I begin today with a brief housekeeping matter, which is to distribute my students' writing folders to them and to pass back the three writing pieces they have submitted thus far (the diagnostic writing sample, My Name, and the thematic poetry assignment) for storage in their writing folders (Writing Folder Sample).
As I return their work, I allow them to add to the artwork they may have started on their folders, which is an on-going process, should they choose to participate (most do).
The rest of the period is devoted to turning the teaching over to my students. Today they will read the next four vignettes in The House On Mango Street in small groups and create a product from which they will teach the relevance of the vignettes to the class. I have decided that it is time for them to demonstrate what type of readers and thinkers they are becoming by stepping out of their way and putting them in charge.
I arrange the groups by both compatibility and skill. I know my students well enough by now to know who works well with whom, as well as who needs strategic placement in order to get additional support (Small Reading Group).
I first tell my students what vignettes they will be reading: "No Speak English," "Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on Tuesdays, " "Sally," and "Minerva Writes Poems." I explain that they will be meeting four new characters, all female, in these vignettes, and that it is their job to determine why these characters are in the book and how they affect the protagonist, Esperanza.
I have written the task on the whiteboard (Student Teaching Task) and have put all the supplies I possess on a table in the middle of the room: markers, crayons, colored pencils, yarn, butcher paper, construction paper, gluesticks, scissors, rulers. I review the task with my students and encourage them to use what they have learned thus far about making inferences, analyzing voice and tone, as well as simply asking why certain characters and events are included in a book. I also encourage them to be as creative as possible in determining what they will create in order to teach the class about the significance of these vignettes.
I am taking a chance on my students with this assignment, providing them with relatively loose instructions, but hoping that the investigative work we have done with the text thus far will serve their imaginations well. This is not an assignment I would give at the beginning of a unit, but rather only after my students have developed a certain ownership of a text and of an author's style. With this prior scaffolding, I am counting on them being able to take the necessary initiative with the assignment.
I allow up to two groups to read in the hallway, just outside my classroom, in order to maintain a manageable level of noise while the groups are reading to each other. When groups are finished reading and discussing the vignettes, they begin designing their products and spend the remainder of class creating them (Students At Work).