Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Individual Workshop Descriptions

1. Introducing our Literary Community
2. Encouraging Discussion
3. Going Further in Discussion
4. Diversity in Texts
5. Student Diversity
6. Literature, Art, and Other Disciplines
7. Assessment
8. Planning and Professional Development
9. Starting in September...




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Student Diversity


Introduction

Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading


Key Points

  • Diversity means more than just ethnic and cultural differences. It encompasses a wide range of characteristics, including (among others) gender, linguistic background, socio-economic situation, family life, religion, interests, physical or emotional challenges, skills and abilities, and life experiences.
  • Even the most homogenous-appearing group of students reflects wide diversity.
  • Diversity is an important contributing factor in the envisionment-building classroom.
  • Instruction designed to allow learners to draw on their own circumstances when interacting with texts provides the group with a rich array of personal and unique perspectives.
  • For teachers, the diversity present in all classrooms provides both challenges and exciting opportunities for instruction.
  • Multiple perspectives in response to a text generate multiple interpretations. In turn, multiple interpretations generate deeper and more thoughtful responses than occur when each student reads in the isolation of his or her own circumstance.
  • Envisionment-building teachers make sure students know their unique perspectives are appreciated. Additionally, they may plan activities to foreground or enhance those perspectives in order to enrich discussion and broaden understandings.
  • Envisionment-building teachers encourage students to share their various interpretations, explore them, and use them to enrich one another's interpretations of a text. In this way, when students recognize and understand the different viewpoints presented by their classmates, they learn from one another.
  • Readers rely on their individual backgrounds as they make meaning from texts. As they share their meanings with others, their initial understandings can be enhanced or reinterpreted.
  • Recognizing and exploring multiple perspectives leads students to challenge their existing beliefs and broaden their world views.
  • Because it presents a vast array of human experiences, literature provides an excellent avenue for exploring human diversity, particularly in communities with somewhat homogenous backgrounds.
  • Diverse texts and students' responses to them can help students discover commonalties between themselves and others who, superficially, may appear very different.
  • Because of differing life experiences, everybody has opportunities to connect with texts in different ways. As a result, students working in mixed-ability groups hear many ideas that help them develop their own thinking.
  • Inclusion classrooms present teachers with particular challenges as they seek to meet the intellectual, emotional, and physical needs of each student while promoting deeper understandings for every student.
  • Many teachers use reading aloud to help all readers understand ways in which texts might be read while enabling them to participate fully in literature discussions.
  • Buddy reading, or peer tutoring where two or three students of varying abilities work together, is another tool to blend students into a single community of learners.
  • Conversation around a text that includes all students develops a classroom into a community.
  • Readers' theater (story theater) is another strategy for supporting struggling readers and enabling their participation in the conversation.
  • Reading aloud can help students develop their comprehension.
  • Tag reading (also known as jump-in reading, or popcorn reading), allowing students to choose how to share the reading task and when to stop, is a useful way to have students read.
  • Envisionment-building classrooms offer learning experiences that are broad enough and thought-provoking enough so that every student can participate and have their own thinking pushed beyond where it was when they came to class.
  • Modifying texts for weaker readers is rarely an effective strategy.
  • Inclusion classrooms with students with special needs benefit from additional personnel to offer needed support.

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