I begin class with a journal entry aimed at reminding students how tough it can be to take on a difficult task. This helps students to relate to the main characters of the novel, a young sister and brother about to embark on a treacherous journey. The classroom remains quiet as the students write a response to: Have you ever done something you were afraid of doing? What was it? What happened? Relate your experience to that of Maroo and Otak as they begin their journey across the White Mountain.
Some of the responses include getting on a ride at an amusement park, rescuing a cat from a tree, helping an injured neighbor and overcoming (or at least getting better at managing) a fear of the dark. Whatever the situation, the common theme was the need to control “the butterflies in my stomach” and concentrate on the satisfaction that comes overcoming a fear, which is exactly what Maroo and Otak need to do. A few samples are here and here.
The groups meet for about 20 minutes sharing their summary notes, Literature circle job notes and fill in the participation worksheets. Then we review the chapter’s most important events as class. To keep students interested in the story and excited about participating in their groups, two new roles are added as options: discussion director and visual summarizer. For homework, the students will read and prepare to discuss chapter 12.
This lesson plan is a little different than what I had planned for class. Originally, my plan was to lead a whole class review of the all the most important events from the beginning of the novel through chapter 11. Instead, it became important to deal with behavior expectations for appropriate interaction during group work.
Fortunately, a colleague recently shared a strategy with me that I think will work well to get misbehaving students back on track quickly and will accomplish that in a way that will allow me to remain focused on teaching. If a student is having trouble meeting the class behavioral expectations, they will leave the class to fill out a response sheet and upon returning he/she will have a short conversation with me. Only if there is a repeated incident does the paperwork go home for a parent signature or to the office for administrative intervention. Some thoughts n the Performance Reflection worksheet appears here:
To check in on comprehension, the students take a pop quiz on chapter 11. A couple of the questions get at the topics that have come up in discussions and are important to understanding life in this long ago time period: traditions and superstitions. A few questions require knowledge of specific details from the text, such as the amount of time the family in the snow house has before they will run out of food.
I changed the directions on the quiz to make it go quicker. Students do not to answer the questions in complete sentences, they do not use their books or write the page numbers either. When they finish all pencils are tucked away and they take out pens to correct the quizzes on the spot. I do not have students exchange papers saying, “It is more important that you know how you did than how your neighbor did.” I collect the papers and am pleased to see that most students have done quite well answering at least 4 of the five questions correctly.