This is our daily warm up, wherein students work with two or three Latin roots per day. The resource that I use to get my roots is Perfection Learning's Everyday Words from Classic Origins.
Every day, when the students arrive, I have two Latin roots on the SmartBoard. Their job is to generate as many words as they can that contain the roots, and they try to guess what the root means. After I give them about five minutes, we share words and I tell them what the root means.
The students compile these daily activities in their class journals. After every twelve roots, they take a test on the roots themselves and a set of words that contains them.
The impetus for designing this lesson was the fact that students always say that they "never" get to talk about the things in books that interest them. So, when the students came in, I distributed an index card to each student and told them to address the following question:
What do YOU want to talk about? Write one GOOD text-dependent question on the index card provided and submit it. I will choose a selection of questions for our inner-circle, outer-circle activity.
You will notice that I indicated that the question had to be text dependent. While English teachers have been asking for text support forever, the CCSS really turns the focus away from the type of reader-response/connect to your life questions and shifts to an even stronger focus on text analysis and finding evidence in the text.
The purpose of Inner Circle-Outer Circle (IC-OC) is for students to have small group conversations that are observed by other students. Both the participant and observer learns from the experience, and it is done in front of the class under very specific and controlled conditions, so it can be used for assessment (though I didn't not use it that way this time.)
Once the IC-OC groups are established (see video for diagram of the classroom,) the first group reads out their question and is given a set amount of time to discuss it. The observers watch and award points (as do I.) This can be done in many ways. I feel the easiest thing to do is to give a + for a good point; a checkmark for a decent point or for a student who asks another student a question or does something to facilitate the conversation; and a minus for a silly comment, repeating what someone else just said (not listening to others) or for inaccurate statements.
At the end of each session, I ask the outer circle (observers) to tell me who did really well and to tell me, specifically, what the person did well. That allows the engaged students to get a little praise while giving the other students pointers on how to contribute effectively.
I absolutely love this activity, because it forces kids to talk in front of the class but gives the group as a safety net. It also reinforces conversation and social skills and trains students how to support each other. In the first few rounds of IC-OC, it is necessary to remind students to talk to each other, not to address comments to the teacher. But, eventually, they become so adept that they forget the teacher is even there.
The other nice thing about it is that the students reward and praise each other, and they evaluate themselves and each other in much the same way I do. It takes the emphasis off "giving" grades and puts it on fair evaluation, which -- often -- can be done by the students themselves.
At the conclusion of the IC-OC activity, I like to give students the opportunity to answer this question:
Are there any smart things that you wish you had said during the discussion? If so, write them down and turn them in.
It's probably obvious that this wrap up is a lifeline for the painfully shy and tongue-tied. If I am using the activity for an assessment, it allows me to give points to a student who sat up in front of the class but was too shy to say anything. I feel it is best for everyone if I can measure their knowledge and learning, even if they can't demonstrate it in the particular performance task.