The opening to our biography unit usually requires some discussion. I lead students thorough a discussion on what we have already learned. Being the very beginning of the book can be tricky. Students remember the lessons we have done, but often remember what we have talked about, not what we have read. I ask them to start using their book to find out the pieces that drove our earlier discussions. Allowing them to have time to do this can be tricky. The more practice they have, the better they will get at it.
This review should focus on the key points. I try to give prompts to help them stay on track and keep our discussion moving.
The next part is reading the text. We are just beginning to understand where Columbus came from and what he is becoming as a young man. As we read, I stop them often and draw their attention to specific sentences and ask them to check for understanding. I try to only find a sentence or two for them to focus on at a time.
For this lesson I want them to focus on the following pieces:
-the role he has in his family
-relationship and responsibility to his parents
-his dreams and wants
By drawing their attention to these details, I am setting them up to compare and contrast things through his point of view.
WHAT WE READ
Through the first chapter we learn that Columbus is the oldest child and expected to take on the Weaving business of his family. This was when we briefly discussed the job of a weaver in the 1400's. That weavers created tapestries, rugs, sails, and other cloth related goods. Students quickly realize that young Christopher wants to be a sailor. The author points out that based on his socio-economic status he could be a captain one day. I briefly talk about the classes and the difference between them and how it is relevant. We are going to touch on this again later in the book.
We read that Columbus is very responsible, but finds time to sail when he can. On the last page of chapter one, we learn that Columbus is helping a ship carrying goods to another port, in Portugal, when it is attacked. He is wounded and his ship sinks and he has to use pieces of the ship to get to land. Once in Portugal he is sent to his brother, who is making maps and charts there.
Once we have read about his brother, and the job he has found, we talk about the importance of the it's importance for the time. It is important to only discuss the job itself not Columbus' relationship or connection to the job. Instead I ask students to take out their white boards. As they get out their boards, I explain that they are going to pretend to be Columbus and they are going to have to choose between the two jobs, weaver or chart maker.
I ask them to draw a T Chart. I ask them to label one side Weaver and the other Chart Maker. I then have them split each of those sections in half.We label these second sections good and bad.I do draw the model of this on our white board to make sure they are set up to be successful.
I explain that they are going to try to think like Columbus and what he might say the good and the bad of each job would be. I then define good and bad as PROS and CONS. I like to connect this to real life and explain how I might use a list of PROS and CONS to make a decision.
Pretending to be Columbus, they will make a list of PROS and CONS for both jobs. I do not do very much modeling for this, I do not want to stifle their creativity or sway their thought process. Now I just give them time to fill in the chart.
Once it appears that every student has some ideas in each section, I ask them to help me to fill in my chart on the board. The one I am filling in will be a collaboration of their thoughts and help us discuss what each of them were thinking. Students are free to fill in their chart with other students ideas if they feel it would fit with what Columbus would think.
Now I am just a "Vanna White." I am going to compile their responses onto our class chart. As I write, I ask each student to explain their thought and why Columbus would think that. This was a great discussion and students really got into their pretend role. One student thought about the safety of each job and added that to his chart. Another thought about how it would affect his family. Some other great responses were concerning his dreams, working for a boss or being his own, and another the pressure and stress of making a good chart.
We are discussing as I put the comments onto the board. I am pleased that many students are adding to their own chart. Once we have a pretty full chart, I ask students to now talk with a partner about which job might be the best one. I ask them to use their white board to support their choice. If we had more time, I would ask students to write their response and give facts.