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


Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading

Key Points

  • Teachers select literary texts for use in their classrooms based on many criteria. The teachers in this workshop video ask themselves the following questions as they consider literature for their classrooms:
    • Is the plot engaging for students? Can the students make sense of the conflicts and characters presented?
    • Are the characters engaging, imaginable, and adequately developed to understand them?
    • Will the text make students think about their own lives, the world in which they live, and their roles in it, or about things they might become interested in?
    • Does the text have literary merit? Will it be gripping, memorable, or connect to something else students will read?
    • Can the students see themselves in the literature?
    • Do the texts represent a variety of cultures and genders in an authentic way?
    • Do the texts expose students to ways of life they may not know from personal experience?
    • Does the body of literature appeal to a range of reading abilities?
    • Does the body of literature introduce both contemporary and classical works?
    • Does the body of literature include a variety of genres?
    • Does the literature present many layers of meaning?
  • It is important to give students the opportunity to select texts for themselves and to help them learn how to choose.
  • Middle school students enjoy reading literature that features characters their own age, coping with adolescent conflicts. This includes some classics and many contemporary, young adult selections.
  • Teachers need to be aware of what their students are reading, both for literary merit and for appropriateness for the classroom and school community.
  • Many classical literature selections are appropriate for middle school students and can be paired with contemporary works.
  • Teachers should encourage students to select a range of literature, including texts that are easy reads, ones that are just right for them, and ones that challenge them.
  • Reading books aloud in the classroom is a powerful tool. Reading aloud helps teachers reach a broad range of reading abilities and turn kids on to books they may not have explored on their own.
  • Literature that is appropriate for reading aloud includes texts with compelling stories, interesting language, and adolescent characters.
  • Teachers have a responsibility to help students find themselves in literature. Students should be able to find themselves in gender, culture, and in the characters' lives and dilemmas.
  • Teachers can learn about great literature that appeals to their students through the National Council of Teachers of English English Journal and Voices from the Middle, colleagues, professional conferences, and students in their classrooms.

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