A few days before this lesson, I give students a list of novels that includes a short summary of each plot. Their assignment is to choose three and number them according to their level of interest. The one stipulation is that they do not pick something they have already read. From their lists, place students in small groups. They will spend the next two or three weeks reading and analyzing the plot of that book. I let the students know that I cannot guarantee that each person will get his or her first choice, but it will be one of the choices marked. Arranging the groups takes thoughtful planning. (Hint: every year this process takes longer than I think it will!) Not only do you need to keep in mind their choices, but ability and behavior must be taken into account so that each student has the best chance of succeeding.
Today they are all excited to find out what groups they are in, so without further ado I reveal the list, which is written on chart paper.
The next step is to take a trip to the media center to check out the assigned books. While students are in the media center they can also look for another book to read independently. The librarian spends some time previewing newly acquired materials and making suggestions. Although, they enjoy the visit they are eager to get with the partners, preview the novels together and make a plan for the reading.
When we return to the classroom, I pass out the Choice Novel Unit worksheet that includes a calendar. We review the directions and I answer any questions the students have. Then groups work out a plan for reading their novel. Some want to include work over the weekends and some do not. Some jot down page numbers while others enter chapter numbers. They quickly realize there is not a universal method; it depends on how the books are organized. I remind them that these plans can be adjusted if they find it does not work out, but that they must keep me informed of these changes. I am pleased at how seriously they take this assignment and that they really listen to one another and are willing to make compromises when necessary.
The last item on today’s agenda is to review the Student Contract. The video explains more.
Also, some photos (1, 2 & 3) of completed projects are included. All materials for the projects come from the e-book Independent Reading Management Kit: Literary Elements by Michele L. McCaughtry (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2006).
I placed the project menu and a description of each project on my online Evernote webpage for students to access. Today’s homework is to choose three projects from the nine available, fill out the contract and get a parent signature on it.