wide range of incomes and includes artisans and local farmers as well as stockbrokers and lawyers. Families must agree to volunteer between five and 10 hours a month at the school before they may enroll their child. With twice as many applications as available spots, the school has a lengthy waiting list and is currently evaluating whether it needs to undertake further expansion — and if so, how to achieve that growth while maintaining the current sense of community.

students in the classroomOdyssey is located in a spacious old elementary library building and is designed to have the nurturing feel of a one-room schoolhouse. Students call teachers by their first names. The elementary grades spend part of each morning together, and they share computers and other resources as needed. Each elementary cluster has one teacher who is responsible for all instruction. Within such a small environment, parents are a vital resource, sharing their skills and expertise in the classroom. For instance, since Barry Hoonan's expertise lies primarily in language arts, he recruits family members who are strong in math and science to help teach advanced concepts to his cluster. Teachers of grades one to six coordinate a three-year cycle of instruction together. Although the state mandates that children must know certain concepts by certain grade levels, it has been supportive of Odyssey's alternative approach to education.

Like all public school students in Washington, children at Odyssey must take the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) in grades 4, 7, and 10. But for Mr. Hoonan, assessment is far more than a measure of what students have accomplished; it is also a tool to help them grow. Mr. Hoonan keeps a daily journal on the progress of individual students and targets five or six students a day for individual assistance. He has children maintain a portfolio of their work, and actively involves them in establishing the criteria on which they will be evaluated. In addition, he asks parents to conduct formal interviews with their children at various points in the year, using a sheet of questions designed to show students the progression of their thinking over time.

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