Romanticism Redefined with Irving & Metacognitive Reading Logs

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SWBAT apply critical reading skills to The Devil and Tom Walker through a metacognitive reading log after developing a clearer understanding of Romanticism and Transcendentalism using a graphic organizer.

Big Idea

Ever wonder WHAT your students are THINKING when they read? Use Reading Apprenticeship and a metacognitive reading log to find out!

Lesson Overview

Today we're beginning our brand new lesson on Romanticism & Transcendentalism (between 1800 & 1870).  We have made tremendous strides with thinking critically, close reading, and becoming more comfortable with some uncertainty in text.  In this unit, we will continue with our historical literature progression, applying skills more independently to texts and reteaching concepts that students have struggled with in the previous lesson.  Prior to this lesson, students were to have read some introductory material about the historical context and watch a video about the same topic, The Market Revolution: Crash Course US History #12, to develop a deeper understanding in a format more compatible with visual learners.  How a unit is introduced is critical to generating student interest and engagement throughout the unit, so my goal is to get students interested in the thinkers of this time.  Also, I learned from the last test that many students did not study, and those that did study only studied the night before the test, so I will devote some time today to activities that encourage active studying right from the beginning of a unit.


40 minutes

Though students will have taken notes prior to our class period, I will spend time going over the notes with students as well.  Having them work on this activity at home is helpful for moving the class period along and for generating class participation in discussion, but I have found in past years that if I do not still at least review the information, students will not spend an appropriate amount of time considering the material at a deeper level.  This time also allows students to practice the speaking and listening skills of the Common Core by preparing for discussions, responding to their peers to defend their answers, and going back to the text to find "best" answers in cases where there may be a discrepancy among students.

In order to review the notes, I will project the outline that I gave them the last class period.  I will not go over the years on the timeline, as these years are easily accessible to students, and there really isn't any reason there would be a discrepancy if they had used the timeline.  (In other tricky motivations, this also allows me to VERY easily see which students had the notes filled out before they came into the class, as it is extremely rare that students who came to class with an assignment that was not finished--or not started--would go back to find these dates at a later time.  I'm mostly interested in making sure that students understand the content material here, so I mainly use the information about whether or not their homework was done as a talking point with students and parents to improve learning outcomes.)  I will begin by asking students their ideas about the "Thinking Question" which begins the notes.  This question will likely open up discussion about many of the features that follow it in the notes, including an increase in diversity, more economic opportunities, and more interactions with different types of people.  Other main ideas we will discuss include:

  • How are the British Renaissance and American Renaissance different?  (Students will point out that both were periods of great change and developments, but they should also point out where the British Renaissance was a "rebirth," the American Renaissance was more of a "birth."  Ultimately, the prefix "re-" is of huge importance here, which makes it an ideal time to chat about prefixes!)
  • Why do railroads, canals, steamboats, and turnpikes cause more national pride and self awareness?  They seem like they would be pretty unrelated.  What did you make of that?  (Students will point out that as the United States expands and citizens get farther away from one another, a greater pride might develop out of being little "pockets" of America or being part of something larger.  They will also point out that as the nation expands, we have more commerce, money, and business opportunities that, just as today, make people proud to be part of the "American dream."  Another possibility may be mentioned, which is as America grows, we just get cockier as Americans that we are getting more attention from outside countries.  Any student answers are acceptable as long as they use logic and examples to support their assertions.)
  • Do you think that if the United States doubled in size again in the next 50 years, which I suppose would require taking over Canada or Mexico, national pride and self awareness would increase again?  (Students will adamantly disagree that this scenario would be anything like the scenario in the 1800's, since Canada is already established and populated, where the West was not.  However, with more discussion, they will soon come around to the idea that the West was indeed populated with Native Americans.  This will allow me to prompt students in further discussion about why it was a different feeling with pushing Native Americans out of their country and what effect this ultimately has on American culture.)
  • So Jackson gets the reputation of being all about democracy, but why is that a somewhat glamorized version of the truth?  How did he further democracy?  (Students will point out that Jackson really only furthered the democracy of white males during his tenure in office.  While any increase in democracy is important, it will be critical to make sure students understand that women, minorities, and Native Americans were still having their rights actively suppressed in both culture and law.)
  • Child labor and workplace safety issues ran rampant during this time period.  What kind of protections do you have now as workers?  Why didn't they have that then?  (Students will point out rights such as minimum wage, hourly caps, insurance, non-hazardous workplaces, etc.  They will also explain that since large-scale commerce and factories really didn't exist before this time, so there were no regulations yet.  Cultural progress had outpaced the laws.)
  • Can you think of somewhere else in the modern world where progress has outpaced our legal system?  (Students will typically bring up technology almost immediately, which can prompt a substantial discussion about things like free speech on the Internet, cell phone laws, fraud on the internet or in television advertisements, or even sexting and the Sex Offenders Registry.  I treat this as a time to address digital citizenship, and I will point out that use of things like technology must always be used with caution and the understanding that anything put out there may be the subject of later scrutiny.)
  • Why is it not surprising that political activists would use lectures, essays, and speeches to communicate their messages?
  • Does it surprise you that right on the heels of the great political literature we studied in the last unit, this new "imaginative," touchy-feely, nature-loving literature comes into vogue?  (Students will point out that it's probably not surprising, since one extreme typically leads to the other extreme.  Students may best connect with this idea using really restrictive parents as an example, as many children raised in this environment go on to rebel in the coming years!)
  • It's important to note that Americans spent a lot of time in the last unit trying to be defined as "Americans," rather than "Brits."  If so much energy is spent on defining yourself as part of a collective, it does also seem only natural to want to shift the focus to answering the question, "Who am I?"  Perhaps some of you with older brothers or sisters (or even parents) that went to Rochester before you could shed some light on this phenomenon.  I was definitely in that group, since my mother taught in my school district for 34 years, my father was on the school board, and my older perfect sister was just two years ahead of me.  On top of that, my dad's 12 brothers and sisters all had about a zillion kids and remained within a 15-mile radius of my alma mater.  I have nearly 150 cousins, for crying out loud!  Being defined as part of this group comes with some troubles when you're trying to be a separate person.  Can any younger siblings add to that?  (Younger siblings will offer that being called by sibling names, entering the classroom with preconceived notions about you, or living in the shadow of another can sometimes be obnoxious.  Most will add, when prompted, that they would like to be known just for being them, not just as part of a larger group.)
  • I definitely hear that.  I have good news, though.  When you get to college, you get to define yourself!  Reinvent yourself!  Or even just plain INVENT yourself!  The feeling is definitely a liberating one.  I could definitely see that need to be an individual driving the Romantics and Transcendentalists.  Now how about the Transcendentalists?  How can they believe the truth lies outside of the senses?  How could your senses lie to you?  (Students will probably say they are insane, but bringing to mind examples of dreams, hearing your name when no one says it, or feeling a bug crawling on your leg after talking about ticks with a friend, will help students to see that the Transcendentalists are not so crazy afterall!)
  • What are some examples of dialect?  Like, if you've ever had a moment when you thought or said, "You're not from around here..." to someone, what tipped you off that they, in fact, weren't from around here?  (Students will happily participate in a dialect discussion, and they may even get heated about whether it's supposed to be called pop, soda, sodie-pop, or just a Coke.  Let them go!  Part of the Common Core Standards is recognizing language for language's sake, so let them get a taste for identifying nuances in language that will be integral to their understanding of complex texts later.)
  • Do we still see these archetypes and themes in literature and culture today?  What are some examples?


Once we are finished discussing these notes, we will move on to creating a graphic organizer in our next section!

Building Knowledge

15 minutes

As the unit progresses, students will develop a deeper understanding of Romanticism and Transcendentalism, but as I saw on the last test, they may or may not choose to study this information.  In order to proactively counter this issue, I will have students make a graphic organizer delineating the features of Romanticism and Transcendentalism.  They will be encouraged to add material to this organizer throughout the unit, but even if they do not, I know that they will have a better chance of retaining this information by making this graphic organizer, especially since my classes are predominantly visual learners.  

To make the organizer, we will use Google Drawing.  I want to incorporate both information and a visual element, so I will have students get a picture of a clip-art heart and tree.  While I walk students through doing this activity by projecting my own computer screen, I will also briefly explain how Google Drawing allows them to find images that are licensed for Creative Commons.  This information will be important for students to consider as they make more individual presentations, so addressing it now will be helpful to establishing that idea in the future.  I chose the images of a heart and a tree because I felt they would be the easiest to associate within students' memories.  Though I often try to fight students from immediately associating Romanticism with "lovely, dovey romance stuff," I exploited that association here!  We will put the characteristics of Romantic literature on the heart, and by reading the text on top of the pink heart's background, students have a better chance at associating the characteristics with the image, and thus, the genre.  The same logic applies with the tree, which ties with the Transcendentalist's connection with nature, as well as Emerson and Thoreau's texts that specifically discuss nature.  Modeling this activity in the classroom will help introduce the information about the genres to students, but it will also be an ideal time to model a strategy that could help them study for this and other tests.

During this process, I will also make sure to highlight the fact that while both groups value nature, they have much different beliefs about the function of nature in their worlds.  I will highlight this difference by setting up a scenario for students, then applying the Romantic and Transcendental schools of thought to the scenario.  I will ask students to recall a day that was really crummy.  Maybe you were running late for school, forgot your Chromebook charger on the kitchen table, dinged your door in the parking lot, and ran out of gas on the way home.  The Romantics would suggest that the walk home through the park would do you good and lift your spirits, since to them, nature is a healing force.  Transcendentalists, however, would believe that the walk through the park would reflect your sullen mood.  Perhaps birds would sound less chipper, the clouds would look more ominous, and the breeze would feel more like legitimate wind instead of a soft caress of healing.  

Once students have gotten a basic understanding of these genres down, we can start exploring our text for today!


15 minutes

With all of our focus so far on close reading, reading and vocabulary strategies, and connecting to the text, students have had a significant amount of guided and independent practice with reading critically.  Now, I want students to apply these skills to The Devil and Tom Walker in the Reading Apprenticeship fashion in the form of a metacognitive reading log.  I fell in love with these logs last year because students were required to ask questions, came to class with a whole sheet of items they could use to participate with, and began putting more thought into their actual reading processes.  Ultimately, this coincided with a tremendous jump in standardized test scores, which was another perk of this process.  Though these scores are important, the increased engagement and reading and class participation was really the motivator for bringing these logs back.  Grading was at times difficult for them, however, so this year I'm trying out a rubric based on Bridging the Literacy Achievement Gap: Grades 4-12 (2004) by Dorothy S. Strickland, Donna E. Alvermann, and Ronald F. Ferguson and WestEd's Curriculum-Embedded Reading Assessment Rubric (available at the WestEd Reading Apprenticeship Resources page).  I will go over this rubric for students before they begin working on these logs to be really explicit about my requirements, the purpose, and the types of responses that will and will not receive credit.  I know the power of these logs first-hand, but students are sometimes still resistant to using them as they are intended, which is to monitor legitimate student thought, strategy, and process.  These logs are some of the most genuine assignments I could give them, but if I do not make my expectations clear, the project will become a waste of time and energy and will not result in improved reading mastery.  Even though my students are motivated to do well in school (at least in my high-track classes), most of them will happily find the easiest route to achieve the grade they want.  These logs require genuine thought for that grade, which uses their drive to your benefit!  Students may also be uncomfortable with this style of learning, as they are required to do all of the thinking on their own, rather than being spoon-fed information or simply seeking answers within text.  Once they discover that they understand stories more easily this way, they usually become quick converts, however.  

Before reading, I want to address the Faustian bargain archetype that serves as the plot line for this story.  I will solicit some examples of movies (or other media) that share this archetype, and they will explain how it meets the criterion of the Faustian bargain and how it ended for the character that dealt with the devil.  Examples of such Faustian archetypes include: Click, The Little Mermaid, Ghost Rider, Rumpelstiltskin, etc.  Using film for comparing features like this can help students become comfortable with comparing and contrasting specific literary elements, but it also helps students to get in the habit of making connections with other works, which will eventually be a big part of what they will have to do on Common Core assessments.

In order to complete these reading logs, I will model the activity on the projector as students fill in their own copies of the reading log.  Students will popcorn read the text, and I will stop them as I hear things that I react to, connect with, or question, and then we will note the specific portion of text that prompted that idea, the page number it was on, and the reaction itself.  If you are using the digital version of The Devil and Tom Walker, students can write down the page numbers (one through nine) so that later class discussion of the story can be supplemented with specific textual evidence and support for arguments.  I will also ask students for their input as we progress with the text to incorporate their ideas onto the group sample.  I will continue in the group modeling fashion until Tom sits on the log, just before he meets with the devil.  


20 minutes

In the remaining class time, students will work individually towards completion of their reading logs.  After reading, they will also fill out the Curriculum-Embedded Reading Assessment questions, which ask students to consider their reading process.  These questions are available from WestEd's Reading Apprenticeship Resources page, which also houses a plethora of other Reading Apprenticeship documents and tools.  While students work individually, I will answer any questions that students have with the process of completing the documentation, but I will not answer questions about the reading content itself.  Students will eventually become more and more confident with this process, but breaking the habits of reading-to-find-answers will take some time before they become happy about the switch.  

Next Steps

Next class period, we will discuss the story using student reading logs as a frame.  We will also spend time analyzing some poetry of the time period.