I start today with a subtle reading check; I ask students to choose one word to describe the main character of their novel. Each student must share, and we move around the room in a snappy manner after attendance, allowing me to see who is truly prepared and who is just trying to wing it (stutters, uhmmms, blank looks, rewords of previous responses--we all know the signs of "I didn't do this").
Good news: most students are prepared.
Even better news: the adjectives students choose show excitement about their books--Huck is bold, adventurous, daring; PeeWee is a storyteller, crazy; and Jim is serene and observant.
Their comments tell me we're engaged and ready for more book work.
Discussion is a daily occurrence in most English classrooms, including mine. I want my students to be able to effectively summarize and analyze any topic I provide them, but this doesn't just magically happen. Students need practice for good discussion just like they need practice for any other skill, and this unit is designed to provide that practice. Today's focus is on preparation for a good discussion.
I start by reviewing my expectations for good discussion: summary (which seems to naturally occur) and analysis (which is a challenge). Then I introduce our tool: the reading log assignment.
The reading log is designed to provide students a guide for summary AND analysis, featuring questions on character and plot development and requiring an analysis of the theme of courage (our class focus). In other words, students will need to close read the text and write using evidence from the text. Students can use the the logs for discussion and their future novel projects, making it a doubly effective tool.
Students complete their first log in their novel groups, giving them support for these early analysis attempts. They will receive feedback to guide them and will then be expected to complete logs individually before coming to class.
I circulate as students work to answer questions and check for engagement, but it turns out I'm not much needed:
When students are done with their logs, I ask them to read to get a head start for Wednesday's discussion. They do so without complaint, settling down in their comfy locations to read. To me, this is another sign that books and groups are well assigned, yahoo.