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As they read each chapter, the students note the important plot events, jot down any questions provoked by the story, and add personal connections they make to the text using the Pause & Reflect worksheets or the Bookmark introduced in a previous lesson. Common ways to make connections include: text to self, text to world, and text-to-text. This skill requires analyzing the text for ways in which it intersects with your own experience. Also, students answer a few comprehension/reflection questions.
As I make my way around the room to check in on homework completion, students work in groups of 4 or 5 to review their notes and their answers to the reflection questions. I listen in to the conversations, clarify areas of misunderstanding and in general keep everyone on track. In this chapter, Maroo describes the origin and significance of her name. The students find this fascinating, so it is no wonder that the most interesting comments come from question 3 on the reflection question worksheet. Students come up with a story for what their own name means. Many students refer to conversations with parents the previous evening about how they were named. Some were named after family members, others find out about religious and/or ethnic ties, and some discovered that their parents were inspired by their name’s meaning. For some of the children this was new information; for others it was a time to reminisce. There were a few students that invented imaginative stories and entertained the class with tales of gods, goddesses, and constellations that inspired their names. Whatever the situation, it was heartwarming to hear their responses. It was not my intention to spend so much time on this particular item but the students’ interest in the topic and their creative responses demonstrate that they are making personal connections to the story. These connections will maintain their interest in and engagement with the novel.
In the ELA classes I see each day, there are students at a variety of reading levels. Some read below grade level, some are at grade level and some are above grade level readers. A number of supports are in place to meet the needs of below grade level readers, such as the use of graphic organizers, frequent check ins with the special education teacher, the classroom aide or myself, and access to strong role models.
At the same time, it is important to meet the needs of students ready for more challenging work. Evidence of this is in the form of state assessment results, the results of a reading comprehension test students take at the beginning of the school year, and comes evidence from day to day classroom performance. While the rest of the class engages in group work, I call aside six students and give them the option of working together to read not just Maroo of the Winter Caves but also another novel: Dar and the Spear Thrower by Marjorie Cowley. Both of these books contain the theme of survival. To demonstrate their understanding, the students are required to compare the ways in which the characters are able to survive. Those that take on the challenge will have to budget their time effectively in order to complete the assigned work on time. I give them a packet with specific details of the assignment to review and I answer the questions they pose. After conferring for a short time among themselves, I am quite pleased when they each decide to take on the challenge. They head up to the library to check out the new book and return to fill in the day-to-day planning guide.
Since understanding the challenges posed by the Ice Age setting of the story is a major focus of this unit, I look for opportunities to challenge students’ thinking on the topic. To wrap up today’s lesson, I ask them to explain how the decision to keep the wild puppy might have been different if he had been found in the winter. A lively class discussion follows. Right away they identify the struggle to find to food would make it tough if not impossible to keep the dog alive. They also realize that during this time period dogs are not kept as pets. Instead they are competitors for the same food sources as people. Not only that, they sometimes are eaten by people, which of course gets a strong reaction from the kids!
Today’s lesson focused on making connections with a text and provided two ways to do this. First, all students made personal connections to Maroo of the Winter Caves and the advanced readers are making connections between two texts through theme.