Extension: Classroom Connection
Try these activities with your students.
Take time to get to know your students as members of the classroom
community. Survey your students for their interests, experiences,
background knowledge, family heritage and traditions, and
reading habits. Use the online Student Survey as a guide.
(See the Appendix in the Support Materials.) Use this information to enlighten your understanding
of the multiple perspectives they bring to the classroom and
how you can capitalize on those assets to enhance students'
understandings of the author's or other readers' perspectives.
As an alternative to this survey, ask students to create
a collage that represents their personal life experiences,
interests, reading habits, and anything that is significant
in their lives. Ask students to write a companion paragraph
explaining key elements of the collage. Invite students to
share these collages in small groups. Then, discuss ways in
which their experiences help shape their understandings of
what they read and how these might compare with others. Here,
both overlap and difference are important to discuss.
One way to ensure dynamic literary dialogue in your classroom
is to ask students to generate discussion with their own questions.
Students need opportunities to think about how to craft thought-provoking
questions in relation to literature they are currently reading.
Assign a short story for your students to read either in
class or at home. Selections like Shirley Jackson's "Charles,"
Toni Cade Bambara's "Raymond's Run," or Langston
Hughes's "Thank You M'am" are appropriate short
stories that will engage your students. Then, in collaboration
with your students, brainstorm a list of characteristics of
thought-provoking questions. Ask students to consider what
makes a good question. Narrow the list down to two or three
key qualities. As a homework assignment, ask students to use
these qualities to generate three questions for the next day's
whole-class literature discussion about the short story.
When students return to class the next day with their questions,
take time to discuss and evaluate the questions they created.
As a way of doing so, ask students to write out each question
on a separate strip of paper or on an index card. Shuffle
the cards and distribute a set of questions to groups of four
to five students each. Ask students to evaluate the quality
of the questions in terms of their ability to stimulate thinking
and discussion about the text. If questions need revising,
ask students to do so in the groups. Students may rewrite
the questions on the same strips of paper or index cards as
the original questions are written. Circulate from group to
group, helping students with their revisions.
When students are ready, begin the whole-class discussion
by inviting different groups to pose questions from the index
cards or strips of paper. This encourages participation from
all students and it invites them to take ownership of the
After the literature discussion, invite students to share
what they learned from the question writing experience. Ask
them what they think they gained from the literature discussion
that they would not have if they didn't pose their own questions.
Coat of Arms: All About Me
Cut out shields or use the student activity sheet Coat of
Arms. (See the Appendix in the Support Materials.) Ask students to draw, write
information, or cut out pictures from magazines to create
a coat of arms that represents who they are as a person. Invite
students to orally present their coat of arms in small groups,
so that students in your classroom community get to know one
another. As you circulate throughout the classroom when students
share their Coat of Arms, help students to recognize similarities
and differences among themselves in each group. Then have
the students discuss what these differing representations
might mean for how they might interpret a story or poem. This
will help you and the students in the class understand the
different life experiences and multiple perspectives that
exist in the literary community.
Teacher as a Reflective Practitioner
Start a classroom observation journal. Each time your students
participate in a literature discussion, take time to reflect
upon the discussion. You may take time after school or during
lesson planning for journaling. Think about classroom discussions
with your own students. How would you characterize them? What
elements of your classroom discussions support envisionment
building? Do students offer multiple perspectives? Do they
explain to each other why they arrived at the interpretations
they did? Do they return to the text and discuss what they
think is the author's vantage point? What is your role in
the discussions? Are students raising thought-provoking questions
relevant to the literature at-hand? How can you offer additional
support to the students as they work towards becoming active
participants in a literary community?