Today we begin class with a whole group review of the rhetorical square my students created around the New York Times article in the previous lesson. Thus far, they have developed the analysis with a partner, and have shared their results with an additional partnership for peer-to-peer checks for understanding.
I instruct my students to take out their articles as I return the rhetorical squares they developed to them. I ask for student volunteers to share their ideas around the four elements of the square--the author's purpose, argument, audience, and persona, asking for the strategies they noticed the writer using that support their claims around the outside of the square. I encourage my students to add to the squares they have developed, if their peers offer something through the whole-group sharing that may not have occurred to them in their own analysis.
In a perfect world, this whole group sharing would have occurred at the end of the previous lesson, while the process was still fresh in my students' minds. As tempting as it may be at times to keep moving forward, I try to always return to whole group closure of small group activities, even if that means carrying it into the next class meeting, in order to informally assess how well the whole class has understood a concept. I believe that whole-group closure validates the exercise, and gives me the opportunity to remind my students of the merits behind the particular skill or concept addressed in the activity.
On the heels of our review of the New York Times article, I direct my students' attention to The Books That Made Me-Teacher Sample I have made and have posted on the white board.
I explain to my students that in the spirit of the article, as well as in the spirit of how much they are learning about how writers and books helped shaped Walter Dean Myers in Bad Boy, I want them to create themselves as the product of the books that they have read in their lifetimes that have affected them in some way. This is a project that I developed years ago, and have used when teaching Fahrenheit 451 as well. I love the way the project asks students to reflect on their own roles as readers.
I have written the instructions on the white board, around the sample, and I briefly explain some of the books and reasons for them that I have included in my sample. I encourage my students to be as creative as they want with the project, so long as they meet the requirements I have listed on the board.
I give my students about a week and a half to complete it, at which time they will have an opportunity to share their projects with the whole class.
The remainder of the lesson is devoted to reading on in Bad Boy. My students were assigned chapter 3-4 ("Let's Hear It For The First Grade!" and "Arithmetic Summer") as weekend reading, with the understanding that they would be quizzed on the chapters in class today.
While I have decided against giving them a quiz (not all classes were given the clear message that there would be one--I take the blame for that), I do generally give brief, five-question reading quizzes after a section of reading has been assigned for homework, asking basic comprehension/plot questions only. In this way, I am able to easily track which students are keeping up with the reading and which students are not. My students call them "DYRT" (Did you read it?) quizzes, a term they've picked up from a previous teacher.
Instead, today we simply review key events and discoveries from chapter 3-4 as a whole group, allowing student volunteers to share what they remember (they will definitely have something to say about the third grade teacher, Mrs. Zeiss, slapping Walter), and I want to read a scene out loud as a whole group, where Myers throws a book at Mrs. Parker, his fourth grade teacher, and have my students analyze the voice, tone, and mood of the exchange between the two of them.
After this review, we will read chapter five as a whole group ("Bad Boy"), with student volunteers trading off with me as readers. In most classes, I will do at least some of the reading out loud, especially when voice and tone, or simple clarity, need to be restored. I find this helps to keep most students engaged in whole-group reading.
This is the chapter in which Myers truly discovers his love of reading, which is why I have elected to read it as a whole group, in order to round out the lesson's focus. We should be able to complete the chapter in the time remaining, and I assign chapters 6-8 ("Mr. Irwin Lasher"-"A Writer Observes") for weekend reading homework. This time for sure, a reading quiz awaits them when we return!