Extension: Classroom Connection
Try these activities with your students.
Select a poem or short story that you have never read before.
Tell your students that this is your first reading of the
text. Together you can discuss the meaning of the literature
and explore its possibilities. Students will see you as a
member of the classroom community, taking risks and examining
a piece of literature for the first time.
Ask students to correspond with another student about the
book they are currently reading. This can be a book that students
are reading independently or it may be a book they are examining
as a class or as a small book group. Offer suggested topics
for the students to write about in their letters. Distribute
the activity sheet Book Buddies: Letter Writing Topic Suggestions.
(See the Appendix in the Support Materials.)
Responding Through Art
Select literature rich in description or imagery. Consider
novels like The Giver by Lois Lowry, Maniac Magee
by Jerry Spinelli, or Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
Also, the poetry of Robert Frost, or short stories by Edgar
Allan Poe or Ray Bradbury would be appropriate. You may choose
to focus on literary concepts like color imagery in a poem
or a setting description, or characterization in a short story
or novel. Ask students to sketch an artistic representation
of the literary concept related to the text. Provide students
with large art paper, colored pencils, pastels, or markers
to enhance their drawings. Ask students to write a paragraph
explaining their artistic response to the literature and how
the work represents their reactions to the text. Display the
artwork and offer students time to share their drawings.
Use your experience from the Going Further portion of this
workshop experience to guide you in implementing this activity.
Responding Through Music
- Select a poem rich in sound, rhythm, or rhyme, for instance
poems like "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe, "Harlem
Sweeties" by Langston Hughes, or "March for a
One-Man Band" by David Wagoner. Play with the different
sounds in the poem by creating a "choral round"
reading of the poem with different groups of students focusing
on selected phrases, words, sounds, or lines. Consider inviting
students to make up an additional verse that imitates the
poet. As an extension to this activity, invite the music
teacher to collaborate with your class. Either through vocal
sounds or hand-held percussion instruments, enhance the
poetic reading. Conduct a discussion after the musical reading,
asking students to explain how their experience added to
their understanding of the poem.
- Ask students to select a song that reminds them of the
literature you are currently studying. Ask student volunteers
to bring in these selections of music for class listening.
Listen to the music selections and discuss how they might
represent the literature. Model this activity with a poem
and a music selection of your own. Be certain to explain
your expectations for music selections and what you consider
to be appropriate for your classroom.
- Expose students to music that represents the time period
or setting in the literature you are reading. For example,
if you were studying the poet Langston Hughes, jazz music
from the Harlem Renaissance would be appropriate.
The Melanie Strategy
In the workshop video, Barry Hoonan describes a naming strategy
he uses called "the Melanie strategy." This is his
way of giving a student name to an observation technique.
He observes students' discussions and towards the end of the
conversation, he highlights what he thought was really powerful.
This could be his observations of small-group discussions
as he moves around the classroom, or it could be from a whole-class
discussion. If a student demonstrates a particular approach
to examining meaning in a piece of literature, he defines
what the student has done for the class and then gives that
strategy the student's name. For instance, if a student, Melanie,
relates the literature to a personal experience, he may define
what the student did, compliment the student, and tell the
class this is the "Melanie Strategy." Not only does
this help students think about the literature discussion and
how they can contribute, but it also celebrates student participation,
multiple perspectives, and risk-taking.
The next time your students participate in a literature discussion,
observe the dialogue and noteworthy student contributions.
Debrief the students at the end of the conversation, highlight
powerful student insights, and "name" their responses.
Teacher as a Reflective Practitioner
Take time to reflect on class meeting time.
Classroom Cruising and Discussion Debriefing:
The next time your students participate in a small-group literature
discussion, prepare to monitor the groups with a clipboard
or a spiral notepad.
Create sections on a piece of paper for each group and label
each group's section.
Circulate throughout the classroom as students participate
in the literature discussion. Listen for key points, questions,
debates, and connections students make to the text. Jot down
points of discussion and students' names. You may only have
an opportunity to observe a few of the groups. Also jot down
additional questions for the students to consider based on
the discussions you observed.
Set aside the last 10-15 minutes of class for a discussion
debriefing. When debriefing the students, highlight powerful
student contributions and raise additional questions for students
to consider. Ask students what they gained from participating
in their discussions and what questions they would still like
Plan on providing students with additional discussion time
at the next class meeting to revisit questions and areas they
would still like to examine.
During planning time, review the notes you made from the class
literature discussion. What areas of the literature did the
students examine? What additional issues would you like students
to explore? At what points in the discussions could you have
interjected ideas or questions to push the conversations along?
What literary elements did students touch upon and which ones
can you help bring to the forefront of the students' next