Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Learning Challenges

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Scenario 6: Book Club


book club

Teacher:   Kathleen Hayes-Parvin

School:      Birney Middle School Southfield, Michigan

Grade:        sixth grade language arts/social studies

Video:         Episode 9, Thinking About Thinking. Segment begins approximately 18 minutes into the program.

Primary Learning Objectives

By participating in the learning activities, students should be able to:

  • create a writer's notebook
  • use resources such as magazines, books, reference materials, and Internet sites to research a topic
  • analyze and discuss their own writings and writings of others, identifying main characters and ideas, points of view, and possible intended audiences
  • identify and discuss specific things that help or hurt their own ability to learn new facts, concepts, and skills


Students created writer's notebooks with collections of thoughts, clippings and pictures about a subject they were interested in. The students were assigned to groups and did outside reading before sharing their work and discussing their interests. They wrote essays about their topics, documented their process in journals and presented their work to a group of student teachers.

Learning Theories to Consider

  • Motivation
  • Learning and Transfer
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • The Structure of the Disciplines


Kathleen Hayes-Parvin assigns sixth grade students to work on multiple tasks in collaborative groups to reflect, write, receive, and give feedback to each other in a teaching and learning environment. Students transfer prior knowledge to new learning by making connections through a format Hayes-Parvin describes as reading and writing from "text to text, text to self, and text to the world." As an example, she provides connections to new learning by assigning students the task of reflecting on the "good" teachers they have experienced in the past and to discuss in their groups what makes the teachers so good. An exciting conclusion for this assignment is that the students share their thoughts and writings on "good" teachers with a second audience of preservice teachers from the University of Michigan. In another assignment she invites students to read a poem written in a particular style before asking them to write their own poem in similar style. In a culminating assignment students write in journals about personal experiences and discuss their writing with each other for feedback.

Although presenting to university teachers in an interactive video- conference is very exciting and motivational, Kathleen Hayes-Parvin demonstrates that the theory of Motivation requires much more. She creates interest by assigning her students the task of writing about their personal experiences. When students share their thoughts and writing with each other in an affirming environment, their self-confidence is enhanced and they feel a sense of accomplishment, and are therefore more motivated to learn.

The video conference also combines many familiar student activities in new ways. As students prepare their presentations they are experiencing Learning and Transfer – applying what they have learned in new situations.

In the classroom and in assigned groups Kathleen Hayes-Parvin creates opportunities for students to excel in multiple ways. Her understanding of Multiple Intelligences is modeled by the creative assignments she gives her students. Each assignment allows students to demonstrate their strengths. For example some students excel in linguistic Intelligence, communicating their ideas wonderfully well, while others excel in interpersonal Intelligence, thriving in small group experiences where they notice and react to the moods of their friends.

Hayes-Parvin has organized her students' writing tasks so they model the ways the professional writers work, and are evaluated by the kind of criteria that writers would use. By following the Structure of the Discipline of writing, Hayes-Parvin is focusing on the most important skills and knowledge her students should learn and apply.

Sequenced Writing Assignments:

  1. Make a list of up to five key ideas from each of the four learning theories presented: motivation, learning and transfer, multiple intelligences and the structure of the disciplines. Next, try to identify a way the teacher applied each of those key ideas as she planned and executed his learning activities. For example, under "motivation," you might list, "learning activities are authentic tasks – teacher organized a presentation by class members to college students, and that gave students a tangible purpose to their projects."

    You may find it useful to put your list in the form of a table. We have provided templates in either Word or PDF format if you choose to do this.

    You may find that some key ideas from the learning theories are not represented in the scenario. For now, leave a blank space under them. You will also find that you are repeating some of the things the teacher did because they are applications of key ideas from more than one learning theory.
  1. Review your list of key ideas and fill in the blanks from Assignment A by suggesting things the teacher could do to apply the key ideas you listed but did NOT see represented already. Suggest other practical things the teacher could do to incorporate key learning theory ideas into her classroom activities.

  1. Reflect on the completed table and record your reflections about how the theories intersect or interact. How might your own teaching practices take advantage of what you see happening in this scenario?

  1. As an alternative to these tasks, follow the directions of your group facilitator or the teacher of your class to write about this scenario and how one or more learning theories might apply to it. Or decide as a group how you might use it as a case for further study and discussion.

Samples and tools to help you with the scenario assignments

  • Sample rubrics in html or PDF format to assess your writings
  • Writing sample for Scenario Four, Assignments A and B, (in PDF format) to use as a model
  • Templates in Word or PDF format for the assignments

Return to the Support Materials for Session 10.

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