I want to find out what background knowledge my students are bringing to this lesson concerning Native American or Indian Reservations. To meet this goal I simple ask my students to write down everything they know about "Indian" Reservations.
If your students do not have the essential background knowledge regarding a novel or story you'll be reading it is important to provide the knowledge. It's true that the extent to which students will learn about living on a Native American Reservation is dependent on factors such as my (the teacher's) skill, the interest of the my students, and the complexity of the content. But one thing is for certain: what your students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn the new information relative to the content. I found that this lesson was important to fill in the gaps of background knowledge pertaining to the content of the novel we'll be reading.
My first learning objective for this activity is to review the Jigsaw in 10 Easy Steps cooperative activity for background knowledge. I explain the steps and the purpose which is to read, learn and then share the information with a different group of students.
Students will be given a short passage to read on the challenges faced by Native Americans who live on reservations. I write the four topics that will be covered on the white board:
My second objective is to teach the protocol for using Voice Thread on the lap top computers. Every student is given a lap top computer and is asked to get on the Voice Thread website. They register using their gmail accounts as I demonstrate the steps using my lap top projected onto a screen. With help from a colleague who has used Voice Thread, I circulate among the class checking to see who is having difficulty getting on the site.
The site explains that Voice Thread is a cloud application, so there is no software to install. The only system requirement is an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash. In this lesson I use it for creating, sharing, and discussing images, and presenting information.
I demonstrate how to download an image and comment on the image by writing, even though there are several additional options for commenting including audio.
Students are given a passage to read Reservation Background Jigsaw regarding the different challenges Native Americans face living on today's reservations. I give them the written passages because the lesson is not so much a research project but an activity to gain the background knowledge that will enhance their interest in reading the novel. After reading their passages, Students discuss what they read in their "expert groups" which each member read the same information.
Next they are expected come together for discussions as required in SL.9-10.1a and draw on their preparation by referring to evidence from texts RL.9-10.1. I ask students to form groups of 3-4 students who have each read a different passage following the protocol of taking turns and share what they read with each other. I give them 5 minutes for this part of the activity and then ask them to return to their computers and download an image that illustrates the passage they read, e.g., Poverty.
Lastly, I circulate among them as they discuss their information using Voice Thread as they comment on their passage and images. I want them to communicate their information and ideas about life on a reservation using more then one of the senses. Voice Thread offers this option.
For the Wrap Up volunteer students show their Voice Thread images and read their comments a loud to the class. Their images are projected onto a screen so the class can easily view student work. This also serves as a formative assessment of student learning and gaining the necessary background knowledge prior to begining the novel The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian.