In the previous lesson, students worked in small groups to apply their new knowledge of social criticism vocabulary as well as Costa's Levels of Inquiry. In today's lesson, I want students to practice this skill on their own. I am introducing them to another children's story. This time, I am showing them the animated short video based on the story. This story also lends itself to varied levels of interpretation and students overwhelmingly enjoy the video. An additional bonus of this story is that it will be useful in introducing the topic of the following unit, IDENTITY. I discuss this children's story in this video.
I let students know that today they are doing what they did yesterday, except they will be producing their individual assignment. I explain that I want to give them an opportunity for independent practice applying the terminology I introduced them to as well as thinking at different levels. I tell them that they will be introduced to a new story and I wait for groans. They groan. I tell them that the new story is in the form of an animated short video and I wait for relief and excitement. They sigh in relief and some cheer with excitement. I don't give them any background on the animation, except to request they keep social criticism vocabulary in mind as they watch because the assignment today is to apply these to the story. I also give them the title "The Bear That Wasn't" and play the video off of YouTube. The video is just under 10 minutes long. Here is a link to the video. Once the video is over, I ask students for questions and comments. I pose it in general terms because I am interested in general comments. They will get into the details during the next part of this assignment. Some students will share their interpretation of the story. Specifically, a student may suggest that the message is to be yourself and not let others determine who you are. I have used this video in my class at least three times and I always have at least a couple of students immediately making this connection. I have also had those students who will talk about the bear as just an animal, wondering why he is able to speak and and how the people in the story are not able to see that he is a bear. This is a good opportunity to talk about the difference between something literal and something figurative. I point out that there are stories that can only be understood when we use our imagination and our job as readers is to understand that ultimately the author is really talking about humans. Some students will sympathize with the bear, especially when his own kind, the bears in the zoo, refuse to recognize him.
The brief discussion we have immediately after viewing the video helps make the point that this is not really a story about bears, but rather about human beings and society. I tell students that they are going to think of this story as a story about society and apply social criticism terms, just like they did in the previous lesson. However, unlike the previous lesson, they will be doing this individually. They will need to cite the story so I have a written copy of the story prepared in advance and make enough copies for pairs of students to share. It is important for students to have access to the details of the story because the task requires that students support their writing with textual evidence, an important component of CCSS RL.11-12.1. This is the copy I give them of "The Bear That Wasn't."
The directions are the same as yesterday's. Each student needs to divide one sheet of paper into three sections. Each section will be designated for each level of application. On the board, I write the following and explain that this is the content expected in each of the three sections:
I remind students of the thinking behind each level. I make sure students understand that I consider the first part level 1 because they are simply selecting a term and writing it on the paper and they are copying a line straight from the text. I clarify that this does not mean it is not an important skill. On the contrary, the ability to accurately apply these terms and select supporting evidence is a very important Common Core skill. However, the actual thinking required for level 2 and level 3 is much more demanding than level 1. I deliver a similar explanation for the other two levels to help them see the following:
Besides the important skill of identifying supporting evidence, students are also practicing RL.11-12.2 in that they are identifying and analyzing central ideas addressed in this text.
Students work on this on their own. As they work, I work with individual students clarifying the terms and supporting them when they find something challenging.
I announce to students that the next day they will engage in the first Seminar of the year. I have to give them a lecture about the importance of being able to participate in an academic discussion with their classmates. I share that this skill is extremely important in an ELA classroom and that their participation will have a great effect on their grade. I acknowledge that some may feel very uncomfortable speaking in front of their classmates. I assure them that I take class discussions seriously and expect everyone to contribute to making this a safe place for students to express their ideas. I confess that I was extremely shy when I was a high school students and would seldom speak in class. I say that I wish I had a teacher who offered me the support I needed and the safe classroom environment that would encourage me to speak up. I assure them that I now work hard to set up that kind of classroom environment. This will work for some students, but not all. Although I was extremely shy in high school, I was a super motivated student and would have participated more if my grade truly depended on it. Unfortunately some of my students would rather take the low grade than participate. I will be working on finding the thing that will make them share their ideas in front of their classmates. Still, I begin with this speech because I know that those motivated students, like the kind that I was, will appreciate my commitment to helping them express themselves safely in class.
I ask students to be prepared to think about the two children's stories we have read and to be able to discuss them in class tomorrow.